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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.

interrogation room

The Psychology Behind False Confessions

In criminal interrogation, interrogators often ask questions and interpret the responses in such a way as to confirm guilt.
duck billed platypus

The Platypus Is Even Weirder Than You Thought

Platypuses. They’re weird. In fact, platypuses are so unusual that it took taxonomists more than eighty years just to decide what they are.
Bacteriophage, illustration

Fighting Bacterial Infection With…Viruses?

As bacteria develop resistance to widely-used antibiotics, some researchers are turning to bacteria’s natural enemy: a very special virus called a bacteriophage.
Sir Humphry Davy

When Scientists Perform Experiments on Themselves

More than one self-experiment has resulted in a Nobel Prize. Against all odds, and sometimes in spite of the damage they cause, these crazy gambits pay off.
NSF early star rendering

The Earliest Stars

Astronomers who noticed a slight blip in space's background radiation got an insight not just into the early stars but into the age and nature of the early universe.
Hantavirus particles

Solving a Medical Mystery With Oral Traditions

In 1993, Navajo elders provided a key piece of information to CDC scientists and climatologists to help combat a deadly mystery disease.
Fisherman taking freshly caught trout out of fishing net.

The Dark Side of Fish Stocking

It takes place out of sight of non-anglers, but fish stocking, or adding fish for the benefit of sport fishing, is a widespread practice in resource management.
Coffee beans biodiversity

The Connections Between Coffee and Biodiversity

A new study from the Western Ghats suggests that coffee cultivation does not interfere with bird biodiversity, regardless of what type of bean is grown.
Artificial snow Switzerland

The Real Problem with Artificial Snow

As the climate changes, snowfall in many areas has decreased. As natural snow is replaced with artificial snow, what is the environmental impact?
Illustration of Bombardier Beetle (Pheropsophus) excreting a mixture of hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide at speed from opening in abdomen

Bombardier Beetles Are Terrifying Nightmare Insects

In a world full of wild insect defenses, bombardier beetles stand out for the violent chemical reaction they employ to deter enemies.
Mount Everest North Face Tibet

How to Measure a Mountain

It’s not easy to measure a mountain. Mount Everest's height has been known since the middle of the nineteenth century, but how did they figure it out with no altimeters or GPS?
Compass On Antique Map magnetic poles

What Happens if Earth’s Magnetic Poles Reverse?

What would happen if the Earth's magnetic poles flipped? Earth’s magnetic poles have a long history of switching from North to South and back again. 
Cube dice

The Ancient Origins of Dice

Gambling is one of humankind’s oldest activities. Elaborate technologies and customs have emerged around games of chance. Dice in particular have drawn attention from scholars.
A wild dingo

The Unexpected Result of Australia’s Dingo Fence

The story of dingoes in Australia is the first recorded case where an introduced predator has taken on such a functional role in its adopted ecosystem.
Toddler boy playing in sandbox

Should Parents Fear the Sandbox?

The good news is that most parents living in sanitary environments really don’t need to worry about toxocariasis. The bad news is that toxocara may be yet another obstacle placed in front of disadvantaged children.
Wild Orangutan Female Eating Red Berries

How Wild Animals Self-Medicate

The range of animals known to make use of available medicinal materials includes orangutans, dogs, parrots, spider monkeys, lizards, and lemurs.
Red snapper chromolithograph 1898

Fish Are Smarter Than You Think

Fish intelligence? Yes, many studies have documented the ability of fish to learn from their environment. Fish exposed to a more complicated environment have an edge in learning.
Bobcat kittens

Fighting Wildlife Crime With Forensic Genetics

How can law enforcement officials help save endangered animals from poachers? Techniques of forensic genetics used in human crime scene analysis are entering the fray.
Climate change wine

Climate Change Vs. Your Wine

One crop in particular is likely to have problems as climate change progresses. Savor that glass of rosé, for as the climate changes wine grapes will be among the first to suffer.
Bengal tiger

How War Affects Wildlife

A multi-decade study of wildlife in Africa found that armed conflict—even infrequent, low-level conflict—was enough to cause declines in a wide range of wildlife populations.
Crown-of-thorns starfish crown of thorns

When Crown-of-Thorns Starfish Attack

Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef is facing a threat from a massive outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish.
dark side of the moon

What Awaits on the Dark Side of the Moon?

An unmanned Chinese probe will be exploring the moon's far side in 2018. The side that faces away from the earth differs significantly from the familiar face of the moon. So why are the two sides so different?
Power plant

Why Air Pollution Is a Socioeconomic Issue

Too much pollution can pose a health risk to anyone, but whether it is lethal or not mostly depends on the person's underlying health—and economic—status.
dna illustration

A Primer on e-DNA

eDNA is DNA that an animal sloughs off into its environment through feces, shedding, or lost skin. The technology can detect invasive species.
Sika stag deer staring at camera

The Surprising Frequency of Interspecies Mating

Sometimes different but related species can reproduce. When two different species successfully mate, the resulting offspring is called a hybrid.