Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Eli Chen

Science Reporter
Missouri Department of Conservation's wildlife biologist Shelly Colatskie conducting a survey at a gray bat cave on Norman's property.
Provided by Nick Norman

A group of residents in Franklin County want to sue state and local officials for authorizing a gravel mining project that could threaten the gray bat, an endangered species. 

The Citizens for Preservation of the Meramec River on Aug 3., filed a notice to sue the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission and Meramec Aggregates, Inc.  The Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is representing the 25-member group.

Eli Chen

Inside a huge warehouse at Boeing’s headquarters in St. Charles, a table-shaped drone rose from the middle of the floor.

As intern Edwin Mercado-Colon sat at a computer typing commands, the drone began to move around the room and an unmanned vehicle automatically followed.  But Mercado-Colon wasn’t using a controller to direct the drone. Instead, he picked a destination for the drone without telling it how to get there.

“He’s picking a spot in the lab to fly to,” said Mike Abraham, manager of Boeing’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory. “That command goes to the vehicle. The vehicle knows where it is because of the motion capture system. It’s determining how to get to the next point, on its own.”

Developing unmanned vehicles that can work together on their own represents the latest in drone technology, a global industry that analysts predict could be worth $127 billion by 2020.

EPA environmental protection agency logo
Wikimedia Commons

As many as 25 homes in Washington, Missouri, about 50 miles from St. Louis, could be affected by groundwater contamination from a Superfund site. 

The site once housed a refrigerator manufacturing plant run by the Sporlan Valve Co., the largest employer in Washington. The facility was demolished in 2011.

Provided by the Sierra Club

A St. Louis pastor heads to Chicago on this week to tell Environmental Protection Agency policymakers that a program under the Obama administration's clean energy plan should consider the needs of low-income communities. 

At the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in north St. Louis, many people in the congregation struggle to pay their utility bills, the Rev. Rodrick Burton said. Most live in the 27th Ward, which Burton described as an economically depressed area where many folks are on fixed incomes. 

ozone air pollution St. Louis
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

The St. Louis metro area has one of the worst smog levels in the country. In recent years, ozone levels have declined, but the region must  comply with stronger federal air quality standards set last year. 

Under the 2008 standard, St. Charles, St. Louis, Franklin and Jefferson counties had exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's ozone limit at 75 parts per billion. After 2013, ozone levels in the area dropped and state officials say the counties comply with the 2008 standard. However, a new EPA rule last year lowered the standard to 70 parts per billion. State officials are now asking the EPA to indicate that the region meets the old ozone regulations, but not the new. 

Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

The future of clean water may depend on developing technologies that aim to clean dirty water. With that in mind, engineers at Washington University are using nanotechnology, the manipulation of materials on a molecular level, to develop a foam that can remove salt and contaminants from water.

Provided by Bi-State Development Agency

Updated Friday, July 22 at 5:07p.m. with statement from Ameren Missouri — Ameren Missouri and the Sierra Club reached a $2 million settlement Thursday in U.S. District Court over the utility company's alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

Provided by University of Missouri-Columbia/Julianna Jenkins

According to surveys by scientists and avid bird-watchers, many songbird species are declining in the U.S. Losing the birds that provide a natural soundtrack in our backyards is a critical environmental issue, since they also serve to control insect populations and as pollinators.

Flickr | Paul Downey

The “heat dome” has arrived in Missouri, in which high temperatures and high humidity have teamed up to unleash incredibly uncomfortable hot weather. According to the National Weather Service, the daytime heat index is expected to exceed 105 this week in the St. Louis area. City officials have warned the public how dangerous the heat can be, especially for children, the elderly and those without air conditioning.

