Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Eli Chen

Science Reporter
Andrew Oberle, a chimp attack survivor who helped create a holistic trauma program at Saint Louis University, shared his story at a live taping of The Story Collider in October 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

In June 2012, Andrew Oberle, an aspiring primate researcher, was brutally attacked by two chimpanzees at a zoo in South Africa. The animals tore his flesh from head to toe and he nearly died.

But after 26 surgeries and extensive therapies at Saint Louis University Hospital, Oberle recovered. His ability to overcome his traumatic experiences led him to want to help others in who've experienced extreme physical injuries. Today, Oberle serves as the director of development for the Oberle Institute, a trauma care program at Saint Louis University that is supported by foudations. He helps raise funds for the institute and also serves as a patient advocate. 

A prairie that contains the common big bluestem grass.
Provided by Kansas State University

Prairies in Missouri and southern Illinois could look shorter by the end of the century, according to a study from the Missouri Botanical Garden and Kansas State University. 

Researchers reported in the journal Global Change Ecology that tall varieties of the big bluestem grass that covers much of Midwestern prairies could be taken over by shorter forms of the plant over the next several decades. That's because climate change could reduce rainfall in many parts of the region, leading to drier conditions.

Ferguson police officers arrest a protester on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017
Vincent Lang | St. Louis American

 

Ferguson police arrested a handful of protesters late Friday during a demonstration in front of the city’s Police Department.

The arrests, made about 45 minutes into a demonstration billed as a “liberation party,” came after a Ferguson officer used a bullhorn to warn that protesters who were blocking traffic on the street were in violation of a city ordinance.

After the officer had given three warnings, two city police vehicles moved slowly down South Florissant Road with sirens blaring at about 8:40 p.m. As they stopped near the crowd, other officers rushed to the street. Protesters said officers took five people into custody.

Gas extraction wells on the Bridgeton Landfill in summer 2016.
File Photo |Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents and environmental activists expressed concerns at a public hearing Wednesday night that the state's pending stormwater permit for the Bridgeton Landfill does not require monitoring for radioactive waste. 

The Bridgeton Landfill sits above an underground smoldering fire, located about 600 feet from the World War II-era radioactive waste that's under the West Lake Landfill Superfund site. Concerns about radioactive contamination in stormwater rose over the summer, when the Missouri Department of Natural Resources released a report showing levels of alpha particles in runoff at Bridgeton Landfill that exceeded drinking water standards after heavy rains in late April. Alpha particles are a type of radiation that does not pierce the skin and must be ingested to damage human health.

A cornfield
File Photo | Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

The National Science Foundation has awarded $3.4 million to researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana and the University of California-Davis to study genes that promote high corn yields.

Advances in crop technology have helped boost corn yields by eightfold in the last century. But productivity of the staple crop has plateaued in recent years and that has pushed researchers to take a closer look at genes that can improve production and help feed the world's rising human population.

An alligator snapping turtle, one of several wild turtle species that live in Missouri.
File Photo | United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Wild turtles in Missouri may soon be protected from trappers, as the Missouri Department of Conservation proposed a ban this week on the commercial harvest of turtles in the state. 

Many wild turtles that are captured and exported from the United States are sold as exotic pets or processed into food and traditional Chinese medicine. Missouri is one of a few states in the country that doesn't impose a limit on how many wild turtles that trappers can collect.

At an experimental mine at the Missouri University of S&T in Rolla, scientists are setting off explosives around lab mice and cell cultures to study how exposure to blasts in combat damage the brains of military personnel.

Neuroscientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Stanford University are leading the research, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The study is focused on mild traumatic brain injury, the most common type of brain injury affecting military personnel. However, the condition is difficult to diagnose and not well studied.

 

A wind turbine.
Provided by Ameren Missouri

Missouri's largest utility company announced plans today that could dramatically reduce its impact on the environment. 

Ameren Missouri released multiple goals it hopes to achieve, which include adding 700 megawatts of wind power generation by 2020, along with 100 megawatts of solar power by 2027. Company leaders are speaking to developers about a potential wind farm project and hope to provide more details by the end of this year.

A sunset at the Great Rivers National Wildlife Refuge in Annada, Mo.
Carmen Cortelyou | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Great River National Wildlife Refuge in Annada, Missouri,  is acquiring two islands on the Mississippi River to protect wildlife and provide more areas for outdoor recreation. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given $677,500 to the refuge in northeast Missouri, a portion of $21.9 million the U.S. Department of the Interior dedicated to conserving public lands in 16 states. A family near the river used to farm on the 702-acre property, called Slim and Haps Islands, but stopped as flooding increased along the Mississippi River.

More than a hundred protesters marched in downtown Clayton on Sunday afternoon and demanded the release of 22 people who were arrested at the Saint Louis Galleria on Saturday.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

It wasn’t so much of a protest as a vigil on Sunday as demonstrators gathered at the Justice Center in Clayton to wait for the release of the people arrested Saturday at a protest in the Galleria.

