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James MacDonald

James MacDonald received a BS in Environmental Biology from Columbia and a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University, spending 4 years in Central America collecting data on fish in mangrove forests. His research has been published in scholarly journals such as Estuaries and Coasts and Biological Invasions. He currently works in fisheries management and outreach in New York.

Scuba diver on shipwreck

Do Artificial Reefs Work?

Some authorities are trying to create fish habitats by cleaning old structures and dumping them at sea. But do these artificial reefs really work?
Microwaves

How a Microwave Weapon Might Work

Personnel at the U.S. embassy in Havana have reported mysterious sounds and physical symptoms consistent with brain injury. Could it be microwaves?
Fire Blazes At Iconic National Museum of Brazil

Brazil’s Museu Nacional Was More Than Just a Museum

Brazil's oldest natural history museum has burned down. The institution played a crucial part in creating Brazil's identity as a country.
megalodon shark

The Real-Life Meg

One of the many misconceptions about the ancient megalodon is that it was an extinct, larger ancestor of the great white shark.
A forest fire reflected in Okanagan Lake, British Columbia, Canada

How Fire Damages Water

President Trump has suggested that poor water management causes wildfires. In fact, it's often the other way around.
plastic waste

Where are the Biodegradable Alternatives to Plastic?

New polymers meant to either biodegrade or to last longer would reduce waste. So what is taking science so long to create them? Well, it's complicated.
Yaxchilán, Maya ancient city

Why Civilizations End

Scientists studying fallen civilizations suggest that the culprit is overshoot in combination with climate change. What does this mean for our current era?
Crown shyness

The Mysteries of Crown Shyness

In some forests, trees grow in a manner that keeps their branches from touching one another. Despite decades of study, scientists aren't exactly sure why.
Cousin marriage Queen Victoria

The Genetics of Cousin Marriage

It's conventional wisdom that procreation between first cousins is unhealthy. But what are the actual genetic risks?
Seattle sea wall

A New Way to Protect the Coast

Living shorelines provide erosion control while providing shoreline habitat and maintaining coastal processes.
Newgrange ancient tomb Ireland

Henges, Barrows, and Tombs: Ireland’s Archaeology

A drone flying over a field in Ireland was able to make out the outline of an ancient henge, a circular enclosure that may have had ritualistic purposes.
Underwater view of two technical divers using rebreathers device to locate shipwreck, Lombok, Indonesia

The Science Behind Decompression Sickness

Deep-sea divers now know how to avoid "the bends." But decompression still poses a problem when studying marine organisms from the deep.
Neutrino Antarctica

The Mysterious Neutrino

A new discovery puts scientists a bit closer to understanding the mysterious subatomic particle that is the neutrino.
During late twilight in the Baobab trees

Africa’s Mighty Baobabs

Sub-Saharan Africa's iconic baobab trees are experiencing die-offs at an alarming rate. What makes these distinctive trees so unique?
Koko the Gorilla and mother Jackie

The Legacy of Koko the Gorilla

The jury is still out on whether or not Koko's signing skills proved that apes can learn language. But we certainly learned a lot from the famous gorilla.
laser gun

The Truth about Laser Guns

The U.S. and most other large militaries have been trying to develop laser weapons for decades. Has China created the first portable laser gun?
Airplane Breaking Sound Barrier

The Problems with Supersonic Flight

Supersonic aircrafts are much faster than typical passenger planes. Unfortunately, there are some downsides.
A phasmid stick insect with egg

The Incredible Phasmid Egg

Stick insects have eggs that look exactly like seeds. Scientists can't figure out why these masters of camouflage would lay eggs that resemble bird snacks.
Busy beaver

The Busy, Beneficial Beaver

Americans have long viewed beavers as nuisances. But their dams are important for water management, helping to store and recharge depleted groundwater.
ProPublica child detention center recording

The Cries Heard Around the World

ProPublica's audio of crying children in detention centers touched a nerve. Humans are keenly attuned to the sounds of crying, in part because of evolution.
Poison Ivy leaves

How Poison Ivy Works

Where poison ivy comes from, why it gives some people such terrible reactions, and why—unfortunately for hikers and gardeners—its future is bright.
A pair of tweezers removing a tick

A Brief History of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is seeing an upswing. But the-now widespread condition was not formally described until 1977, based on a case in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
Cantaloupe

Salmonella: The Good, the Bad, the Unexpected

A recent salmonella outbreak, connected with pre-cut melon, has put the bacteria back in the news. Is there any bright side to salmonella?
seagrass in blue ocean

Why We Need Seagrass

Seagrass meadows are habitats for a variety of marine life, and a vital link between land and sea. But these crucial plants are increasingly under threat.
used mattress

The Ecosystem of the Used Mattress

Recently, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt directed staff to arrange for the purchase of a used mattress from a hotel. What's in a used mattress, anyway?