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Samples of radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill Bridgeton placed in contact with high heat did not increase production of a radioactive gas, according to a new study released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner and Lacy Clay on Wednesday continued to press for the Environmental Protection Agency to transfer jurisdiction of the West Lake Superfund site in Bridgeton to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Residents and area activists, dissatisfied with the Environmental Protection Agency's handling of the site, have been waiting for Congress to pass a bill to put the nuclear waste in more capable hands. Despite how easily the bill passed the U.S. Senate, it is at a standstill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wagner, R-Ballwin, and Clay, D-University City, sponsored the proposed legislation that would put responsibility for removing the World War II-era waste under the Corps' cleanup program, known as FUSRAP.

Provided by Missouri Department of Conservation

For five years, state officials and researchers have been trying to bring back an endangered beetle species that disappeared in Missouri more than 40 years ago. Now, they're counting the bugs to see if there's enough of them for a sustained population. 

Provided by Baranidharan Raman/Washington University in St. Louis

Imagine a day when law enforcement could rely on a tiny tool to scope out bombs hidden underground in potentially dangerous places.

That day could come soon, if scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have success with tapping the potential of locusts. Relying on locusts' keen sense of smell, researchers are building devices that use the insects' olfactory system to improve homeland security.

Eli Chen

The Environmental Protection Agency has declared that there isn't enough information to determine if the air around Ameren Missouri's largest power plant is polluted. 

The federal agency had until July 2 to say whether an area around the power plant in Labadie, Mo., about 40 miles from St. Louis, exceeded federal safety limits for sulfur dioxide. The gas is a byproduct of coal production, which can cause respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, and exacerbate cardiovascular conditions at high levels.

Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

Updated Wednesday, June 29 with statement from Monsanto — Farmers throughout the European Union will continue to use Monsanto's weed killer Roundup, at least for a while.

The European Commission has decided to extend a license that allows glyphosate, a key ingredient in Roundup, to be sold in the European Union for 18 months.

Provided by Solar Roadways

Roads paved with solar panels may sound futuristic, but people soon will walk and maybe even drive on them in Missouri. 

The Missouri Department of Transportation recently announced plans to build a walkway with solar panels at the historic Route 66 welcome center in Conway, Mo., which is about 180 miles southwest of St. Louis. Electricity generated from the panels would power the welcome center.  The pilot project will examine how feasible it is to use the technology before the department considers putting it on more roads and sidewalks.

Provided by Missouri Department of Conservation

Centuries ago, European settlers brought hogs to North America. But little did they know that the wild descendants of those animals would become a major pest. Considered an invasive species, the feral hogs are known to ruin natural areas, spread diseases and cause enormous property damage for local farmers.

Forestry Commissioner Skip Kincaid points out the insecticide injections given to a tree in north St. Louis.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents of St. Louis may have come across an odd sight in their front yards this summer: workers drilling holes into trees and plugging up the holes with mysterious white tubes. 

The workers are urban foresters from the city of St. Louis' forestry division. While the activity might seem suspicious, they're trying to help ash trees that are vulnerable to the invasive emerald ash borer. 

A cautionary sign at a fence around the West Lake Landfill Superfund site, which contains World War II-era nuclear waste.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency misled the people who live near the West Lake Landfill by suppressing a key report that concluded the radioactive waste could be removed, residents alleged on Thursday. 

The nine-page document was finalized in 2013, but was just released on Wednesday afternoon. It contains recommendations from the EPA's National Remedy Review Board to address the waste at the Superfund site.

"It appears feasible to remove more highly contaminated material and significantly reduce long-term risk at the site," the report said.

Eli Chen

There's a tremendous distance between where food is grown and how it travels to the dinner plate, and people living in cities often only see where the journey ends: the grocery store.

GROW, a new exhibit opening Saturday at the Saint Louis Science Center, aims to connect people to where their food comes from through a series of hands-on activities and demonstrations. The indoor and outdoor spaces take up one acre, where the Exploradome used to be, making it the largest permanent exhibit the Science Center has built since its expansion in 1991.

