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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Water Pollution - Mississippi River Flooding
2:50 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

EPA looks for water contamination near Birds Point levee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breached the levee at Birds Point as part of the activation of the floodway on the night of May 2, 2011.
(via Birds Point New Madrid Floodway Joint Information Center facebook page/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The Environmental Protection Agency is looking for possible water contamination in Southeastern Missouri, in the area affected by the Birds Point levee breach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up a Mississippi River levee at Birds Point on May 2 to protect upstream communities like Cairo, Ill.

The levee breach flooded 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland, including a confined animal feeding operation.

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Agriculture
4:05 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

International ag conference showcases emerging companies to potential investors

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is hosting the Ag Innovation Showcase.
(Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

An event starting Monday at the Danforth Plant Science Center is looking to match up investors with emerging agricultural technology companies from across the globe.

The third annual Ag Innovation Showcase will draw international venture capitalists and corporate agricultural investors like Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont.

Showcase organizer Mark Gorski says sixteen agricultural start-ups from the Netherlands, India, and a number of other countries will be vying for their attention.

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Emergency Preparedness - Earthquakes
5:28 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Missouri participates in national earthquake drill

USGS 2008 earthquake hazard map showing a high risk zone along the new Madrid fault (PGA, 2% in 50 years).
(U.S. Geological Survey)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is holding drills across six states this week to see how prepared they are for a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault.

FEMA is teaming up with the military, as well as local hospitals, shelters and morgues for the simulation.

Beth Freeman is the FEMA regional administrator for Missouri and several neighboring states.

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Health
4:30 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

New drug to treat hepatitis C approved by FDA

High magnification micrograph of a liver with cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a condition caused by hepatitis C.
(via Wikimedia commons)

The FDA has approved a new drug for the treatment of hepatitis C, a viral disease that attacks the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

In the U.S., existing medications cure only about 50 percent of patients.

Dr. Bruce Bacon of Saint Louis University led a clinical trial for the new drug, boceprevir.

Bacon says adding boceprevir to the standard two-drug treatment significantly improved cure rates, especially for patients who have been treated before and failed to recover.

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Breast Cancer Study
5:27 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Wash U. study: estrogen-reducing drugs may reduce need for mastectomy in breast cancer patients

Mammograms of estrogen-receptor positive breast tumors before and after 16 weeks of aromatase inhibitor therapy. The top images: a tumor that responded to the treatment and regressed. The lower images: a resistant tumor that stayed about the same size.
(Washington University School of Medicine/ Matthew J. Ellis)

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have shown that estrogen-lowering drugs can help reduce the need for mastectomy in some breast cancer patients.

Estrogen is known to increase tumor growth in the majority of breast cancer patients.

In a new study, post-menopausal women with large breast cancer tumors were given one of three estrogen-lowering drugs before surgery.

Study lead Dr. Matthew Ellis says all three drugs were equally effective in shrinking tumors and reducing the need for complete breast removal.

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Energy
6:27 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Biomass energy conference in St. Louis this week

A biomass gasifier in Sri Lanka. Gasifiers are used to convert biomass into usable energy.
(via Flickr/shehal)

Representatives of the biomass energy industry have gathered in St. Louis this week.

They're here to discuss technologies for turning everything from crop residues to municipal trash into liquid fuels, heat, and electricity.

Tim Portz is the program director for BBI international, the company organizing the International Biomass Conference & Expo.

He says it's not going to be easy for the biomass industry to gain a foothold in the marketplace of already established U.S. energy producers.

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Elk Reintroduction
2:48 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

Elk reintroduction: a different kind of Missouri comeback

You can also see photos of the elk and find out more about the reintroduction above. And, for more information about  the elk restoration efforts prior to their arrival in Missouri, see the video below the story text.

Starting tomorrow*, elk will be back in Missouri. They haven’t been here since the mid-1800s, when hunting and habitat loss drove eastern elk to extinction.

States from Arkansas to Pennsylvania have since reestablished their elk populations. And now Missouri is trying to do the same.

But not everyone is happy about the state’s elk reintroduction plans.

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Robotics
6:35 am
Tue April 26, 2011

Student-made robots take over Chaifetz Arena. Next stop? The Edward Jones Dome!

Peter Prombo Cates (left) and Chirag Doshi, students at Gateway Institute of Technology in St. Louis, carry their team’s robot off the playing field.
(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

This week in St. Louis, close to 9,000 high school students from five countries will compete in the FIRST Robotics Championship.

Teams of student-built, remote-control robots will take to the field at the Edward Jones Dome. Organizers hope the competition will draw more than 20,000 spectators and generate at least $18 million in local spending.

Véronique LaCapra was at the St. Louis Regional event in March and has this inside look at the competition.

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Brain Health
3:00 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Exposure to welding fumes may lead to impaired brain function

Brain scans from a control subject (left), a welder (center), and a subject with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (right), in a study by researchers at Washington University comparing brains of apparently healthy welders to those of Parkinson's patients.
(via Neurology ®)

Workers exposed to the metal manganese in welding fumes may be at increased risk of developing Parkinson’s-like symptoms, including loss of motor control and tremors.

That’s the finding of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, who compared brain scans of apparently healthy welders to those of Parkinson’s patients.

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Missouri Municipal Elections
8:30 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Mo. voters head to the polls in tomorrow's municipal elections

A touch-screen voting machine. Most voters in St. Louis County are expected to use the touch-screen machines in tomorrow's municipal elections.
(via Flickr/lowjumpingfrog)

St. Louis-area election officials are expecting a relatively low turnout, typical of municipal elections.

The Democratic director of the St. Louis City Board of Elections, Mary Wheeler-Jones, says the City is preparing for 25 to 30 percent of registered voters to show up at the polls.

Wheeler-Jones says that range is probably an overestimate, but she does expect a higher turnout this time than in March’s municipal elections.

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