By 5 p.m., all 22 of those arrested had been released.

Two men confront a crowd of demonstrators during a protest Friday night in St. Charles. It was the eighth day of protests following the not-guilty verdict of white ex-St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley on first-degree murder charges.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

One week after a judge acquitted former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of murder in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith, protesters continued their push for change, taking their message Friday to the mostly white city of St. Charles.

Protesters blocked Brentwood Blvd. outside of the Galleria mall on Wednesday night as they chanted “for Anthony Smith and Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down.”
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 7:45 p.m. with mall closure — The advertised gathering spot Wednesday for people wanting to voice their displeasure with the Jason Stockley verdict was downtown Clayton.

That was a decoy, as protesters converged on the St. Louis Galleria and blocked traffic on busy Brentwood Boulevard in Richmond Heights, about a mile away. Both Clayton and the mall were targeted because of protesters’ strategy to disrupt business as usual in affluent communities.

Sikeston farmer Trey Wilson said he saw substantial damage to his soybean crops this year. On the left is what a healthy soybean plant looks like; on the right is a soybean plant showing signs of dicamba damage.
Trey Wilson

Sikeston, Missouri — In front of several greenhouse scaffolds, Steve Hamra gestured to a metal cart containing trays of seedlings for bell peppers, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. About 150 miles south of St. Louis on a 10-acre site, Hamra is growing produce hydroponically, or in water instead of soil, for about 400 schools, in Missouri and other states.

A demonstrator chants toward St. Louis Metropolitan Police Headquarters Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 before protests turned violent.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11:40 p.m. with quote from protester released from jail — Hundreds of protesters redirected their efforts on a rainy Monday night to the St. Louis’ City Justice Center, where people who’d been arrested in recent days were being released.

Protesters marched peacefully and largely in silence throughout downtown St. Louis early Monday morning. 9/18/17
Brit Hanson | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:45 p.m. to recast throughout, add details about cleanup — When morning broke Monday, about 100 people already were in the streets of downtown St. Louis to silently protest the acquittal of former St. Louis officer Jason Stockley and high schoolers in the suburbs were walking out of classes.

It was the fourth day of action since a judge decided Stockley wasn’t guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. More than 150 people have been arrested since Friday’s verdict, including 123 people Sunday night in downtown, where businesses mended broken windows Monday.

An evening protest took place in the Delmar Loop, which hosted a largely peaceful demonstration Saturday before a few people broke several windows.

A demonstrator waves a flag from a minivan during protests Sunday evening over the acquittal of former St. Louis cop Jason Stockey. A third day of protests started peacefully before a smaller group smashed windows downtown.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:25 p.m. Sept. 18 with release of Post-Dispatch reporter — More than 80 people were arrested Sunday night, St. Louis police said, long after the official — and peaceful — protests ended. The last group of people to be arrested downtown were boxed in by police and sprayed with a chemical agent, a livestream showed, and a St. Louis Post-Dispatch staffer tweeted that one of their reporters was among them. A Post-Dispatch editor this morning announced that reporter Mike Faulk has been released.

Protesters march on Delmar Boulevard
Lawrence Bryant | St. Louis American

 

 

Updated at 11:25 p.m. with new details from evening protests — A second full day of outrage over former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley’s acquittal in the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith took protesters to a St. Louis County mall, downtown St. Louis and a mass rally Saturday night in the Delmar Loop.

Two grizzly bear cubs arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo in the summer of 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Visitors to the St. Louis Zoo will be able to watch two grizzly bear cubs from Montana starting Friday.

The male, Huckleberry and female, Finley, are both 2 1/2 years old. They and their mother were found disturbing residences and livestock, posing a risk to public safety. Montana wildlife officials killed the mother and sent the cubs to St. Louis Zoo, because zoo officials already had plans to revamp the grizzly bear exhibit.

Adrian Percy, head of research and development at Bayer CropScience, delivers the keynote speech  at the 2017 Ag Innovation Showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

As European regulators investigate the potential $66 billion Bayer-Monsanto merger, Bayer's CropScience division is preparing to address challenges in crop technology, especially those tied to Monsanto's products. 

At the annual Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Adrian Percy, Bayer CropScience's head of research and development, said a priority for the merged companies would be addressing a decline in pollinators and meeting the high demand for herbicides to combat resistant weeds.

A solar energy project on the roof of Nestle Purina's builidng in downtown St. Louis.
Microgrid Energy

The city of St. Louis could soon commit to an ambitious goal to depend on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power for its electricity by 2035. 

Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed introduced a resolution Friday that would completely transition the city away from using fossil fuels. The St. Louis region currently receives less than 5 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources.

