WBEZ | Science http://www.wbez.org/sections/science Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How America's most plentiful bird disappeared http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-americas-most-plentiful-bird-disappeared-110725 <p><p>It is hard to imagine what a big part of American life the passenger pigeon once was. By some estimates it made up 25 to 40 percent of all the birds on the continent. The Native American Seneca tribe viewed the bird as a gift from the gods because they were so abundant. There are 13 towns named after them in Illinois alone. When Charles Dickens traveled to the states, we fed him passenger pigeon.</p><p>But in just a few decades the bird vanished. On the 100th anniversary of its extinction, I wanted to understand how a bird could go from being the most plentiful bird in North America to non-existence. So I met naturalist Joel Greenberg at his house just outside Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pigeon_Joel%20Greenberg.JPG" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Author Joel Greenberg poses with his stuffed passenger pigeon, Heinrich. Greenberg is author of, “A Feathered River Across the Sky, The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.” (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /></div><p>Greenberg is perhaps this species&rsquo; biggest fan. A stuffed bird named Heinrich sits on Greenberg&rsquo;s kitchen table and a bumper sticker on his car says &ldquo;ask me about my passenger pigeon.&rdquo; He authored the book, <a href="http://passengerpigeon.org/newbook.html"><em>A Feathered River Across The Sky, The Passenger Pigeon&rsquo;s Flight to Extinction</em>. </a></p><p>Greenberg must encounter a lot of misunderstandings, because he wants to make it absolutely clear that Heinrich is not the same kind of pigeon you see flying around the city, nor is he a carrier pigeon. Instead Heinrich has a shimmery pink breast, and bluish back. He is a pretty bird.</p><p>But what made this species really special&mdash;the thing I find almost incomprehensible&mdash;is the huge numbers of them that flew together.</p><p>It must have been an incredible sight to see millions of birds fly across the sky together. The famous naturalist <a href="http://www.audubon.org/john-james-audubon">John James Audubon</a> observed a group so big, it eclipsed the sun for 14 hours. Another naturalist, <a href="http://www.wilsonsociety.org/society/awilsoninfo.html">Alexander Wilson</a>, was on a river trip. Greenberg says Wilson pulled ashore to buy milk from a farmer and &ldquo;suddenly there was this huge roar, and the sky turned dark. He was terrified. He thought a tornado was coming and he looked at the farmer and said what do we do? And the farmer said, &#39;just the pigeons&#39;.&rdquo;</p><p>The birds did not just travel over forests and fields. They also flew over big cities like Chicago, turning buildings white with their poop.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pigeon_hunting.png" style="float: right; height: 249px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p>Greenberg recounts a famous story from Columbus, Ohio in the 1850s.</p><p>&ldquo;People reported being cold by the downdraft of the beating of hundreds of millions of wings,&quot; he said. &quot;And people who had never seen it before dropped to their knees in prayer thinking the end time was near.&rdquo;</p><p>The bird sounds like a nuisance. And it was. But it was also a source of food. Early settlers credit it with sustaining them until crops came. Like buffalo, the passenger pigeon was a symbol of America&rsquo;s abundance, a resource so big, we thought it couldn&rsquo;t run out. &ldquo;Sometimes they were so abundant they were worth nothing,&rdquo; Greenberg said. &ldquo;They were fed to hogs. One eyewitness account says they were used to fill potholes in the road.&rdquo;</p><p>So how does a species go from an estimated billions to non-existence?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Killings</span></p><p>Humans hunted the passenger pigeon for many years and some of the methods were downright strange.</p><p>Greenberg says some people filled a clay pot with sulfur, set it on fire and placed it under nesting birds. The birds would topple out of the trees. Greenberg says one commenter observed this method was good for the ladies, because it didn&rsquo;t involve too much exertion or guns.</p><p>Some farmers in Ontario kept it more simple: when the birds flew over their fields, they just threw potatoes at them.</p><p>&ldquo;Now it&rsquo;s good to know they lost more potatoes than they got pigeons, but every so often a pigeon would fall and you&rsquo;d have most of a stew fall at your feet,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>The pigeons were also used in shooting tournaments. One trap, called a plunge shooter, would catapult live birds into the air. According to Greenberg, sometimes people blinded the pigeon, or ripped out feathers and put cayenne on their skin to make the bird fly in circles.</p><p>Chicago was a major center for shoots and Captain Bogardus, one of the most famous shooters, was from Illinois. He was said to have shot 500 birds in a single practice session, just to stay sharp.</p><p>But Greenberg says the real tipping point for the birds was the growth of two new technologies: the telegraph and the train.