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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. Until his death in the fall of 2019, James worked in fisheries management and outreach in New York.

Dracula in a 1931 movie poster

The Real Vampires of Europe

In general, a vampire is a malicious spirit or soul of the deceased who is not confined to the grave. Where did the idea come from?
Japanese tsunami debris

Marine Debris and Its Dangerous Hitchhikers

Larger pieces of floating debris, like that caused by the Japanese tsunami, may carry hitchhikers in the form of organisms native to their place of origin.
Ducks in algae bloom

The Problem With Algae Bloom

Climate change is a wild card that seems to be exacerbating conditions that can lead to Harmful Algae Blooms.
Antikythera Ephebe

The Antikythera Shipwreck Keeps Revealing Wonders

In the first century B.C.E., a Roman ship sank near the Greek Island of Antikythera. In 1900 some off-course sponge divers discovered the wreckage.
Neutron star collision

A Primer on Neutron Stars

In the far off constellation of Hydra; two neutron stars collided, producing vast clouds of gold and other heavy elements. What's a neutron star anyway?
Black Noddy Terns Nesting in Pisonia Trees at Lady Musgrave Island Queensland Australia

The Bird-Catching Pisonia Trees

Found mainly on Caribbean islands, Pisonia trees resemble any typical large, tropical tree. Typical, that is, until you notice the bones.
Electric eel

5 Shocking Facts about Electric Eels

First things first: eels are fish.
Mummified cats

How Ancient Peoples Fed the Dead

4,000 years ago in what is now Jerusalem, someone was buried with a jar of headless toads. In fact, many ancient graves included food for the afterlife.
French bulldog puppy sleeping on the carpet

Why Do We Sleep?

A growing consensus among those who hold this view is that sleep is needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, not necessarily a brain.
Tuna fish

What Makes Fish Swim Fast

How do fish swim? Having fins and tails help, But it takes more than that to be fast and avoid danger. Diving into fish physics.
Cat playing Peek a Boo in a box

The Ig Nobels: The Lighter Side of Scientific Research

What exactly are the Ig Nobels? And what can we learn from the Journal of Irreproducible Results and the Annals of Improbable Results?
A dwarf epauletted fruit bat flying

Why Human Echolocators Will Never Be As Precise As Bats

Research seems to indicate that human echolocation is surprisingly sophisticated, and may aid a deeper understanding of hearing and sensory perception.
tattoo artist

Why Doesn’t the FDA Regulate Tattoo Ink?

Are there serious adverse effects to injecting industrial paint under your skin? Nobody really knows. The inks used are not FDA-approved.
Drained Tampa Bay

When the Sea Recedes

When caused by storms, receding oceans are result of an inverted storm surge, a “negative surge.” Storm surges have a few causes.
Floating fire ants

Fire Ants Form Rafts to Float on Water

Floating masses of fire ants have been observed drifting in the floodwaters resulting from Hurricane Harvey. How does a swarm of fire ants float?
DNA Strand

Using DNA As a Memory Drive

Scientists have successfully encoded a simple movie in bacteria DNA, and played it back. Using DNA for data storage is not as crazy as it sounds...
Prince Rupert Drops

Prince Rupert’s Drops of Mystery

400 years of trying to solve the mystery of Prince Rupert's Drops, bizarrely hard beads of glass that have long captivated scientists.
Costa Rican rainforest

A Clever Way to Conserve Forests

As climate change looms, scientists seek ways to reduce the release of carbon. Sometimes a low-tech approach is overlooked: conserving forests.
Orangutan

What Does it Mean to Be on the Endangered Species List?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List is a global list of species and their conservation status.
Tree in desert

The Environmental Impact of Nuclear War

Even a limited nuclear war would throw enough soot into the atmosphere to block sunlight and lower global temperatures by more than one degree Celsius.
Spider web

Six Surprising Facts About Spiderwebs

Intricate, strong, and rapidly-built, spider webs are more amazing even than they first appear. For a construction job done right, get a spider to do it.
Solar Eclipse

An Eclipse is a Scientific Bonanza

On August 21, 2017, North America’s first total solar eclipse in a while will cross the center of the United States from East to West.
Brain illustration

Are Male and Female Brains Actually Different?

No study, even those finding strong differences, has ever found differences in cognitive ability between male and female brains.
Jupiter great red spot

The Secrets of Jupiter’s Incredible Great Red Spot

Astronomers have worked out that Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a massive storm system, but what keeps a storm going for hundreds of years?
Crow illustration

Crows Are Even Smarter Than We Thought

If crows like the New Caledonian Crow can plan out and create a specialized tool, then they seem to have smarts that rival those of early humans.