Skip to content

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 wreck of the H.M.S. Deal Castle off Puerto Rico, in the hurricane of 1780 with the crew escaping on a raft, by John Thomas Serres

The Dramatic Waves That Sink Ships

Rogue waves are becoming larger and more dangerous. But even long-term studies have not made these waves any easier to predict or avoid.
Los Angeles

Why Is It So Much Hotter in the City?

On a sunny day, a city can be several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside. Could better building materials make cities absorb less heat?
A Wafer of the Latest D-Wave Quantum Computers

What Is a Quantum Computer?

Researchers claim to have turned back time inside a quantum computer. Meanwhile, most of us are still trying to wrap our minds around what that even means.
A thumbprint on a screen

How Scientific Is Forensic Science?

We like to think that physical evidence is a foolproof way to lock in a conviction. The problem is that forensic science isn't exactly a science.

Kuiper Belt Objects Are as Mysterious as They Are Distant

Recently the New Horizons spacecraft made the first flyby of a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) in the extreme outer solar system. What do we know about KBOs?
A meteor striking earth

How to Avoid a Meteor

It isn’t likely that Earth will be hit by a large meteor, but if it were, the results would be catastrophic.
Reflection of crocodile submerged in water, Australia

Coexisting With Crocodiles

Conservation efforts have led to increased crocodile populations in areas like the Philippines. It's great news for the crocs. Not so much for the people.
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.