</p><p>The birds often nested in huge groups. The telegraph made it easy to spread word of the nesting locations and attracted big crowds of hunters&mdash;some working full time to track the bird. With the growth of railroads the meat could be shipped to city markets, where newly industrialized communities were hungry for cheap meat.</p><p>The birds flew so closely together that a single shot could kill multiple birds. But even more efficient were net traps. Hunters would attract birds using a live decoy&mdash;blinded and tied to a stool&mdash;hence the term stool pigeon.</p><p>&ldquo;With a single release of the net they could catch hundreds of birds, sometimes 1,200 or 1,300 at a time,&rdquo; Greenberg explained.</p><p>One newspaper from the time reported 7.2 million bird <span>carcasses</span> were shipped from a single nesting site, which gives you an idea of how plentiful they were. But Greenberg believes the bird usually laid only about one egg a year, and now those nestings were regularly disrupted. The massive killings caught up with them. People started to notice that it was harder to find the bird in the wild and eventually impossible.</p><p>&ldquo;People had so much trouble trying to wrap their minds around how it could disappear,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pigeon_Food.JPG" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="A passenger pigeon could hold half a cup of acorns in their two-inch head at one time. The pigeon stored the food in a special compartment for digestion at a later time. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /></div><p>They came up with all kinds of theories to explain why it wasn&rsquo;t human&rsquo;s fault, like that the birds moved to South America and changed their appearance.</p><p>Greenberg says he worries he&rsquo;s seeing a similar reaction now.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a common human reaction that when confronted with an inconvenient truth to deny it,&quot; he said. &quot;You can see it today [with] climate change. If I own coal mines and want to put carbon into the air... climate change, could be bad, what do I do? Let&rsquo;s say there is no such thing.&rdquo;</p><p>It feels insensitive to ask, but it&rsquo;s hard not to wonder why the death of a species&mdash;no matter how fascinating&mdash;should matter to the general population.</p><p>Greenberg says other species have a right to exist, and it&rsquo;s immoral to prioritize their worth on human&rsquo;s needs alone. But he also says there completely selfish reasons to preserve a species.</p><p>He points to an analogy from Paul and Anne Ehrlich&rsquo;s book, <em>Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;They give an analogy of an airplane and a rivet pops and the plane&rsquo;s fine,&quot; he said.&quot; But at some point enough rivets pop where the system starts to break down.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Beyond the Passenger Pigeon</span></p><p>The day after I meet Greenberg planes criss-cross Chicago for the Air and Water Show.</p><p>Like flocks of pigeons they fill the sky with a roar. You can even hear it inside the <a href="http://www.naturemuseum.org/">Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum</a> where I meet ecologist <a href="http://www.naturemuseum.org/about-us/senior-staff">Steve Sullivan. </a></p><p>&ldquo;This being the anniversary of the passenger pigeon we talk a lot about the pigeon,&quot; Sullivan said. &quot;But this story repeats itself again and again.&quot;</p><p>The museum has an exhibit called, &ldquo;Nature&#39;s Struggle: Survival and Extinction.&rdquo; The exhibit starts by showing what Illinois would have been like over a hundred years ago. Passenger pigeons fill the sky, but there are also more rattlesnakes, bears and beavers.</p><p>I ask Sullivan what animal is the passenger pigeon of today and he mentions monarch butterflies. Like the passenger pigeon, most of us think of it as common and plentiful. But because of a range of factors, including herbicides that kill their favorite food source of milkweed, the <a href="http://vertebrates.si.edu/birds/Martha/index.html">monarch&rsquo;s numbers are plummeting. </a></p><p>In the museum&rsquo;s butterfly conservation lab, Sullivan leaned over and pointed inside paper cups.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh look you can see a couple of caterpillars that are crawling up towards the top of their little enclosures,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>There are no monarchs today, instead they are raising silvery checkerspots. Eventually the museum will release these butterflies into the wild to help boost their population.</p><p>Sullivan says you can track conservation efforts like this one back to the passenger pigeon. Despite all the wild theories, many people ended up acknowledging that humans drove that extinction. It was a big moment in history, one of the first times the general public realized they could have a huge and permanent impact on nature. It launched a conservation movement and led to early environmental legislation.</p><p>That gives Sullivan hope. He says beavers, otters, and even white tailed deer were at one time extirpated (in other words, locally extinct). But once we realized the harm we could do, we used conservation efforts to bring such animals back.