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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

10 Outdoor Spots to Unwind and De-Stress in Chicago

Promontory Point (John Picken / Flickr)

Despite its moniker as “The City that Works,” Chicago features plenty of places to get away from the city’s hustle and bustle. Here are 10 spots to zen out in the city this summer.

‘We Don’t Want Your Trash’: Residents Protest General Iron’s Move to Southeast Side

Southeast Side residents hold a press conference Monday, July 30, 2018 in front of General Iron’s scrap metal yard in Lincoln Park. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

General Iron announced plans earlier this month to move its scrap metal yard from Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side, where residents are concerned about the company’s environmental track record.

Field Museum Scientist Develops ‘Easy-Bake Fossil’

A synthetically fossilized lizard foot created by Field Museum scientists who recently developed a way to simulate key parts of the fossilization process. (Courtesy Field Museum)

Fossils typically take tens of millions of years to develop, but a Chicago scientist recently helped discover a new way to simulate the fossilization process in a lab – in just 24 hours.

Illinois Gets ‘D’ Grade in New Report Evaluating Renewable Energy Standards

(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science)

A new report from an environmental advocacy group criticizes Illinois and more than two dozen other states for adopting renewable energy plans that allow for dirty energy sources. 

Chicago Company Installs ‘Self-Aware’ Robot That Sorts Recycling

The SamurAI sorting robot, manufactured by Canada’s Machinex Technologies. (Courtesy Lakeshore Recycling Systems)

Chicago-based Lakeshore Recycling System is the first company in the U.S. to install a new “self-aware” machine that sorts through recycled materials. 

Illinois Sues EPA Over Pruitt’s Loophole for ‘Super Polluting’ Trucks

A glider truck (Jeremy Rempel / Flickr)

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has joined her counterparts in 14 states in suing the EPA over its suspension of a rule that limits the number of highly polluting trucks on the nation's roads. 

Chicago Advocates Call Out McDonald’s for Treatment of Chickens

Opening day on April 25, 2018, of the McDonald’s restaurant inside the company’s new West Loop headquarters.

Animal welfare advocates will gather next week at McDonald's new West Loop headquarters to present a petition with more than 200,000 signatures calling on the company to improve conditions for chickens in its supply chain. 

Northwestern Rocket Launches Sunday to Explore ‘Star Stuff’

The Northwestern-built Micro-X rocket will carry a high-powered X-ray device to capture unprecedented images of astronomical objects. (Northwestern University / Instagram)

Scientists are preparing to launch a rocket in New Mexico that’s equipped with a new high-powered device that will capture unprecedented images of astronomical objects. 

Rare Smooth Green Snakes to be Released into Restored Suburban Habitat

Conservationists are preparing to release about 20 smooth green snakes, like the one pictured here, into an enclosed setting on July 25. (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

Conservation-minded volunteers in suburban Barrington are attracting snakes to their own backyards – on purpose.

City to Break Ground This Week on South Side Dog Park

Chicago's newest dog park will be located at Calumet Park, near the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Calumet Harbor. (Bohao Zhao / Wikimedia Commons)

Nearly four years in the making, a plan by Southeast Side residents to build a park for their four-legged friends is coming to life.

On Eve of 30th Shark Week, Shedd Campaign Aims to ‘Keep Sharks Swimming’

A group of Caribbean reef sharks swims in the Bahamas’ shark sanctuary, which prevents harvesting of shark species anywhere within a 630,000 square-kilometer safe haven of Bahamian waters. (Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

With the 30th anniversary of the Discovery Channel’s popular “Shark Week” fast approaching, the Shedd Aquarium is calling on visitors to help protect a key habitat for “one of the world’s most misunderstood species.”

Breaking into a Car to Save a Dog: Should it Be Legal in Illinois?

(Free-Photos / Pixabay)

A dozen states have enacted laws granting criminal immunity to those who enter vehicles to rescue domestic animals that appear to be suffering. Should Illinois be the 13th? 

Shedd Sea Dragons Complete Rare Egg Transfer, Male Now Pregnant

(Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

In what is an extremely rare occurrence, a male weedy sea dragons recently accepted an egg transfer from a female and is now carrying 46 fertile eggs on his tail.

Field Museum to Release Gin Rooted in 1893 World’s Fair

The Field Museum and Journeyman Distillery are partnering on a gin made with 27 botanicals introduced at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (Courtesy The Field Museum)

To help mark its 125th anniversary, the Field Museum is preparing to release a gin made in the spirit of one of the biggest events in Chicago history.

Adler to Host Viewing Event as Mars Moves Closer

This computer-generated image depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Later this month, the red planet will be just 35.8 million miles away – the brightest and closest it’s been to Earth since 2003.

3.3 Million-Year-Old Fossil Shows Toddlers Could Climb Trees

The foot from a 3.3 million-year-old child skeleton discovered in 2002 in Ethiopia by University of Chicago professor Zeresenay Alemseged. (Zeresenay Alemseged / University of Chicago)

New analysis of a child’s foot from an ancient fossil shows that human ancestors had adaptations that allowed them to climb trees, similar to their apelike cousins.

$169 Million Industrial Complex Planned for Chicago’s Southeast Side

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, attends a press conference Sunday announcing plans for a new industrial complex on Chicago’s Southeast Side. (Patrick Pyszka / City of Chicago)

A new transportation and logistics hub is expected to bring about 2,000 jobs to Chicago’s Southeast Side, but some area activists are taking issue with the way the project was introduced.

Have Farmers Markets Reached Their Peak?

(Pexels / Pixabay)

Despite the growing number of farmers markets in Illinois and across the U.S., a number of reports in recent years show that sales across the country are down. How markets are adapting to reach today’s consumers.

Federal Judge: Illinois Environmental Officials Subject to Ethics Rules


Hours before the resignation Thursday of EPA head Scott Pruitt, a federal judge ruled that Pruitt had violated the Clean Air Act by allowing Illinois and two other states to avoid conflict-of-interest rules. 

EPA Head Scott Pruitt Has Resigned, Trump Tweets

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to the press after meeting with residents of East Chicago's lead-contaminated neighborhoods in April 2017. (Chicago Tonight file photo)

The scandal-ridden EPA chief resigned Thursday amid a number of ethical and legal violations over his travel spending, security costs and ties to industry lobbyists. 

Before Firing Head of City Shelter, Mayor’s Office Squashed Talk of Overcrowding, Euthanasia, Sources Say

Susan Russell (Chicago Animal Care and Control / Facebook)

The ouster last weekend of Chicago Animal Care and Control’s executive director, whose short tenure resulted in the fewest instances of euthanasia at the agency since that data has been recorded, has got folks howling across the city.

Chicago Cooling Centers: Places to Beat the Heat This Summer

With summer heating up, Chicagoans can visit these air-conditioned facilities to catch a break from the heat. 

Climate Change Could Kill Off Bees, Northwestern Study Finds

Northwestern's Paul CaraDonna studied the impact of increased temperatures on mason bees. (Jack Dykinga / Northwestern University)

Slight increases in temperature could lead to the extinction of bees in southwestern states in the near future, according to a new study from Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Facebook Flags Ad for Illinois Data Privacy Forum as ‘Political’

(Book Catalog / Flickr)

Facebook denied an advertisement by Elmurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center for an event on data privacy, flagging the ad as "political content."

Shedd to Launch Mobile Aquarium, Boat and Kayak Excursions

(Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

Shedd Aquarium is rolling out several new outdoor programs this summer aimed at bringing Chicagoans closer to local waters and aquatic life.