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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.

insect in amber

Should We Worry About Ancient Pathogens Being Revived?

Accidental exposure to bacteria trapped inside a crystal is unlikely. Frozen ancient pathogens, however, are another matter.
TRAPPIST-1 planet illustration

M-Dwarves and the Search for Life

In recent years, astronomers have broadened their search for habitable planets to include previously ignored stars like M-dwarves.
solar panels

Are Some Solar Panels More Environmentally Friendly Than Others?

A new solar process utilizing nanoparticles has to potential to nearly double the energy output per unit area of solar panels.
Otzi the Iceman's hat

The Unsolved Case of Ötzi the Iceman

Clues have emerged in a very cold case: the Copper Age killing of Ötzi the Iceman. What do we know about this well-preserved mummy?
old exercise equipment

Whole Body Vibration Isn’t Quite As Crazy As It Sounds

Is whole body vibration the latest weight-loss fad? Or a legitimate medical treatment with potential to help those who can't exercise?
Anza Borrego Desert State Park Wildflowers,CA

When the Desert Blooms

Following a winter of exceptional rain, Southern California's desert wildflowers have bloomed en masse. The event is dubbed a “super bloom.”
Frog in water

Why Did the Amphibian Cross the Road?

Why are frogs so much more at risk of getting hit by cars in the spring time? It has to do with breeding, timing, and water.
DNA genetic analysis results

A New Kind of DNA Evidence

Should familial DNA be used in forensic investigations? How it works -- and some of the potential problems with the practice.
Gypsum crystals of the Naica cave.

Exploring Mexico’s Otherworldly Cave of Crystals

The Cave of Crystals is a massive cavern, filled with gigantic gypsum crystals, larger than any crystals ever before seen on Earth.
Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur depicts a horned Texas lizard

The Craziest Ways Animals Escape Their Predators

From shedding skin to making slime to shooting blood out of their eyes, these animals have defense mechanisms that are convincing, to say the least.
karst

The Incredible Unsung Karst Ecosystem

One of the world’s most incredible, yet unsung, ecosystems, karsts are home to a remarkable biological diversity.
Aral Sea Ships

The Agonizing Death of the Aral Sea

After decades of environmental disaster, fish and wildlife may rebound to Central Asia's Aral Sea, but the lake will never be restored to its former glory.
plastic grocery bag

How Should We Deal With Plastic Bags?

A proposed 5-cent plastic bag fee was just blocked in New York City. What can be done to effectively reduce plastic bag use?
Indian Cobra

Venom’s Healing Touch

Venom kills thousands every year, but research is showing that venom can heal as well. Venom works in a way that most drugs can only dream of.
American Pika

The World’s Cutest Mammal on the Brink

The Ili Piku, aka "Magic Rabbit," of China is endangered. But Pika populations are declining globally, not just in China.
friends socializing at table

The Secret Ingredient For Better Self-Care

One form of preventative medicine that is important, and which health policy barely considers: social connections between people.
nuclear blast

The Doomsday Clock: Menacing Metaphor of the Nuclear Age

Pessimism is on the rise. Mercurial politicians, rising nationalism and isolationism, international bluster, a changing climate, mass protests, ...

Why Does Menopause Exist?

What is the point of menopause? Evolutionarily speaking, why do female humans go through menopause and then live for many more decades?
Fairy Circles

The Weird Fairy Circles of Namibia

The deserts of Namibia are dotted with odd circular bare patches, ringed by the dry desert grasses. They're called "fairy circles." It’s a desert whodunit.
Rings of Saturn

Why Does Saturn Have Rings?

Every school child will recognize a photo of Saturn. The squash-colored planet is orbited by distinctive rings, easily visible ...
rose and bullets

It’s Not Magical Realism: Bullets That Bloom

With all the human casualties of armed conflict, sometimes the environmental impacts go unnoticed. But the U.S. military has started to ...
Ocean currents map

Could Climate Change Alter the Ocean’s Currents?

What do currents do anyway? What would happen if they stopped?
surgeons instruments

How Do We Know What Human Organs Do?

Apparently humans have a new internal organ. How can this be, and what does this "new organ" do?
Cheetah and cubs

Where Have All the Cheetahs Gone?

Disturbing news for cheetahs: a recent census reveals that populations have plummeted.
Wine corks

The Cork Oak Forests Want You to Drink More Wine

Corks come from a tree that is part of a unique ecosystem dependent on cork harvest for its survival.