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pigeon_Martha.jpg" style="height: 528px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Martha, the last passenger pigeon. (Enno Meyer/Wikipedia Commons)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon</span></div><p>One of the reasons the passenger pigeon story was so motivating is because we actually knew about the very last bird.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s rare that we know with virtual certainty the hour and day that a species ceases to exist,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>That last bird&rsquo;s name was <a href="http://vertebrates.si.edu/birds/Martha/index.html">Martha. Unlike her ancestors, Martha didn&rsquo;t spend her days migrating across the country. The only time she ever flew was first class on a plane</a>.</p><p>She most likely came from a captive flock in Chicago&rsquo;s Hyde Park. It was the only group ever studied by scientists. If you&rsquo;ve seen a photo of a pigeon in captivity, it was probably one of them.</p><p>Martha was sent to the Cincinnati Zoo. As the species became more rare, huge prizes were offered to find the bird. But it was too late. Martha eventually became the last of her kind. As she grew older, she became slow and still. The zoo moved her perch lower, so she could reach it.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a story on weekends that big crowds would throw sand on her to get her to move,&rdquo; Greenberg said.</p><p>Martha died 100 years ago on September 1. The zoo froze her body in a 300-pound of block of ice and mailed her to the <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/martha-the-worlds-last-passenger-pigeon-67196038/?no-ist">Smithsonian. </a></p><p>Martha lived her last years alone. Pigeons were famous for traveling in gigantic groups, but John James Audubon remembers seeing one flying through the forest by itself. It moved quickly, darting through trees.</p><p>Audubon says it passed like a thought.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-americas-most-plentiful-bird-disappeared-110725 Where do Chicago's bats hang out? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BATS%20TOPPER%20FOR%20WEB5.jpg" title="" /></a></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/161019975&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578#bio">Rory Keane</a> was ambling around Chicago&rsquo;s downtown a few years back when he stumbled upon what looked like a piece of fried chicken glistening on the sidewalk. But it didn&rsquo;t take long for him to be disabused.</p><p>&ldquo;I saw it twitch real quick,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The next thing I knew, it grew wings and it was flying around my ankles and then right past my face.&rdquo;</p><p>It was a bat, in broad daylight, just doing its bat thing downtown. Soon after, Rory collected himself from fright and submitted these questions to Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How many bats are in Chicago&rsquo;s Loop? What are their favorite hangouts?</em></p><p>Spoiler alert: Our experts say we can&rsquo;t pinpoint exactly how many bats call the Loop home. Nor can we locate particular buildings the critters like, either. (Alas, someone else will have to explore whether the <a href="https://www.flickr.com/search/?l=commderiv&amp;q=wrigley%20building%20chicago" target="_blank">gothic tower atop the Wrigley Building </a>acts a bat-magnet). But experts<em> can </em>say which types of environments Chicago&rsquo;s bats like to hang out in and how popular those sites are.</p><p>The takeaway is that these furry fliers are likely closer than you think. And, beyond that: All this bat activity&rsquo;s a good sign, given that there&rsquo;s an ominous threat to their very existence.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Where local bats <em>aren&rsquo;t</em></span></p><p>In 2012 researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Urban Wildlife Institute embarked on a study to measure the Chicago-area bat population. They wanted to learn more about which bat species call Chicago home (or were at least recurring squatters), gauge their numbers and determine their favorite haunts, all with the hopes of keeping close tabs on bat species affected by the fatal spreading disease called &ldquo;<a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/" target="_blank">White Nose Syndrome</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>By 2013, the scientists had set up 18 bat detectors in various habitats around Cook and Kane counties: forest preserves, golf courses and at the Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Nature Boardwalk. As much as we hate to let Rory down, none of these detectors was in the Loop.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/eastern-pipistrelle-little-guy.png" style="float: right; height: 116px; width: 180px;" title="An eastern pipistrelle." /></a>That&rsquo;s for several reasons.</p><p>The first one: Bats probably aren&rsquo;t hanging out downtown. Liza Lehrer, a research coordinator at UWI, says bats might fly through the Loop looking for food, but likely wouldn&rsquo;t make a home in urban infrastructures like skyscrapers. But if we were to try to pinpoint a bat hangout in the Loop, Lehrer says, be on the lookout for older, cozier buildings with lots of nooks and crannies.