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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Northwestern’s New Chameleon-Inspired Laser Changes Colors

(Courtesy Northwestern University)

Guided by the camouflaging abilities of chameleons, two Northwestern chemistry professors have developed a tiny, color-changing laser that could improve visual displays in TVs and smartphones. 

Why Northwestern Scientists Are Sending 20 Mice to Space

The patch designed by NASA for a Northwestern-led mission to study how space affects the physiology and metabolism of mice. (NASA / Northwestern University)

Nearly two dozen laboratory mice will be launched into orbit next week as part of a Northwestern-led research mission to learn more about the physiological effects of living in space. 

UIC Leads National Initiative to Help Struggling Monarch Butterflies

(skeeze / Pixabay)

A new program aims to create or preserve nearly 2 million acres of habitat across the U.S. for monarch butterflies, which could face extinction in 20 years. 

North Lawndale’s ‘Farm on Ogden’ Looks to Supply Fresh Produce, Jobs

A graphic rendering of the soon-to-be completed Farm on Ogden, which opens June 22. (Courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden)

A new 20,000-square-foot urban agriculture facility aims to expand job training programs and healthy food options in one of Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods. 

2 Newborn Leopard Cubs ‘Doing Well’ at Brookfield Zoo

(Cathy Bazzoni / Chicago Zoological Society)

Brookfield Zoo welcomed two newborn Amur leopards in April. The male cubs are scheduled to make their public debut in mid-July. 

EPA to Hold Open House as Part of Southeast Side Manganese Probe

(Google Maps)

As part of its investigation into high levels of manganese on the Southeast Side, the EPA will hold an open house this week to talk about soil sampling and sign residents up for testing.

3.5-Year-Old Brookfield Zoo Dolphin Dies Unexpectedly

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Maxine, a bottlenose dolphin at Brookfield Zoo, died June 2 after suffering an acute bacterial infection, the zoo announced Tuesday. 

Do Mice Prefer Chicago or its Suburbs? Lincoln Park Zoo Explores

(Jillian Braun / Lincoln Park Zoo)

When it comes to picking a place to live, many Chicago-area mice tend to be city dwellers rather than suburbanites, according to initial results from an ongoing study by Lincoln Park Zoo.

Studio Gang’s $9M Bridgeport Boathouse Wins River Org’s Top Award

(Tom Harris Photography / Studio Gang)

A recently completed boathouse along the South Branch of the Chicago River got top honors this week from the nonprofit group Friends of the Chicago River.

99-Million-Year-Old Beetle Discovered by Field Museum Researcher

(Courtesy The Field Museum)

A tiny black speck contained within fossilized resin turned out to be the remains of an insect so ancient that it lived among dinosaurs.

UChicago Study: Earth Might Have Supported Life Earlier Than Thought

(Basil Greber / University of Chicago)

A study of rock minerals from northern Canada provides evidence that the Earth might have supported life hundreds of millions of years earlier than thought, according to research led by UChicago scientists.  

Machine Built in Chicago to Probe Mysterious New Particles

Detectors inside the Mini Booster Neutrino Experiment tank (Fermilab / U.S. Department of Energy)

A machine developed at the Illinois Institute of Technology will help scientists search for elusive new particles that could reshape physicists’ understanding of how the universe operates. 

Brookfield Zoo Staff Examine New Way to Measure Animal Welfare

(Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

A set of proteins long used to evaluate the well-being of humans can also serve as a marker for the welfare of animals in zoos and aquariums, according to a new study. 

Brookfield Zoo Welcomes Newborn Western Lowland Gorilla

(Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

The latest member of Brookfield Zoo’s four-generation family of western lowland gorillas was born June 1, the third offspring of Koola, the newborn’s 23-year-old mother. 

Illinois Sues EPA Over Regulation of Harmful Landfill Emissions

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (Chicago Tonight file photo)

The EPA has failed to implement a 2016 regulation aimed at reducing landfill emissions of methane and other pollutants, according to a lawsuit filed this week by Illinois and seven other states. 

Illinois Bill Would Help Agencies Donate Leftover Food

A staff member stocks the shelves of the food pantry at the Airman Family Readiness Center at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. (U.S. Air Force photo By Airman 1st Class Carlin Leslie)

Lawmakers recently approved a bill that would help state agencies donate leftover food in an effort to reduce waste and feed hungry residents.

Illinois Lawmakers Approve Ban on Sale of Ivory

Ivory seized Feb. 2 from poachers convicted of killing 11 elephants in and around Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. (Z. Labuschagne / Wildlife Conservation Society)

A growing number of states are taking up bans on the sale of ivory in an effort to curb elephant and rhinoceros poaching and undermine the $20 billion-per-year enterprise of wildlife trafficking. Illinois could be next.

New Brookfield Zoo Exhibit Highlights ‘Amazing Arachnids’

An African burrowing scorpion is among the highlights of Brookfield Zoo’s new “Amazing Arachnids” exhibit. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Get a close-up look at 100 live eight-legged critters – aka arachnids – including spiders, scorpions, tarantulas and more at Brookfield Zoo.

Bill to Boost Urban Agriculture in Illinois Heads to Rauner’s Desk

(Linda from Chicago / Creative Commons)

Legislation that could help break up food deserts in Chicago and other cities across the state passed the Illinois Senate last week and now awaits the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Wiped Out Forests, Too, Study Finds

(Illustration by Phillip M. Krzeminski)

A research team with a Chicago connection has uncovered new evidence about the devastating impact of the dinosaur-killing asteroid that struck Earth about 66 million years ago.

Bill to Legalize Industrial Hemp Clears Illinois Legislature

(kat_geb / Flickr)

The state is one step closer to legalizing the production of industrial hemp after a 106-3 vote in the Illinois House this week. 

Chicago Places 8th in New Ranking of Urban Park Systems

(Colin J Bird / Wikimedia Commons)

This is Chicago’s first year cracking the top 10 of the ParkScore Index, an annual ranking of park systems in the nation’s 100 biggest cities.

Lincoln Park Zoo Welcomes New 2-Year-Old Giraffe, Finely

(Chris Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

A new zoo resident born in downstate Peoria stands about 9 feet tall. Guests can see the 2-year-old giraffe Finely at the zoo’s Regenstein African Journey exhibit.

Field Museum Archaeologist Solves Clues to 12th Century Shipwreck

Model of the Java Sea shipwreck, built by Nicholas Burningham (John Weinstein / The Field Museum)

After taking a fresh look at a treasure trove of cargo recovered from the dark sea floor in the 1980s, researchers make new discoveries about a centuries-old shipwreck.

Special Exhibit Showcases 150 Years of Lincoln Park Zoo

(Courtesy Chicago Park District and Chicago History Museum)

“From Swans to Science: 150 Years of Lincoln Park Zoo” takes visitors on a journey through the zoo’s 150-year history, which started with a gift of four swans in 1868.