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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.

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?
King Tut Mummy

The Many Modes of Mummification

From Egypt to East Asia, ways of making mummies have varied. Sometimes, as a recent find reveals, mummification happens completely by accident.
Mid adult man lying in bed looking at thermometer reading

The Science of Fevers

Trying to bring down that fever? Studies show that most fevers are actually integral to effective immune responses.
memory diagram

What is Memory?

Research suggests that memories may alter the brain's architecture, forming new synapses and strengthening existing ones.
Pompeii boulder skeleton

The Secrets of Pompeii

In 79 C.E., Mt. Vesuvius covered Pompeii with ash and pumice, preserving the remains of people trying to escape. Researchers have made a haunting new find.
cerebrospinal fluid

What is Cerebrospinal Fluid?

A patient was convinced that her runny nose indicated a deeper problem. She was right. Her case brought cerebrospinal fluid into the national spotlight.
Dark matter galaxy clusters

Dark Matter in the Universe

According to current scientific theories, dark matter and dark energy make up most of the universe. But we don't even know what they actually are.
Bajau boys on boat

Humans Are Still Evolving

Biologists suggest that evolution never stops, even for modern humans. This is especially true in parts of the developing world.
US Embassy Havana Cuba

The Science Behind Sonic Incidents

U.S. government employees stationed in Havana, Cuba, and Guangzhou, China, have experienced mysterious symptoms. Could the culprit be a sonic weapon?
Cuckoo wasp

The Overlooked Importance of Parasites

Parasites can be creepy, but according to some ecologists, parasites may substantially impact entire ecosystems—for the better.
Chan Chan idol

Child Sacrifice in the Ancient Americas

At various sites throughout Peru and Argentina, archaeologists have found remains of child sacrifices.
Mauna Ulu lava cone

After the Lava Stops

When volcanos erupt, the type and location of the lava determines what habitat will develop after it stops flowing.
herd of mammoths

What Really Happened to the Megafauna

Could humans be responsible for the extinction of megafauna like giant sloths and mastodons?
psychedelics

The Pscience of Psychedelics

Researchers found that Psilocybin and other hallucinogens may prove helpful in their ability to quiet a portion of the brain connected to depression.
3d printing biological

3D Printing Body Parts

3D printing has evolved far beyond printing out a simple item using plastic. For example, scientists Jody Connell and colleagues described an innovative use of the technology to create three-dimensional bacteria cultures.
Kingdom of Kush

The Lost Kingdom of Kush

A handful of archaeological sites and the written language Meroitic are all that remains of the Kingdom of Kush, located in what is now Sudan.
Venezuela Tepui Highlands

Venezuela’s Mysterious Tepuis

Many species on the tepui summits are found nowhere else. How did those species get there?