Véronique LaCapra

Science Reporter

Science reporter Véronique LaCapra first caught the radio bug writing commentaries for NPR affiliate WAMU in Washington, D.C. After producing her first audio documentaries at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies in N.C., she was hooked! She has done ecological research in the Brazilian Pantanal; regulated pesticides for the Environmental Protection Agency in Arlington, Va.; been a freelance writer and volunteer in South Africa; and contributed radio features to the Voice of America in Washington, D.C. She earned a Ph.D. in ecosystem ecology from the University of California in Santa Barbara, and a B.A. in environmental policy and biology from Cornell. LaCapra grew up in Cambridge, Mass., and in her mother’s home town of Auxerre, France.

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Kimon Chapman conducts an experiment in a chemistry class at Harris-Stowe's Academy for Science & Mathematics this summer.
Bob Morrison | Harris-Stowe State University

Some incoming freshmen at Harris-Stowe State University are getting their first taste of college life — and a crash course in math and science.

Every summer, the Academy for Science & Mathematics provides up to 25 students with free room and board and a $1000 stipend.

Since this map was created by the EPA, new areas of radioactive waste have been found in the north quarry.
Debbie Kring | U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Missouri's congressional delegation has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy asking the DOE to transfer responsibility for the cleanup at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It is unclear whether the DOE has the authority to order such a transfer, or whether doing so would require Congressional approval.

According to the new study, a woman's weight before her first pregnancy may have long-term effects.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | National Institutes of Health

Women who are an unhealthy weight during their first pregnancy might have a false sense of security if their babies are born with no complications. But a new study out of Saint Louis University suggests complications can still arise when the women get pregnant for a second time — even if, by then, they have reached a healthy weight.

This diagram describes how the new wireless device functions. Source: Jeong JW, McCall JG, et al. Wireless optofluidic systems for programmable in vivo pharmacology and optogenetics. Cell, published online July 16, 2015.
Washington University | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Cell Press

Scientists at Washington University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new tool to study how specific brain cells affect behavior.

The miniature, wireless device can inject drugs into the brains of live mice.

This medical illustration shows a computer-generated image of a group of multidrug resistant Acinetobacter bacteria. The artistic recreation was modeled after images taken using an electron microscope.
Medical illustrator James Archer | U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Researchers at Washington University have found that some multidrug resistant bacteria intentionally get rid of the genes that protect them from antibiotics. That discovery could eventually provide a new way to treat deadly infections.

Ameren's power plant in Labadie is the largest in the state.
Art Chimes

Opponents of Ameren’s plans to build a coal ash landfill in Labadie have reached an agreement with the company, ending years of contentious debate.

The settlement eliminates all pending lawsuits and clears the way for Ameren to start construction.

But it also ensures that the landfill will be built at least five feet above groundwater, and that no coal ash can be brought in from any other power plant — two protections that some Franklin County residents had fought for.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants, industrial activities, and cars contributes to asthma and other health problems in the St. Louis area.
Syracuse University News Services

Updated 10 a.m. Tuesday with cost information from Ameren.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the Obama administration, saying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should have considered costs to industry when it set limits on mercury and other emissions from power plants.

The court's 5-to-4 decision was a victory for industry groups and more than 20 states — including Missouri — that had sued the EPA over its 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Michelle Seeger questions Army Corps health physicist Jonathan Rankins while her sister Julie Pinkston looks on. Seeger grew up near Coldwater Creek and has Stage IV cancer.
Credit Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 6/24/15 after the Corps open house - Area residents packed into a room at the Hazelwood Civic Center last night to find out the bad news about radioactive contamination in North St. Louis County.

At the open house, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed it has found radioactive contamination at three new sites along Coldwater Creek.

They are in St. Cin Park in Hazelwood, Duchesne Park in Florissant, and a property of the St. Louis Archdiocese behind St. Ferdinand cemetery, also in Hazelwood. All the contaminated areas are subject to flooding from the creek.

Danforth Center postdoc and plant biologist Malia Gehan shows some Girl Scouts how plants absorb water.
Blaise Hart-Schmidt | Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri

More than 60 Girl Scouts have taken over the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center this week for an all-girls science camp.

This is the first year that the Danforth Center has hosted the program, which is designed to get girls from across eastern Missouri jazzed up about science.

