Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Beth Maynor Finch

Edward O. Wilson’s long career has been marked by enormous contributions to the field of biology, with an impact on global conservation efforts that is difficult to overstate. All of it grew out of his close attention years ago to something relatively small: the behavior of ants.

Wilson recalled one of his earliest interactions with the insects, a memory from his boyhood in northern Alabama, on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air in conversation with host Don Marsh.

Theresia Metz will replace interim administrator Stan Smith. Smith was appointed in December by the Missouri Veterans Commission.
Missouri Veterans Commission

The St. Louis Veterans Home has a new administrator.

Theresia Metz will replace Stan Smith, who became interim director in January.

The Missouri Veterans Commission announced Metz’s appointment today, months after residents and their family members accused veterans home officials and staff of mismanagement and neglect. An independent investigation called by Gov. Eric Greitens confirmed those complaints.  

Dr. John Constantino (left) and Steve Houston (right) talked about understanding autism and the latest research in the diagnosis and treatment of it.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

April is National Autism Awareness Month. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about the prevalence of autism and discussed the latest research in the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

Allan Doctor, professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, is part of a research team working to develop an artificial blood substitute.
E. Holland Durando | Washington University

Thousands of people in the United States die each year due to severe blood loss, often before they reach an emergency room.

To help reduce the number of trauma deaths, a Washington University research team is working to develop an artificial blood substitute. The freeze-dried red powder, which can be reconstituted with sterile water, is intended to keep patients alive until they’re able to reach a hospital.

Saint Louis University faculty member Cara Wallace offered ideas for why – and how – people can broach important topics related to end-of-life care.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air included the sort of conversation that often doesn’t happen as often or as early as it should among loved ones – the kind about planning for the end of life.

Joining host Don Marsh for the discussion was Cara Wallace, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Saint Louis University.

Her research focuses on overcoming barriers to end-of-life care as well as improving quality of life, and she also educates health-care students, professionals and the general public about facing issues surrounding death, illness, loss and grief.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Saint Louis University researchers are one step closer to understanding how to prevent the chronic pain associated with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy patients often experience burning and tingling in the hands and feet, known as “chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain.” The condition has no known treatment, but new research offers a reason to hope. In a recent study, a team of SLU researchers successfully “turned off” the pain associated with a common chemotherapy drug.

 

The Apollo 11 command module Columbia will be on display at the St. Louis Science Center.
Eric Long | National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

A treasure trove of invaluable artifacts from the space race will be on display at the St. Louis Science Center.

“Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission,” a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, opens Saturday in St. Louis.

Geneticist and lead Cancer Genome Atlas scientist Li Ding
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis reached a new milestone in cancer research this month with the completion of a comprehensive analysis of the molecular underpinnings of the causes of the disease.

The National Institutes of Health funded the PanCancer Atlas project, more than a decade in the making. Biologists from more than two dozen institutions analyzed DNA from 11,000 cancer patients with 33 major types of the disease, including breast and pancreatic cancer.

The analysis is part of a larger NIH initiative called the Cancer Genome Atlas.

Writer Michaella Thornton telling a story at The Ready Room in St. Louis for The Story Collider's live taping in March 2018.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s a fact that as humans, we have to deal with the curveballs life throws at us. For example, Emma Young, a Ph.D biology student at University of Missouri-St. Louis, had imagined a career full of adventures in remote places of the world. But she discovered along the way that fieldwork is lonely, frustrating and sometimes prone to moments of panic involving unknown species of spiders.

As for Michaella Thornton, a writer and English instructor at St. Louis Community College, all she wanted was a child with her husband. But it took longer than she imagined to get pregnant, which led to deep feelings of shame and discouragement from her father as she considered in vitro fertilization. 

Merav Gleit, Monsanto's bee health platform lead, with the company's backyard bee hives in summer 2016.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto and St. Louis-based biotech company RNAgri are collaborating to develop a technology that will help farmers and beekeepers ward off pests. 

The technology uses a naturally occurring process called RNA interference. DNA contains genetic information that RNA transports throughout a cell to allow the cell to produce proteins. The honeybee, for example, produces some types of proteins that attract varroa mites, a parasite that scientists believe to be a cause of colony collapse disorder. RNA interference could stop those proteins from being produced and prevent varroa mites from harming bees. 

A school bus.
Vipal | Flickr

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources proposes spending the $41 million it received from the Volkswagen settlement last year on replacing school buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. 

The German automaker agreed to spend billions of dollars to settle allegations of cheating emissions standards. Missouri is among the states that received some of those funds to address nitrogen dioxide emissions. Nitrogen dioxide is a component of ozone pollution, which can cause respiratory health issues, such as asthma. 