</p><p>&ldquo;They like old churches, barns, things like that &mdash; areas with lots of older architecture with attics that are easy to get into through roofs,&rdquo; Lehrer says. &ldquo;Maybe the Bucktown, Wicker Park areas, but I&rsquo;m sure anywhere around the city where they can use those spaces they&rsquo;re probably using them.&rdquo;</p><p>Lehrer says it&rsquo;s hard to put a number to how many bats hang out in urban infrastructure. But she wouldn&rsquo;t be surprised if there were 1,000 or more bats living in older Chicago neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;Maternity colonies can have hundreds of individuals in one colony,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s very possible there are thousands in the Chicago area for sure.&rdquo;</p><p>The second reason why UWI didn&rsquo;t place bat detectors in the Loop has to do with sound.</p><p>Julia Kilgour, a former UWI bat researcher, says the sheer noisiness of the Loop makes it a bad environment to pick up bat calls, and it&rsquo;s even noisier for the bats themselves.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sonobat.jpg" title="A screenshot from Sonobat software that shows bat call frequency and species. Researchers can use this to determine how active certain sites are. (Photo courtesy UWI)" /></div><p>If you were sick the day they talked about <a href="http://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/bat2.htm" target="_blank">echolocation</a> in school, here&rsquo;s how bats navigate the world. Their eyesight isn&rsquo;t so hot, but their hearing is. Bats send out ultrasonic calls, which bounce off trees, buildings and prey. They listen to these echoes to locate who and what is around them.</p><p>Echolocation is not a problem in quiet, rural areas; but in dense, urban areas like the Loop, bats have a harder time pulling it off.</p><p>Rory himself was on to that explanation: &ldquo;I imagine if I&rsquo;m a chic urban bat and looking for a place to live, the Loop would be accommodating ... but it would be noisy.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size: 22px;">Where the bats </span><em style="font-size: 22px;">are</em></div><p>UWI researchers had plenty of other locations to gather data from; they&rsquo;ve analyzed thousands, if not millions, of bat calls gathered from forest preserves and golf courses around the Chicago area. Liza Lehrer says she&rsquo;s counted up to 3,000 calls from one detector in a single night.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/forgotten bat 2.png" style="height: 242px; width: 180px; float: left;" title="A silver-haired bat" /></a>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s really exciting about what we&rsquo;ve found so far is we see a lot of bats in Chicago, both in urban and rural areas,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We actually see more bats using Cook County sites in the height of the summer, but out in rural areas we saw more consistent numbers.&rdquo;</p><p>Another interesting finding? Bats really like golf courses.</p><p>&ldquo;You may not consider that an area for wildlife, but there&rsquo;s lots of bat diversity in golf course sites,&rdquo; Lehrer says.</p><p>Golf courses aren&rsquo;t as dense as the city&rsquo;s forest preserves and typically contain a small body of water, so they appeal more to tree-roosting bats, such as the hoary bat and the eastern pipistrelle.</p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank">(To see a breakdown of favorite bat habitats around Chicago, check out our visualization by artist Erik Rodriguez, based on research provided by the UWI).</a></p><p>But the finding Lehrer says she&rsquo;s most excited about is that all seven species common to Northeastern Illinois have been detected at the <a href="http://www.lpzoo.org/nature-boardwalk" target="_blank">Lincoln Park Zoo&rsquo;s Nature Boardwalk</a>, a mere three miles north of the Loop.</p><p>&ldquo;[Bats are] living right here in Chicago, right in the middle of the city, right here at the zoo,&rdquo; Lehrer says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re fortunate to have an amazing array of green space in the city so they&rsquo;re able to take advantage of that as much as possible.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The dreaded white-nose</span></p><p>Finding all seven bat species so close to a dense metropolis is especially exciting, Lehrer says, because several species are directly threatened by <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/" target="_blank">white-nose syndrome</a>.</p><p>A bat afflicted by the white fungal disease can wake up early during winter hibernation. Affected bats become active right when nature designed them to conserve energy and do as little as possible: when food stores are low and temperatures are dangerous. Lehrer draws an analogy that Chicago-area residents can certainly relate to. &ldquo;If you think about if you emerged from hibernation during our polar vortex,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;there&rsquo;d be nothing for you to eat. It&rsquo;d be very difficult for you to survive if you were a bat. So, thats what&rsquo;s happening. They emerge from wintering spots and aren&rsquo;t able to survive or find food.