Adult Ozark hellbenders can reach up to two feet in length, making them one of the largest salamanders in the world.
Ray Meibaum | Saint Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo is sharing its expertise in matchmaking ... for salamanders.

It's part of the 7th Hellbender Symposium, which has drawn more than 100 participants from the Midwest, the Eastern U.S., Japan and China.

The coal ash landfill hearing got underway at 9 a.m. and lasted into the evening. Ameren employees wearing bright yellow vests attended the hearing in shifts throughout the day.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The chambers of the Franklin County Commission were filled to near capacity for much of the day on Thursday for a public hearing about proposed changes to the county’s coal ash landfill regulations.

The regulations will affect a coal ash landfill that Ameren wants to build next to its power plant in Labadie.

Franklin County residents show their opposition to Ameren's coal ash landfill at a county commission meeting in late 2011.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

In April, Franklin County considered a proposal to ease its restrictions on coal ash landfills. Even though that meeting was open to the public, county residents were not allowed to speak. This Thursday they’ll get their chance.

The all-day hearing with county’s board of commissioners is the latest installment in a six-year battle over Ameren’s plans to build a coal ash landfill next to its power plant in Labadie.

Chiggers are the larval stage of some mites and have only six legs, like this preserved specimen on a laboratory slide. But they're not insects — the hairy, reddish adult mites have eight legs like their relatives the spiders and scorpions.
Ashley Dowling | University of Arkansas

Warm weather means the return of mosquitoes, ticks ... and tiny biting mites known as chiggers. They're nearly invisible. But if they bite you, you'll know it.

Kali takes a swim at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

This Saturday, St. Louisans will get their first chance to see the new polar bear at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The 2 1/2 year-old, 850-pound Kali arrived at the zoo in early May, but he has been kept out of sight since then for a health quarantine and to give him time to get used to his new surroundings.

Members of the media got an early look at Kali and the zoo's new polar bear exhibit space on Thursday. Here's St. Louis Public Radio's sneak preview!

May 2015 graduates. Front row from left to right: Sean Marks, Cory Chandler, Prince Farris-Settles, Alvin Love, Michael Harris (red shirt). Back row from left to right: Matt Hermeyer (white shirt), Paul Oryem, Sean Kempf, Joel Smith, Stacey Robinson.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding St. Louis Community College just over $190 thousand to continue its environmental job training program.

This is the fifth time that the college has received an EPA grant since 2000.

The Environmental Remediation Job Training program is a collaboration between St. Louis Community College and Saint Louis University. The community college recruits and selects the participants and helps connect graduates with potential employers; SLU provides the classroom facilities and conducts the training.

Microbiologist Mary-Dell Chilton works in her lab at Syngenta.
Syngenta

Mary-Dell Chilton pioneered the field of genetic engineering in agriculture.

She has spent most of her decades-long career working for Syngenta, where she founded the agribusiness company's research on genetically modified seeds.

But Chilton started out in academia. And it was here in St. Louis, at Washington University, that she led the team that created the first genetically-modified plants in the early 1980s.

Originally the Independent Brewing Company, this building was built in 1910. It falls within the planned stadium development, as do what may remain underground of the real St. Louis mounds and the Native American community that built them.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Plans for a new St. Louis football stadium seem to be moving ahead. Just last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the stretch of riverfront near the Edward Jones Dome a “perfect” location for the new sports venue.

But it is also the site of an ancient Native American city — and that is raising concerns.

An MSD crew works on a sanitation line in Webster Woods earlier this month.
Metropolitan St. Lewis Sewer District

Updated 3/19/15 to correct the bond amount being requested and add a link to the full rate change proposal.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District has proposed two major changes to the rates consumers pay for services and is holding a series of community meetings to explain them.

But even without the new proposals, everyone can expect to see their residential sewer rates continue to rise.

This photo of the former Carter Carburetor plant was taken in Aug. 2011, prior to the start of the cleanup.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3/13/15 after the meeting:

Demolition of the old Carter Carburetor plant on North Grand Avenue is expected to begin this summer.

That's according to HRP Associates, the main contractor for ACF Industries, the company responsible for much of the cleanup.

HRP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency described the projected remediation schedule at a public meeting Thursday night at the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club.

Ameren's Callaway reactor is the only commercial nuclear power plant in Missouri.
Missouri Coalition for the Environment

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating license for Ameren's Callaway nuclear power plant through 2044.

But ongoing litigation could quash that renewal.

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