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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

New Field Museum Exhibit to Showcase Stunning Wildlife Photography

A lioness drinks from a waterhole in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. (© Isak Pretorius, South Africa)

“Wildlife Photographer of the Year,” based on the prestigious photography competition of the same name, will feature 100 winning photos selected among 45,000 submissions from 95 countries. We preview the show.

MWRD Warns of Potential Flooding as Chicago Thaws from Deep Freeze

Ice covers the Chicago River on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses. (AP Photo / Teresa Crawford)

Melting snow and potential rain are likely to cause flooding as we head into a weekend warm-up following a record-setting Arctic blast.

Chicago Announces Record Release Rate at City Animal Shelter

(Chicago Animal Care and Control / Facebook)

More than 90 percent of the 16,000-plus animals sheltered by Chicago Animal Care and Control last year were either adopted, transferred to a rescue group or returned to their owner, according to city data. 

Shiver, Fluff and Cuddle: How Birds Keep Warm in the Winter

Swallows huddled together during a snowstorm (Keith Williams / Flickr)

Unlike humans, birds do not have the luxury of high-powered heating systems to keep warm in the winter, but they do have a variety of unique adaptations to help them survive.

Call Before Bringing Pets to Chicago Warming Centers, City Says

Morning commuters face a tough slog on Wacker Drive in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein / Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Those seeking refuge from this week’s bitter cold at one of Chicago’s public warming centers should not assume their dog or cat will be allowed in with them.

BBB Warns of Cold-Weather Scams as Temperatures Plummet

CTA trains move along snow-covered tracks Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo / Kiichiro Sato)

As extreme cold sets in, be on the lookout for scams involving driveway shoveling, furnace inspections and utility bills, the Better Business Bureau says. 

Chicago Zoos to Close in Anticipation of Extreme Cold

Hudson, a polar bear at Brookfield Zoo (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo plan to close for parts of the week as record-breaking lows are expected to move into the area.

Chicago Adopts Stricter Rules for Manganese, Other Pollutants

(Google Maps)

Chicago facilities that process potentially harmful industrial materials must now take further steps to ensure they aren’t polluting surrounding neighborhoods.

Tips for Managing Icy Sidewalks Without Harming the Environment

Snow-clearing efforts at Millennium Park following a snow storm on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune via AP)

Although ice melt products can help clear slick walkways, they can also harm pets and cause damage to lawns, gardens and waterways. What you need to know.

Chicago Museums Offer Free Admission to Federal Workers During Shutdown

(Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

A handful of museums and cultural institutions in and around Chicago are offering free admission to workers affected by the ongoing federal government shutdown. 

Gov. Pritzker Signs Pact Committing Illinois to Paris Climate Goals

In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker speaks after he is elected over Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner. (AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh)

The move by Illinois’ new governor marks a sharp departure from his predecessor, former Gov. Bruce Rauner, who made little to no mention of the state’s role in curbing carbon emissions that most scientists agree contribute to global warming.

Kari Steele Elected as New President at MWRD

Newly elected MWRD President Kari Steele (center) with Finance Chairman Frank Avila and Vice President Barbara McGowan (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)

New MWRD President Kari Steele is the only chemist on the organization’s nine-member board. She was re-elected in November to a second term as commissioner. 

Shark Remains Discovered in Rock That Contained Sue the T. Rex

Remains of a freshwater shark with teeth shaped like spaceships from the 1980s video game Galaga was discovered in sediment surrounding Sue the T. Rex’s bones. (Velizar Simeonovski / Field Museum)

Tiny fossilized teeth found in sediment that surrounded Sue the T. Rex have led to the classification of a new shark species. 

Brookfield Zoo to Establish New Pack of Endangered Mexican Wolves

Apache, foreground, a 7-year-old old male Mexican wolf recently arrived at Brookfield Zoo to be paired with 2-year-old Ela. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Zoo officials say they’re hopeful that 2-year-old Ela and newcomer Apache, 7, will have a successful breeding season this winter and produce a litter of wolf pups in the spring.

Illinois Governor’s Mansion Secures LEED Status After $15M Renovation

The Illinois Governor’s Mansion (Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association)

Outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner are leaving the Governor’s Mansion in significantly greater – and greener – shape than they found it. And now the historic home has the paperwork to prove it.

No Contamination Found in Water Near Sterigenics’ Willowbrook Plant

John Berg, an environmental health specialist with the DuPage County Health Department, runs water from a private well in Willowbrook on Dec. 13, 2018, as part of testing for levels of cancer-causing ethylene oxide. (Alex Ruppenthal / WTTW)

Water samples collected at homes near a suburban medical sterilization plant linked to a cancer-causing gas showed no signs of contamination, environmental regulators announced Wednesday.

Coastal Management Program Targets Lake Michigan Beaches

Rainbow Park Beach in Chicago (Steven Kevil / Wikimedia Commons)

A state program designed to protect the Lake Michigan shoreline is adding a new category this year aimed at helping Chicago-area communities preserve their beaches.

New State Grant Program Aims to Help Companies Sell Asian Carp

A silver carp captured in June 2017 in the Illinois Waterway below the T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam, about 9 miles from Lake Michigan. (Courtesy Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em. That’s the apparent strategy behind a new state grant program that will provide funding to companies that harvest and sell Asian carp.

Illinois AG Demands EPA Enforce Rule Limiting Landfill Pollution

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (Chicago Tonight file photo)

A group of state attorneys general, including Lisa Madigan, is demanding that the EPA withdraw its plan to delay a regulation aimed at reducing emissions of methane and other pollutants from landfills.

Chicago’s Divvy Divide: Convenient Bike-Share Program or Sign of Gentrification?

A Divvy docking station in the Chicago’s West Loop. (Tony Webster / Flickr)

A new study found that Evanston residents were generally accepting of bike-share programs like Divvy, while residents in Humboldt Park viewed such programs as signs of privilege and gentrification. 

Group Forecasts Statewide Impact of EPA’s Controversial Mercury Plan


The advocacy group Moms Clean Air Force warns that a Trump administration proposal to weaken standards for emissions of toxic mercury would harm residents and wildlife across Illinois. 

Chicago Offers 25 Drop-Off Sites for Recycling Your Christmas Tree

(Irene Tostado / Chicago Park District)

Trees collected through Chicago’s annual holiday tree recycling program are turned into mulch and wood chips for use at Chicago Park District locations. 

Advocates: EPA Plan to Weaken Mercury Rule Threatens Great Lakes Fish

(Frank McNamara / Flickr)

The Trump administration’s plan to roll back limits on toxic mercury pollution will harm Great Lakes fish – and potentially those who eat them, advocates say.

Illinois Issues Proposed Rules for Growing Industrial Hemp

(kat_geb / Flickr)

Farmers and others across the state are preparing to grow and process a new crop as Illinois finalizes regulations for industrial hemp. 

5 CPS Schools Selected for Green ‘Schoolyard Transformations’ in 2019

Project Manager Justin Rossman of Site Design Group explains the highlights of Ashe Elementary School’s planned garden to Dean Alonistiotis, aide to MWRD Commissioner Kimberly Du Buclet. (Courtesy Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)

New outdoor spaces at a handful of Chicago elementary schools will provide safe play areas for kids in low-income neighborhoods while also mitigating flooding risks, according to program organizers.