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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.

The Mars Curiosity Rover

The Meaning of Methane on Mars

Curiosity rover's recent report of methane on Mars isn't the first time the gas has been indicated. Does it necessarily mean that Mars harbors life?
A bark scorpion in Arizona

How Does a Scorpion Decide When to Sting?

There are actually two decisions to make: whether to sting at all and whether to use prevenom or full venom.
Climbers ascending Mount Everest

Mount Everest’s Death Zone

The zone above 8,000 meters is known among mountaineers as the “Death Zone.” Why do most deaths in the high mountains occur at these extreme heights?
A carnival cruise ship

The High Environmental Costs of Cruise Ships

Cruise ships pose many environmental concerns, from waste disposal to toxic paint to the creation of noise that can harm marine life.
Blue viper snake eating a frog, Indonesia

How Snakes Swallow

A snake’s ability to swallow enormous prey has long been a source of fascination, but the common explanation that they dislocate their jaws is a myth.
Eastern phoebe nest with one brown-headed cowbird egg

The Sky’s Creepiest Parasites

Are you a bird? Is your chick acting weird? You might be victim of a brood parasite.
A tornado in a field

Why Tornadoes Are So Difficult to Predict

Scientists and weather forecasters have been trying to understand tornadoes for over 100 years, but the average advanced warning is still only 14 minutes.
A constellation of satellites

Losing the Night Sky

Does an increase in satellites mean we soon won't be able to see the stars?
An archerfish shooting water at a bug

The Amazing Eyes of the Archerfish

The archerfish has an unusual skill: it spits water directly at its prey, knocking the bugs out of the sky. But how?
A geometrid moth caterpillar

Camouflage Gets Weird

Some animals use chemical camouflage, even altering the way they smell in order to avoid predation.
Scientist viewing plant leaf in a petri dish under a inverted microscope in a laboratory.

Artificial Photosynthesis

What is artificial photosynthesis, how does it work, and why would we need it?
A peacock

Green Birds Aren’t Really Green

Some of the most dazzling coloration you see in birds doesn’t actually exist.
A landfill with smoke in the background

The Lowdown on Municipal Trash Incinerators

Burning household trash in massive incinerators saves landfill space, but it also introduces a host of other waste management issues.
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Brooklyn, NY

How Urban Agriculture Can Meet Its Potential

New York City's urban agriculture has not been found to provide benefits to either hungry people or the environment. How could city farms work better?
A land snail

The Hidden Extinction Crisis

The extinction crisis might be even worse than we think, because we tend to mostly pay attention to terrestrial vertebrates.
A woman with a protective mask in a plane

Do Airplanes Really Make You Sick?

A Curious Reader asks: Am I really at a higher risk of getting sick on an airplane?
Asian small-clawed otters

Exotic Animals Don’t Make Good Pets

They might be cute, but animals like otters are difficult to take care of. Plus, there are ecological concerns inherent in removing them from the wild.
A school of anchovies

Why Forage Fish Conservation Matters

Small fish like herring and anchovies serve an important role in the ecosystem. If passed into law, a new act would protect these forage fish.
Two IAEA experts examine recovery work on top of Unit 4 of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station

How to Clean Up After a Nuclear Disaster

Workers are still cleaning up after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant partial meltdown. There's a lot of contaminated material to contend with.
An illustration of an elephant between crosshairs

The Military Response to Poaching

Is militarizing rangers really the best way to cut down on poaching? It's more complicated than you might imagine.
Yttrium crystal

The Downside to Renewable Energy

Rare earth elements are used in virtually all electronics, and mining them is a messy business.
A flamingo feeding its young

How Non-Mammals “Nurse” Their Young

Some birds feed their young with "crop milk," while discus fish feed their fry with a special mucus. It may not seem as cute as nursing, but it works.
Illustration of a wild boar, between 1868 and 1874

Denmark Builds a Wild Boar Wall

Is constructing a fence along the Denmark/Germany border really the best way to keep wild pigs away from domestic pigs?
This infographic details the locations of the participating telescopes of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and the Global mm-VLBI Array (GMVA).

Seeing Black Holes

Two of the scientists on the huge team that eventually captured the world's first image of a black hole discuss the particular challenges of the task.
Frozen lake Baikal near Olkhon island

Exploring Lake Baikal

The world's largest, deepest freshwater lake is home to hundreds of species that don't live anywhere else on Earth. But it's threatened by climate change.