Heavy-duty vehicles are a major contributor to nitrogen dioxide emissions.

A Triceratops skull at the Saint Louis Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

On a late morning at the St. Louis Science Center, ecology educator Brian Thomas showed two elementary school students a fossil that looked like a very old, mangled piece of rock. It was a partial skull of a young Triceratops. 

"Inside here is where the brain would sit," Thomas told the boys. "And it's not a very big brain." 

The science center has two juvenile Triceratops skulls, dug up from northeast Montana, that a researcher at Washington University School of Medicine is studying to understand how the species developed in its lifetime.

Black River near Annapolis, Mo.
National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment has accused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of withholding information on mining and other development projects that could damage wetlands. 

The environmental group filed suit against the Corps of Engineers in late March, alleging that the agency denied it access to permits and documents that relate to mining and other types of projects. The suit claims that the Corps of Engineers' St. Louis and Little Rock districts have repeatedly refused to release documents, such as permit applications, using an exemption of the Freedom of Information Act.

Catherine Werner is the director of sustainability in the mayor’s office.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Within a global context of climate change, individual attention to butterfly gardens, light bulbs, recycling and other efforts can sometimes seem rather futile. Catherine Werner is familiar with that notion – and with persuading people that such relatively small things do in fact matter.

“You think, ‘Oh, well, what can I do, and what’s one little light bulb going to do to make a difference?’” Werner said during Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “But if you do your whole apartment or your whole home, and then you tell it to your neighbor and they do it next door, it really does add up and can make quite a difference.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation says honeysuckle can affect lake and stream banks, marsh, fens, sedge meadow, wet and dry prairies, savannas, floodplain and upland forests and woodlands.
Missouri Department of Conservation

This week, in the hallowed halls of the historic Old Courthouse in St. Louis, a local woodworker sued a shrub.

In an educational mock trial held Wednesday, a jury heard the case against invasive bush honeysuckle. The plant was first introduced to the U.S. from eastern Asia in the 1700s and has since spread to at least 31 states, including Missouri.

Lead blocks produced by the Doe Run Company.
The Doe Run Company

In a settlement announced Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Missouri ordered metal and mining company Doe Run Resources Corporation to clean up lead contamination in more than 4,000 residential properties in St. Francois County.

The work is estimated to cost a total of $111 million. Of that, the Environmental Protection Agency will contribute about $31 million. The company will remove lead contamination in the Big River Mine Tailings Superfund Site, an area added to the EPA's National Priorities List in 1992. It's part of Missouri's "Old Lead Belt," one of the largest lead mining districts in the world.

The Sny Island Levee System in Illinois is one of 10 levee systems that have exceeded their authorized heights, according to a survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island District this year.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are supporting northeast Missouri residents' suspicions that overbuilt levees along the Upper Mississippi River have led to increased flooding for vulnerable communities. 

The Corps of Engineers last spring surveyed levee heights in the Rock Island District, which runs from Keokuk, Iowa, to Thebes, Illinois, and discovered that 40 percent of the levees exceeded regulation. The federal agency released a model at the end of January that measured the impact the overbuilt levees have on river flooding. The model, however, requires an experienced engineer to operate, so environmental advocacy group American Rivers hired a consultant to do so this month.

An aerial shot of wildlife officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation removing Asian carp from Creve Coeur Lake in winter 2018.
Missouri Department of Conservation

Federal and Missouri state wildlife officials have successfully used a new technique to remove the majority of Asian carp from Creve Coeur Lake in St. Louis County. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conservation and St. Louis County Parks and Recreation deployed a method to extract the invasive species from the lake.

Asian carp has invaded many Midwestern lakes and rivers, outcompeting native fish populations and tainting water quality. Traditional netting methods have not been effective, since the fish jump over the nets. Under the "unified method" developed in China, nets and electric barriers create a grid-like system where fish are herded and then removed.

Waters continue to rise around I-55 near Butler Hill on Wednesday morning. May 2017
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Due to heavy rain in the St. Louis region, multiple streams throughout eastern and central Missouri are being monitored by the National Weather Service. The agency has issued several flood warnings for this evening. 

Flood warnings are indicative of when rivers are expected to exceed the flood stage, where human impact begins.

For Staying Power, CSAs Could Use A Niche Product

Mar 26, 2018

U.S. consumers’ hunger for fresh, local and organic foods has fed a marketplace that’s so big, little guys are — once again — having to evolve and specialize.

It’s especially true with community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), which had been growing for years, but are starting to wane in the face of the rise of meal-kit companies and an oversaturated market.

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