 

Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

There's good ozone and there's bad ozone. The good kind sits up high up in the stratosphere, protecting us from the sun's ultraviolet rays. The bad kind is formed by burning fossil fuels and is found in the smog in Los Angeles and China. 

Bad ozone can cause health problems for children, for the elderly and people with lung diseases like asthma. It can also harm other living things, like plants. But like other greenhouse gases, it is invisible. So it's hard for scientists to show people the effects of bad ozone, which contributes to climate change, said Jack Fishman, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Saint Louis University. 

To get the message across, in recent years, Fishman and other researchers at SLU set up special gardens funded by NASA to demonstrate how ozone levels affect living organisms. Their work is expanding now that they've received a $91,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to exhibit such plants year-round in "ozone chambers."

The location of the Ellisville Superfund site. The Callahan Subsite is a section of the Ellisville site as a whole.
Screen capture | EPA.gov

The Environmental Protection Agency has again attempted to assure the city of Wildwood that a former toxic dumping site is now safe. However, local officials are still not convinced. 

Robert Boston | Washington University School of Medicine

Dermatologist Brian Kim has seen many patients who can't seem to stop itching. Often, it's difficult to determine what's causes the irritation, which can make deciding a course of treatment challenging.

"Most of the drugs I use only work a small minority of the time, so we have to be patient," said Kim, co-director of Washington University's Center for the Study of Itch. "But as you can imagine, as a patient, when you fail with three different medications, it can be incredibly frustrating."

(Courtesy Ayers Saint Gross)

St. Louis has the highest concentration of plant scientists in the world. But the places where they conduct their experiments aren't necessarily the most inviting.

To attract more biotech industries and talent to the area, St. Louis County officials want to remake the areas where researchers work, especially in Creve Coeur, home to Monsanto and many promising startup companies.

That's the idea behind a proposed plant science innovation district that would connect the Danforth Science Center, BRDG Park, the Helix Center Biotech Incubator and Monsanto. The effort also aims to solidify St. Louis' reputation as a plant-science hub. But detailed plans for the area likely won't come until the end of the year.

A cautionary sign at a fence around the West Lake Landfill Superfund site, which contains World War II-era nuclear waste.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

 

Transferring authority for the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not speed up removal of radioactive waste from the site, a corps official told federal lawmakers recently.

Flickr | Cardinal Rehabber

Cardinals are known for their bright red plumage, a color that gives birds an advantage when attracting mates. But what gives them this attractive hue?

It’s all in the genes, say scientists at Washington University in St. Louis.

Ray Meibaum

Anyone who has watched a lot of Saturday morning television likely has seen Taz, the voracious Tasmanian devil of Looney Tunes fame, a loud and voracious presence.

While Taz thrives in the cartoon, in the wild the species isn’t doing so well. About 20 years ago, a mysterious illness caused its population to dive.

Conservationists are scrambling to save the animals and educate the public about them. As part of that effort, Yindi and Jannali, two female Tasmanian devils, recently arrived at the St. Louis Zoo, where researchers are studying how they adjust to life in captivity.

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
File photo | Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio

Radioactive material has been discovered in a drainage area located in the northwest portion of the West Lake Landfill.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency ordered landfill owner Republic Services and the Cotter Corporation to collect sediment samples in March in response to heavy rains that occurred in late December and early January.

An international panel of scientists reported this week that glyphosate, the main ingredient used in Monsanto's weed killer Roundup is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

Researchers have produced insulin-secreting cells from stem cells derived from the skin of patients with type 1 diabetes. The cells (blue), made from stem cells, can secrete insulin (green) in response to glucose.
Credit: Millman Laboratory

After a meal, your blood sugar tends to rise. When it does, there are cells in your pancreas called beta cells that react by releasing insulin, which controls blood sugar.

People who have Type 1 diabetes have damaged beta cells and can't produce insulin. To manage the disease, they either have to inject insulin or wear a pump all day.

But new stem cell research at Washington University could lead to a breakthrough that helps their bodies produce the insulin they need.

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