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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.

Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki in Easter Island, Chile

What Really Happened to Easter Island?

Did Easter Island's inhabitants degrade their ecosystem to the point that the island could no longer support them? Or is there more to the story?
One antler deer skull in water

The Ecology of Death

In nature, death creates its own unique ecosystem. These carcass-based mini-ecosystems are extremely dynamic.
microbiome

Your Gut, Your Emotions

According to an international team led by UCLA researchers, our emotions may be partially driven by an unlikely source: our gut bacteria.
platinum-iridium cylinder

What’s a Kilogram?

At the end of the nineteenth century, the kilogram was conceived as the mass of one liter of water at 4°C, the temperature at which water was densest.
WWI prosthetic arm

A Brief History of Prosthetic Limbs

Prosthetics have come a long way from the wooden big toe found on a a 3000-year-old mummy, or the Etruscan bridgework made of human teeth.
Orca whale

How Killer Whales Kill

Orcas may look cute, but don’t be fooled. They display some of the most sophisticated hunting techniques of any animals on Earth.
Nuclear power plant

Nuclear Power Without the Meltdowns?

When it comes to nuclear power, one word in particular instills fear: meltdown. But what is a meltdown? Can one be avoided?
Common Blue Butterfly

Why Conservationists Shouldn’t Forget About Insects

Insect conservation can be a tough sell. Lots of people simply don’t like bugs, and an endangered bug simply doesn’t pull on the heart strings.
Faceless Cusk

How Can A Fish Not Have a Face?

From the "weird science" files: A research vessel off the coast of New South Wales in Eastern Australia hauled up a fish that did not seem to have a face.
Science of ticks

The Science of Ticks

A mild winter and abundant mice have led to a bumper crop of ticks this year, and with them tick-transmitted diseases including Lyme disease.
Humpback whale

Why Have Whales Come to New York City?

What brought whales to the city? It’s a tale of water quality, plankton, and an unassuming but vital fish called the menhaden.
Barracuda school

How Do Fish Schools Work?

Fish schools turn, contract, expand, even part and come back together all without missing a beat. Yet fish are individuals, not a hive mind.
Death Cap Mushroom

California’s Plague of Poisonous Mushrooms

In the last couple of months, fourteen Californians have learned the hard way when they accidentally ate highly poisonous “Death Cap” mushrooms.
Svalbard Seed Bank

How Does the “Noah’s Ark” of Seeds Work?

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest of a global network of seed vaults; many countries retain vaults for their own use.
Narwhals

The Enduring Mysteries of the Narwhal’s Tusk

Why don't we know what narwhals' tusks are for? New footage suggests they use the tusks to stun fish before eating then, but some mysteries remain.
Komodo dragon in Indonesia.

The Mysteries of Komodo Dragons

Antibiotics and other medical treatments often come from offbeat sources, but researchers in Virginia have found some promising ...
NYC Marathon runner

The Quest for A Faster Marathon

How big a difference does air resistance make when running a marathon? Nike tried to find out recently. A look at the science behind the 2-hour marathon.
Chili peppers

The Science of Hot Chili Peppers

Why do spicy foods feel hot? A look at the science behind the world's spiciest hot chili peppers, including the new "Dragon's Breath" variety.
Ovenbird

Is Human Noise Stressing Out Protected Wildlife?

A survey in the United States found that in more than half of protected areas human-caused sounds significantly increased background noise levels.
medical leeches

Medical Leeches Are Back (Yes, You Read That Right)

Leeches are especially helpful when veins are damaged and unable to properly drain blood from extremities, for example, in recently reattached amputations.
NASA chain mail

Why Would NASA Want to 3-D Print Chain Mail?

NASA engineers have 3-D printed a new version of chain mail. Why strong, light, heat-resistant materials are so important in space.
Viking sword runes

The Secrets of Viking Sword Making

New research scans three Viking swords and finds that, while well-made, they were not strong enough to withstand a fight.
Demere and Cerutti

Have Humans Been in the Americas Longer Than We Thought?

Humans may have inhabited the Americas much longer than initially suspected. But questions like who these people were remain unanswered.
Lion

When Predators Become Man-Eaters

It’s very rare that predators eat humans. However, every now and then, predators do develop a taste for people, such as an infamous episode in Tsavo, Kenya.
Wax moth

Will Feeding Plastic to Wax Worms Work?

The problems of plastic in the environment are well documented. Researchers may have a solution to our problem: the common wax worm.