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bats/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LITTLE BROWN BAT WEB.jpg" style="height: 430px; width: 620px;" title="Little brown bat populations, illustrated above, have been decimated by white-nose syndrome in the northeastern U.S., but researchers have detected bat calls from them at the Lincoln Park Zoo's nature boardwalk." /></a></div><p>Since white-nose syndrome spreads when bats are hibernating in close proximity, Lehrer says, &ldquo;some caves have found up to 90 to 100 percent mortality.&rdquo; According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the disease has killed millions of bats across the U.S. and Canada. There have been <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map" target="_blank">confirmed sightings</a> in Illinois, as well as several neighboring states.</p><p>The disease is <a href="https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/about/bats-affected-wns" target="_blank">hitting some bat species harder than others</a>. Of the seven species that call the Chicago area home, the big brown bat (<em>Eptesicus fuscus</em>), the little brown bat (<em>Myotis lucifugus</em>), and the tri-colored bat (<em>Perimyotis subflavus</em>) have been susceptible.</p><p>The UWI study is one effort to monitor bat populations, health and behavior while scientists find cures for the disease.</p><p>So while bats may be on the top of the list of scary creatures for many Chicagoans, the scarier proposition is that there would be no bats left. At least, that&rsquo;s how Rory Keane feels about it.</p><p>&ldquo;When you come across something really puzzling like WNS &hellip; it&rsquo;s troublesome,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;If it spells the end for bats it&rsquo;s just one more fixture in the ecosystem that&rsquo;s going to throw things out of balance for us as we experience it every day.&rdquo;</p><p>He points to a scene most Chicagoans can relate to. &nbsp;</p><p><a name="bio"></a>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re driving down Lake Shore Drive and it&rsquo;s a clear day and you can see the skyline in front of you,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;you marvel at the success we&rsquo;ve built up around us. &hellip; But could it have all worked out without the contributions of even these tiny, erratically-flying, illogical mammals we call bats?&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rory%20mug%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 199px; width: 200px;" title="(Photo courtesy Rory Keane)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question comes from: Rory Keane</span></p><p>Chicagoan Rory Keane got us looking into bat habitat a few years after he nearly stomped on one that was hanging out in the Loop. A graduate from Northwestern&rsquo;s Medill School of Journalism, he&rsquo;s worked as an English teacher in China and is currently working as a digital marketer in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;I guess you could characterize me as a curious person,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I have a little bit of a curiosity when it comes to travel and seeing the world from a different perspective.&rdquo;</p><p>So, he&rsquo;s no stranger to new experiences, but he still didn&rsquo;t expect to get a new perspective from that one, tiny bat in his hometown.</p><p>&ldquo;It was already an incredibly precious encounter given that you would never expect it,&rdquo; Rory says of the eastern red bat he nearly squashed. &ldquo;It took a bat to startle me into realizing what was going on around me [in the natural world] on an everyday basis.&rdquo;</p><p>Did we mention Rory also does a fantastic Werner Herzog impression? You gotta listen to his speculations on what life as a Chicago bat is like:</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/161020052&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/JnnBrndl" target="_blank">Jennifer Brandel</a> is Curious City&#39;s senior producer and <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">Logan Jaffe</a> is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. Bat and habitat illustrations by <a href="http://www.erographics.com/">Erik Nelson Rodriquez</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-do-chicagos-bats-hang-out-110578 Secrets from the Tomb: The hunt for Chicago's mummies http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/secrets-tomb-hunt-chicagos-mummies-109934 <p><p>Who would have thought the ancient dead could actually break news? But that&rsquo;s exactly what happened when I embarked on my hunt for Chicago&rsquo;s mummies.</p><p>The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) invited me to tag along in February as they took their two mummies, Paankhenamun and Wenuhotep, to be scanned at the University of Chicago.</p><p>The video below will give you a good idea of what that trip involved, and why everyone - from radiologists to Egyptologists to ambulance drivers, were fascinated by the process.