Microgrid installed two solar arrays at Busch Stadium.
Microgrid Energy

Nearly 600,000 people in the Midwest are working in the clean energy sector and that number likely will continue to rise, according to advocates for the industry. 

The nonprofit groups Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs released a report Thursday that demonstrated a significant increase in the past year in the number of people who work in fields such as wind and solar power and energy auditing. Illinois led the region's clean energy sector growth by adding nearly 120,000 jobs, largely in the area of energy efficiency. Missouri showed growth in multiple areas, including renewable energy, which saw jobs grow by 14.5 percent in the last year.

The SuperTIGER detects cosmic rays, high-energy radiation that's produced from supernovas. Researchers at Washington University and NASA will launch the 6,000 pound device over Antarctica in November.
Bob Binns

In November, a team of scientists from Washington University and NASA will head to Antarctica to launch a device that will help them study space radiation. 

When massive stars die, they create explosions known as supernovas. Researchers theorize that the shocks from these events strip particles of their electrons and send them through space close to the speed of light. These high energy particles are called cosmic rays and studying them could help physicists understand the universe outside of our solar system.

A rendering of the St. Louis Ice Center at Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park.
St. Louis Economic Development Partnership

The National Park Service has ordered the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to stop construction work for a proposed ice recreation facility in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park. 

In a letter to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources last Friday, the federal agency expressed its concerns about the St. Louis Ice Center.

"We are concerned that the Ice Center would act as a stand-alone attraction and would not encourage further outdoor recreation at the rest of the site," wrote Carol Edmondson, an outdoor recreation planner at the National Park Service.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency upgrade Jefferson County's air quality status, now that levels of sulfur dioxide have dropped below the federal limit. 

In 2013, the EPA designated Jefferson County as "nonattainment," or not meeting the federal standard for sulfur dioxide, a gas that produces toxic odors and causes respiratory problems. A monitor near the Doe Run lead smelter in Herculaneum detected sulfur dioxide levels above 200 parts per billion, said Kyra Moore, director of the state's air quality control program. After the smelter closed in 2013, levels have dropped well below the 75 parts per billion limit. 

This treehopper in a greenhouse at Saint Louis University would not normally have a purple horn or "pronotum." It was painted that color for identification purposes.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers are studying countless plants and animals to understand how climate change could threaten populations. At Saint Louis University, scientists want to know if changes in temperature could affect the mating songs of insects.  

Biologists at SLU have received $480,000 from the National Science Foundation to study how temperature affects treehopper mating songs, which could provide clues as to how climate change could affect insect survival. The loss of insect species could adversely affect agriculture and many ecosystems that depend on them.

Joyetta White looks up at the partial eclipse with classmates at Long International Middle School in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

People gathered at schools, a rural airport and downtown St. Louis on Monday seeking a good view of the total eclipse. The celestial event reached totality (when the moon completely covered the sun) at about 1:15 p.m. St. Louis time, darkening the skies except for what looked like a very bright headlight overhead.

Saint Louis University Robert Pasken and his graduate student Melissa Mainhart perform a test run of a weather balloon that they plan to launch during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Historically, total solar eclipses have been used to make important scientific discoveries. One in 1919 validated Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Another in 1868 led to the discovery of helium, the second most common element on the planet.

A total solar eclipse in 2006.
Franz Kerschbaum

Like any other day, the sun will rise on Monday. But close to noon in Missouri, the moon will start to cover the sun.

“You’re going to start to see little bits of the sun start to disappear, like someone slowly taking little bites out of a cookie,” said Anna Green, planetarium manager at the Saint Louis Science Center.

The sky will start to go dark quickly, like someone dimming the lights in a room. The air will also become colder, said Angela Speck, astrophysicist at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Charvonne Long, 26, has spent many weekends in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, St. Louis County's oldest park. She's opposed to the St. Louis Ice Center Project, which she thinks would disrupt the natural beauty of the area.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

More than 70 St. Louis area residents and environmentalists gathered in front of the St. Louis County Administrative Building on Tuesday to protest a proposal to build a 250,000-square-foot ice recreation complex in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park. 

Holding signs that included pictures of local birds pasted on paper plates, local residents said they are concerned that the St. Louis Ice Center project could dramatically alter the appearance of the park. Environmentalists also fear that the facility of three indoor rinks and one outdoor rink could increase flooding. The site is on a floodplain that has experienced a couple of major floods in the last two years.

A Washington University researcher holds a piece of paper coated with tiny gold particles that can be used to test blood for Zika virus.
Provided | Washington University School of Medicine

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis are developing a test for the Zika virus that produces results quickly and don't require refrigeration. 

To test for the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitos and is linked to birth defects, blood samples have to be sent to a laboratory, where a positive or negative result is generated in a couple days. The blood and the chemicals used in the test have to be refrigerated. Researchers at Wash U's medical and engineering schools created a test for the virus using nanotechnology, or particles smaller than 100 nanometers. It shows results in a matter of minutes.

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