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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 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.
The InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars.

What’s Inside Mars?

Everything scientists think they know about the interior of Mars is based on indirect observations. NASA's new InSight Lander aims to change that.
A cigarette butt in the sand.

The Environmental Cost of Cigarettes

Cigarette butts account for a huge amount of human-generated plastic pollution.
A trail near Tampere, Finland.

How Forest Fires Work in Finland

Finland's forest fires aren't as destructive as California's. That has more to do with climate and population than with forest management.
Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest

Indigenous Reserves and the Future of the Amazon

Swathes of the Amazon rainforest are set aside for Indigenous peoples to manage. While they aren't conservation areas, they are important to the ecosystem.
Cat Mummy

Why Ancient Egyptians Loved Cats So Much

Ancient Egyptians' love of cats developed from an appreciation to their rodent-catching skills to revering them as sacred creatures.
Members of the Cascades Butterfly Citizen Science Team

A Scientific Look at Citizen Science

Citizen science involves using large numbers of volunteers to collect data for scientific research. But does it result in usable data?
A bowl of kimchi, which contains probiotics

The Pros (And Cons) of Probiotics

Probiotics are a hot topic--and big business--these days. But do they really work?
A cluster of deep sea octopus Muusoctopus robustus.

The Last Vigil of the Octopus Parent

For some species of octopus, reproducing is a lonely act that ends in death.
Wollemi Pine

Wollemi Pine, Dinosaur Tree

The Wollemi Pine is an ancient tree, virtually unchanged since herbivorous dinosaurs last munched on them.

Waste-to-Energy: Sustainability Solution or Ponzi Scheme?

Waste-to-energy involves generating electricity by converting waste into gasses. Many are wondering: does it work? And is it scalable?
Coral conservationist Ruth Gates

Remembering Coral Conservationist Ruth Gates

Dr. Ruth Gates worked tirelessly to conserve coral reefs, promoting a controversial idea called assisted evolution.
Computational fluid dynamics image of an experimental unmanned hypersonic aircraft

The Alarming Possibilities of Hypersonic Flight

Hypersonic aircraft can fly at least five times the speed of sound. They would make for terrifying weapons -- if they are even possible.
tiger

Catching Cats With Cologne

The cat-attracting ability of perfume has been known since at least the 18th century. Will it help authorities catch a killer tiger?
Bear preparing to hibernate

How to Be the Fattest Bear

Gaining enough weight to survive a winter of hibernation is actually very hard work.
Hayabusa2 Approaches Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroids Are Windows to the Past

Japan’s space agency has landed rovers on Asteroid Ryugu. The photos and samples from the mission will reveal a lot about asteroids.
HMS Endeavour

The Curious Voyage of HMS Endeavour

Captain James Cook had secret orders to to search for a predicted Southern Continent. He ended up claiming New Zealand and part of Australia for the U.K.
conodonts

The Most Abundant Creature You’ve Never Heard Of

Conodonts are actually older than the oldest previously known vertebrates, making them the earliest known “skeletonized” vertebrates in existence.

Why Do Some People Have Curly Hair and Others Straight?

Either environmental or sexual selective pressure began acting on hair after humans began dispersing out of Africa.
mesoamerican ballgame

A Mesoamerican Ball Game Returns

An ancient ball game called Ulama is making a comeback in Mexico. What do we know about the earlier iteration of the game?
Octopus Swimming In Sea

Why Would Scientists Give an Octopus Ecstasy?

In a perplexing recent study, researchers dosed octopuses. Turns out, scientists have long studied the similarities between cephalopod and human brains.
Fishing boat in high seas

Governing Fisheries in the High Seas

Overfishing is a huge problem in international waters. Some suggest a fishing ban. Others stress a shared shift toward cooperation and long-term thinking.
conflict of interest medicine

How Conflicts of Interest Are Changing Medical Research

Federal funding for medical research has declined, leading academics to seek alternative funding sources, sometimes from drug companies.
Scuba diver on shipwreck

Do Artificial Reefs Work?

Some authorities are trying to create fish habitats by cleaning old structures and dumping them at sea. But do these artificial reefs really work?