<a name="video"></a></p><p><strong><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/gopKCYXkdOg" width="620"></iframe></strong></p><p>The results of the scans are already coming in, and though the mummies are not currently on display, if they do go back to the galleries some relabeling will be in order - listen to the radio story above to find out why.</p><p>It was news to me that the AIC even had mummies. Like The Field Museum and the Oriental Institute (OI) of the University of Chicago, the AIC got theirs toward the end of the 19th century, when people on science expeditions and tourist junkets alike became captivated with ancient Egypt.</p><p>Mummies continue to&mdash;bad pun alert&mdash;walk the line between cultural object and scientific specimen. What sometimes gets lost beneath the bandages and elaborately decorated coffins is the fact that mummies were humans too.</p><p>Until a few decades ago, if someone wanted to verify that fact, they would simply unwrap it - as in this somewhat ghoulish photograph of a researcher undoing the linen wrapping on one of the Oriental Institute&rsquo;s mummies.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Unwrap%20mummy.jpg" style="height: 422px; width: 620px;" title="Date/individual unknown. Bad mummy tech: An unidentified employee unwraps one of the Oriental Institute’s mummies in approximately 1910 (archival photo courtesy of The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago) " /></p><p>I&rsquo;m struck by how casual it all seems, this act that we now view as a desecration. The two people conversing in the background, the fact that the researcher&rsquo;s not even wearing gloves!</p><p>But many mummies were unwrapped, some by institutions and others by upper crust tourists, who thought they&rsquo;d have a little fun with the souvenir they picked up on their tour of Europe.</p><p>The mummy in this photograph is still at the Oriental, though it hasn&rsquo;t been displayed since the 1960s or &lsquo;70s. Oriental Institute Egyptologist Emily Teeter took me back to see her and despite being prepared, I was still startled.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mummy%20unwrapped.PNG" style="height: 282px; width: 620px;" title="Unwrapped mummified remains. (WBEZ/Alison Cuddy)" /></div><p>But now we can see inside mummies, thanks to images generated by CT scans. Scanning is the cutting edge of mummy research and exhibition, and it&rsquo;s driving a new interest in the ancient dead, among the public and at institutions.</p><p>Here you see the incredibly detailed views these machines allow, from a recent scan of the Field&rsquo;s mummy known only as the Gilded Lady (a woman who died in her early 40s and was entombed in the early Ptolemaic period).</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mummy_sidebyside.jpg" title="(images courtesy of the Field Museum)" /></div><p>Given Chicago&rsquo;s rather large mummy population, local hospital scanners are sure to be kept busy over the coming years.</p><p>The chart and map below gives you a sense of how many we have, and what the main collections include, from Peruvian mummy &ldquo;bundles&rdquo; at the Field, to mummy parts, including a monkey&rsquo;s paw and other bits of animals at the Oriental.</p><p>I haven&rsquo;t verified this, but Chicago might just be the mummy capital of America.</p><p><strong>What sort of mummies are in the Field Museum&#39;s collection?</strong></p><p><iframe height="360" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/WBEZ-Graphics/mummy_graphs/field.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><strong>What sort of mummies are in the Oriental Institute collection?</strong></p><p><iframe height="460" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/WBEZ-Graphics/mummy_graphs/oriential.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Bob Martin, emeritus curator at the Field, said they are planning to re-do their permanent Egyptian collection, and include more digital elements (like a touch-screen table top display that allows you to virtually unwrap one of their mummies).</p><p>The Art Institute&rsquo;s mummies aren&rsquo;t currently on display, though curator Mary Greuel hopes any information gleaned from the University of Chicago scans will eventually be part of an exhibition..</p><p>I also found some stray mummies. There is one in the Social Studies department at Naperville Central High School.</p><p>And if you pay a visit to the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary library you can view the mummy of a young girl, known as Hawara Portrait Mummy #4.</p><p><strong>Map: Where are Chicago&#39;s mummies?<a name="map"></a></strong></p><p><strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col1+from+1O8JcaqBRIzHJbqYxbjLyLBBTiZXqw7z4Pg9T6oV6&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.88994363687098&amp;lng=-87.93986547851563&amp;t=1&amp;z=9&amp;l=col1&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=ONE_COL_LAT_LNG" width="620"></iframe></strong><br /><br />Do you know of any local mummies we may have missed? Let us know - we&rsquo;d love to add them to our inventory!