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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

‘That’s Not Where it Hurts’: Gymnast’s Former Coach Under Investigation for Sexual Abuse

(Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

In 2014, a suburban gymnast told police her coach sexually abused her. Now, with that coach under investigation again, she is sharing her story publicly. “I felt very alone during all of it,” she said. “I’m hoping my story can help other people.”

‘Explosive Breeding’ Underway for Wood Frogs in Lake County

(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / Dan Nedrelo)

Spring serves as mating season for all sorts of animals found in Illinois, but no creature goes about it quite like the wood frog.

Fracking Transparency Bill Moves Forward in Illinois Senate

(Tim Evanson / Flickr)

A bill that supporters say would make fracking operations in Illinois more transparent cleared its first legislative hurdle last week.

Watchdog: Staff Driving Chicago Park District Vehicles Without Licenses

(Chicago Park District)

A Park District landscaper who had previously lost his license after a drunk driving conviction is among those found to have operated vehicles without proper documentation, according to a new report.

Brookfield Zoo Euthanizes Beloved Gorilla Ramar

(Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

The 50-year-old gorilla was the zoo’s oldest animal. “Knowing it’s the right decision doesn’t make it hurt any less,” said Amy Roberts, curator of mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society.

African Penguin Chick Hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo

An African penguin chick hatched Feb. 10 at Lincoln Park Zoo, pictured here at 21 days old. (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

On Feb. 10, Lincoln Park Zoo welcomed a new baby bird, the first African penguin chick hatched and reared at the zoo's new penguin habitat. 

Bat Houses in Cook County Missing Just One Thing: Bats

Conservationists have installed five bat houses in Cook County since 2016 to provide safe maternity colonies where female bats can give birth and nurse their pups. (Courtesy Friends of the Chicago River)

Three years after they began installing bat houses along waterways in Cook County, conservationists are hoping the bats will start moving in this year.

March for Science Returns to Chicago as Science Fair, Rally

(Zachary James Johnston / United Sciences of Chicago)

After drawing an estimated 60,000 people to the inaugural event last year, Chicago’s second installment of the March for Science returns this weekend – with a few changes.

Osprey Sighting in Cook County a Sign of Spring

(Courtesy Forest Preserves of Cook County)

Despite the early April snow showers, a recent bird sighting in Cook County is a strong sign that warmer spring weather is just around the corner.

Chicago Joins Lawsuit Against EPA Over Methane Emissions

(Creative Commons /  © 2013, Jeremy Atherton)

A coalition of states and cities sue the EPA over its regulation of emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. 

Reindeer Fawn Born at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

One year after welcoming its first baby reindeer in nearly four decades, Brookfield Zoo added another newborn fawn this week.

Earth Day Will Now Be Earth Week at Shedd Aquarium

(Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

For the first time, Shedd Aquarium will host a full week of events leading up to Earth Day on April 22. 

Gymnastics Coach Accused of Sexual Abuse Remained in Chicago-Area Gyms for Decades

(Raphael Goetter / Flickr)

A young suburban gymnast goes to the police in 1997, accusing her coach of sexual abuse, but charges are never filed. Now she is sharing her story. “Everything that happened to me I think people should know,” she said.

Motion-Triggered Camera Captures Flying Squirrel in Chicago

(Urban Wildlife Institute / Chicago Park District)

A camera set up near Rosehill Cemetery captured an unusual photo of a flying squirrel last fall, but the image was only recently discovered.

City Council Approves Ordinance Banning Future Manganese Operations

An overhead view of Watco Transloading's storage terminal on Chicago's Southeast Side. Watco is one of at least two facilities in the area that handle manganese. (Google)

An ordinance to protect residents from a potentially brain-damaging pollutant is passed by the City Council. But does it go far enough?

Trader Joe’s to Phase Out Gestation Crates for Some Pork Products

(Humane Society of the United States / Creative Commons)

The grocery store chain released more details this week about its plans to phase out a practice that animal welfare advocates consider inhumane. 

Humboldt Penguin Chick Born at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

The yet-to-be-named chick is healthy and being hand-reared by animal care staff, the zoo said this week.

Report: Illinois Solar Market Set to Boom Over Next 5 Years


Despite the industry’s recent decline and new tariffs, Illinois’ solar market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, according to a new report. 

Photos: Brookfield Zoo Animals Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

St. Patrick’s Day festivities kicked off a day early at Brookfield Zoo last week, where seals, camels, lemurs, orangutans and gorillas got shamrock-shaped and green-colored treats.

Photos: Lincoln Park Zoo Welcomes New Polar Bear Talini

Lincoln Park Zoo recently welcomed Talini, a 14-year-old female polar bear who lived previously at the Detroit Zoo. (Roy Lewis / Detroit Zoo)

The 14-year-old female polar bear who recently arrived in Chicago is expected to mate with 8-year-old Siku, who has lived at the zoo since 2016. 

How 11,000 Citizen Scientists Helped Unlock Decades of Biological Data

More than 11,000 people worldwide studied digital images of the liverwort plant as part of a Field Museum-led study that linked research professionals with citizen scientists. (Courtesy Field Museum)

From kindergartners to college professors, citizen scientists helped Field Museum researchers examine more than 100,000 plant samples that could hold clues to key scientific questions. 

Rare Comet Moth Emerges From Cocoon at Notebaert Nature Museum

(Courtesy Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum)

A brightly colored moth rarely seen in the U.S. (and bigger than a human hand) emerged from its cocoon Friday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – but you better get there fast if you want to see it.

Group Calls for End to Garbage in Chicago River

(Chicago Tonight file photo)

The Chicago River is cleaner today than it has been in generations, but “cleaner” is a relative term. One local advocacy group wants the city to aim for a trash-free river.

Master Beekeeper Program Buzzes Into Chicago

(U.S. Air Force photo / Senior Airman Justin Weaver)

Want to become a certified beekeeper? A new six-course program covers the history and economics of beekeeping, taxonomy of insects, botany, pollination and what to expect during your first year.

Lincoln Park Zoo Assists in Arrest of Notorious Elephant Poachers

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)

How local scientists played a key role in the arrest of three well-known elephant poachers in the Republic of Congo.