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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.

An opossum feigning death

The Biology of Death-Feigning

Some animals, when faced with predators, play dead instead of trying to escape. But for death-feigning to work, a lot of things have to go well.
Bilateral Gynandromorph Cardinal

The Mysterious Gynandromorph

Gynandromorphy is an extremely rare condition in which an animal is half male and half female. It's most visible in birds and butterflies.
Long-tailed pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla), Mangamba, Littoral Province, Cameroon

The Pangolin Extinction Vortex

This shy, strange-looking, nocturnal mammal has been poached nearly to extinction.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Golfstream.jpg

Remembering Climate Pioneer Dr. Wallace Broecker

He brought us the term "global warming," furthering our understanding of the ways in which people affect the planet's climate.
Honeybee Apis mellifera

Are Honey Bees Bad for Wild Bees?

Recently, the health of the honey bees has been a topic of some concern. But many scientists think we should actually be worrying about wild bees instead.
A tractor spreads biosolids in a field

What To Do about Biosolids

People are understandably reluctant to make much use of sewer sludge. Can rebranding human waste as "biosolids" change the public's mind?
Two Sumatran tigers

Mating at the Zoo Can Be Dangerous

A Sumatran tiger killed the female he was meant to mate with. Mating endangered species in captivity has long been a problem, if not always to such dramatic effect.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Argonauta_argo_Merculiano.jpg

Paper Nautilus, Octopus of the Open Sea

Why the argonaut, or paper nautilus, may be your new favorite cephalopod.
Replica of a Denisovan molar, originally found in Denisova Cave in 2000

Denisovans and Neanderthals Interbred in a Giant Cave

New findings shed light on how humans' ancestors interbred, but the Denisovans remain quite mysterious.
A tarsier

Can Wildlife Adapt to Heat Waves?

Heatwaves have led to widespread deaths of animals like big-eyed tarsiers and flying foxes. Is there hope for species like this as temperatures rise?
Two wolves

The Totally Unromantic Origin of Monogamy

Evolutionary biology offers theories as to why some mammals engage in monogamy. And no, it's not because they're in love. (Sorry.)
Wild coffee

Protecting Food’s Wild Relatives

The wild ancestors of coffee and other vital crops are at risk, leaving much of the world's food supply vulnerable to catastrophe.
A seismic survey vessel

How Offshore Oil Exploration Affects Marine Life

Offshore oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic Ocean will involve seismic blasts, which may be harmful to whales and marine mammals.
An Eastern Lowland Gorilla infant

When Endangered Wildlife Gets Inbred

The endangered eastern lowland gorilla populations are now so small that the species is facing a new threat: loss of genetic diversity.
An artist's rendering of space travel

The “Real” Warp Drive

Sure, it sounds like science fiction. But some researchers suggest that warp drives might actually be a possibility.
Xipe Totec Impersonator from AD 600-900

The Festival of the Flayed God

The terrifying and gruesome rituals of the Flayed God had a symbolic subtext that was somewhat gentler than one might imagine.
A birds-eye view of a farm.

Does Organic Agriculture Contribute to Climate Change?

Organic agriculture seems like it would be better for the environment than conventional. But a new study suggests it produces more carbon dioxide.
Physarum polycephalum

Amoebas Are Smarter Than They Appear

Why slime molds can solve math problems that you can't.
A flood in St Mark's Square in Venice

Our Sinking Cities

From Venice to Tehran to Shanghai, many cities are steadily sinking into the earth. There might not be any way to stop it.
An ancient supernova

Can a Supernova Cause Mass Extinction?

Since the 1950s, scientists have been proposing supernovae as catalysts for mass extinctions. But can it be proven?
A rack of shoes from different eras

Our Long Relationship with Leather

A recently-discovered skeleton wearing leather boots inspires a walk through our history of wearing animal hides.
Voyager 2 near Neptune and Triton

Voyager 2 Heads into the Unknown

Forty-one years after its launch, Voyager 2 has officially crossed out of the solar system and into interstellar space. What has it discovered along the way?

The Mixed Environmental Legacy of Missionaries

The recent murder of Christian missionary John Chau has drawn attention to the effects outsiders have on native tribes and ecology.
Restoration of Burgess Shale fossil arthropod Waptia fieldensis

Meeting Earth’s First Animals at the Burgess Shale

The Burgess Shale is a huge deposit of unique fossils that reveals records of the middle Cambrian, a vital period in evolutionary history.