</p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/secrets-tomb-hunt-chicagos-mummies-109934 Hawks on the rise http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hawks-rise-109889 <p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/hawks/#/page1" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bird%20TOPPER.jpg" title="" /></a></p><p><em>Artwork by Chicago-based artist <a href="http://dianasudyka.com/">Diana Sudyka</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/140433257&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe><em>Editor&#39;s note: This episode of the Curious City podcast includes a story about the resurgence of Cooper&#39;s Hawks in Chicago. It starts at 4 minutes, 45 seconds into the program.&nbsp;(Subscribe via&nbsp;<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes&nbsp;</a>or&nbsp;<a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast" target="_blank">Feedburner</a>!)&nbsp;</em></p><p>This story about hawks was a long time coming for Carole Zemont of Chicago&rsquo;s Norwood Park neighborhood. Carole thinks she&rsquo;s &ldquo;genetically predisposed&rdquo; to be interested in birds, after growing up watching them at the bird feeder her mother put up in their backyard.</p><p>That lifelong interest &mdash; as well as a recent hawk sighting of hers &mdash; led Carole to ask Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Is anybody studying the increasing hawk activity in Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhoods?</em></p><p>Her question covers several topics, including the people on the lookout for hawks, but we thought we owed it to Carole to suss out whether &mdash; in fact &mdash; there&rsquo;s a local population of hawks on the rise. While tracking this down, we came across a bit of a wildlife conservation success story.</p><p><strong>(Chicken) hawks on the increase</strong></p><p>Observant bird-watchers like Carole suspect there are more hawks in the area, but have professional researchers taken note, too?</p><p>Well, there are several local researchers who study and document the goings-on of wild critters in our urban and suburban environment, but when it comes to studying hawks specifically, we can turn up only one: Mason Fidino of the Urban Wildlife Institute. Founded in 2009, the Institute&rsquo;s part of Chicago&rsquo;s Lincoln Park Zoo.</p><p>For the first part of Carole&rsquo;s question, does Fidino&rsquo;s work show that there is an increased hawk population in Chicago? &nbsp;&ldquo;Yes! It&rsquo;s a pretty resounding yes,&rdquo; he says. Fidino is recreating a historic bird count that was conducted in Lincoln Park from 1897 to 1903, and he&rsquo;s able to compare current bird populations with this century-old data. One hawk in particular stands out in Fidino&rsquo;s studies: the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk, which he describes as the &ldquo;most abundant,&rdquo; frequently seen bird of prey in Lincoln Park. This is quite a change from the historic study, where the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk &ldquo;was not seen whatsoever.&rdquo;</p><p>These birds were once widely viewed as a menace and even hunted in the past. Nicknamed &ldquo;chicken hawks,&rdquo; they were despised as chicken thieves.</p><p>Fidino points me to the historical record, where we can find sentiments from people like Alfred O. Gross, a man who eventually became a respected ornithologist. In 1906 Gross conducted a bird census in Illinois. He described the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk as a &ldquo;handsome robber&rdquo; with a &ldquo;perverted taste for chicken.&rdquo;<a href="http://www.thinglink.com/scene/502929837053181952" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Cooper's Hawk inline image.jpg" style="height: 443px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Rendering of a Cooper's Hawk, otherwise known as a Chicken Hawk, by Chicago artist Diana Sudyka." /></a></p><p>Later, the <a href="http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/ddt-brief-history-status.htm" target="_blank">pesticide DDT </a>also damaged their population. Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks mostly eat other birds, so they would have ingested all of the DDT concentrated in their prey animals. The pesticide caused eggshells to thin, and they would crack under the weight of the large birds. The Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk was even on Illinois&rsquo; endangered species list from 1977 through 1997.</p><p>Eventually, human interference loosened: We stopped shooting &ldquo;chicken hawks,&rdquo; we banned DDT, and, according to Fidino, the hawks came back.</p><p><strong>How easy is it to see one?</strong></p><p>Mason Fidino says you can find hawks in the city if you look for them &mdash;especially Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks. &ldquo;Often enough you&rsquo;ll see hawks circling around,&rdquo; he says, adding you can also spot them perched on tree branches. Fidino advises curious residents to &ldquo;spend some time on a weekend, take a walk out in a park. You should be able to see a bird of prey or two.&rdquo;</p><p>Fidino says he sometimes even sees hawks hunting in Chicago&rsquo;s Lincoln Park. If you see something quickly zooming towards the ground, it could be a hawk looking for lunch. For his part, Fidino will see the hunting bird just out of the corner of his eye. It will be &ldquo;this really quick movement going from the top of the tree downwards to whatever it&rsquo;s trying to catch. Then its talons go out, and it grabs what it&rsquo;s going after and then it&rsquo;ll swing back up or land with it,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks have nests that are smaller than squirrels&rsquo; bulky, leafy nests. Another way to catch a glimpse of a hawk is to keep an eye on their nest &ldquo;and see who shows up,&rdquo; Fidino says.