Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Eli Chen

Science Reporter

Ways to Connect

Arianna Soldati,  a postdoctoral candidate in volcanology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, presents a basaltic rock, which she collected from a volcano for her research.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

One night at an airport in Syracuse, New York, Arianna Soldati, a postdoctoral candidate in volcanology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, found herself waiting on a continually delayed flight. To pass the time, she opened her suitcase and fished out a bag of volcanic rocks she had collected on a recent trip. Then, she started showing them to people at her gate. 

"Everyone was really excited. Most people have never seen lava before and they had a ton of questions and the delay went by faster than usual," Soldati said. 

Soldati has always found joy in sharing her research with the public, which is why she created a science outreach program this fall to bring science presentations to rural towns in Missouri.

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas in Moreland Township, Pa.
Ruhrfisch | Wikimedia Commons

Natural gas company Spire could soon win federal approval to build a 65-mile pipeline that ferries natural gas from eastern U.S. shale formations to the St. Louis region. However, some residents and environmental lawyers want to put a halt to the project, saying there are too many environmental risks involved with building the pipeline. 

The Spire STL Pipeline would run through Scott, Greene and Jersey counties in Illinois and St. Charles and St. Louis counties in Missouri. Because it crosses state lines, it requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which released an environmental assessment of the project at the end of September.

Area residents and environmentalists complain that the project would only encourage more hydraulic fracturing, an activity that emits methane, one of several greenhouse gases that causes climate change.

A drone flies near a bridge
Sodapix | Thinkstock

Missouri could soon send flying drones to the state's bridges, using them to doing difficult and dangerous work long done by workers.

About 56,000 bridges in the United States require major repairs, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Missouri ranks No. 4 in the country for its number of structurally deficient bridges. 

Washington University's Siteman Cancer Center offers patients with certain blood cancers a new gene-altering therapy that uses the immune system to attack cancer cells.
Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week approved a drug that genetically modifies a patient's immune cells to attack cancer cells. Washington University's Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital is among the first medical centers to offer the treatment, which is aimed at helping those with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and some types of blood cancers. 

Yescarta, manufactured by California-based Kite Pharmaceuticals, is part of a new wave of drugs that use the immune system to fight cancer, also known as immunotherapy.

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

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to conduct further testing for radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in Bridgeton. 

Albert Kelly, senior adviser to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and the head of the agency's Superfund Task Force, made the announcement at a forum late Thursday, where members of the community voiced concerns about the landfill. Kelly said he expects the sampling to occur within the next 90 days in the western part of the site, a portion that agency officials often refer to as "Operating Unit 2."

The announcement came as good news to area residents, who have long worried that that contamination has damaged their health.

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.
File photo | 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.

Pages