</p><p><strong>A possible hawk menace?</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s reassuring to see a previously struggling species thrive, but perhaps you&rsquo;re wondering about a downside. Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks survive mostly by hunting smaller birds. Will we be hearing about a &ldquo;save the chickadees&rdquo; campaign in a few years?<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Flickr_%20Mike%20Ormsby_Copper%27s%20Hawk.jpg" style="height: 346px; width: 275px; float: left;" title="Cooper's Hawks look very similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, but differences can be detected with key details like tail feather shape. Our field guide gives more clues for distinguishing the species. (Flickr/Mike Ormsby)" /></p><p>Fidino is not worried. Populations of top predators like hawks tend to be much smaller than their prey species. The relatively few chickadees or pigeons who end up being a hawk&rsquo;s lunch shouldn&rsquo;t significantly damage their population. The various bird populations, Fidino says, &ldquo;should be able to work themselves out into what you&rsquo;d kind of consider an equilibrium.&rdquo;</p><p>Hawks mostly hunt birds, although they&rsquo;ll also dine on small mammals. It&rsquo;s very rare for pets to come under attack by raptors. However, when pressed, Fidino will advise that owners of small pets might want to &ldquo;be mindful of the species that they&rsquo;re adding to the ecosystem,&rdquo; and perhaps not leave especially tiny dogs unattended in the back yard.</p><p><strong>The adaptation game</strong></p><p>Carole wondered if we&rsquo;re seeing more hawks in Chicago because they&rsquo;ve developed adaptive behaviors to live in cities. Dr. Seth Magle, the Urban Wildlife Institute&rsquo;s director, says that&rsquo;s not the case. He described the concept of &ldquo;habitat analogs,&rdquo; where parts of our built environment function to animals the way their natural habitat does.</p><p>Magle provides the example of pigeons. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re cliff-dwelling species, but in cities we build these big tall buildings, so to pigeons they may kind of look like cliffs,&rdquo; and thus look like home, he says.</p><p>Hawk behavior is similar. Red-tailed hawks like to perch on something tall, and power lines along the highway function perfectly for that task. Other species, including the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk, feel perfectly at home in trees near humans. And why not, now that we city-dwellers and suburbanites are more interested in watching hawks than shooting them.</p><p><em>Special thanks to the <a href="http://www.birds.cornell.edu" target="_blank">Cornell Lab of Ornithology</a> for permission to use images, bird listings and sound for this story.</em></p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent producer. Follow her on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/katieklocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.<a name="hawkscreensavers"></a></em></p></p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hawks-rise-109889 How much road salt ends up in Lake Michigan? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This episode of the Curiuos City podcast includes an audio story about road salt. It begins 5 minutes, 50 seconds into the program. (Subscribe via <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes </a>or <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast" target="_blank">Feedburner</a>!)</em></p><p>Aaron Stigger is a graphic and web designer born and raised in Oak Park. He caught Curious City&rsquo;s attention with <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/1522" target="_blank">this question</a>:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><font><font>How does all the winter salt runoff affect Lake Michigan&#39;s water?</font></font></em></p><p><font><font>But he </font></font><em><font><font>really </font></font></em><font><font>piqued our interest after telling us the backstory.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;On my way to work everyday I pass by this gi-normous salt pile, which is kind of plopped down on some dirt and some broken-up cement,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That kind of got me thinking: Well, if it&rsquo;s seeping into the ground under this big, uncovered pile, what is it doing, all the salt we distribute all around the city?&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><a href="https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=41.954739%2C-87.79664800000002&amp;cbp=%2C65.45%2C%2C0%2C9.139999&amp;layer=c&amp;panoid=S-PkH0iF7NxMblex4A7Wog&amp;spn=0.18000000000000152%2C0.30000000000001953&amp;output=classic&amp;cbll=41.954739%2C-87.796648" target="_blank"><font><font>The particular mound of salt</font></font></a><font><font> that Aaron saw is in Dunning, a neighborhood on the city&rsquo;s Northwest Side. That mound&#39;s got company: Chicago stores 19 piles of salt across the city. And that&rsquo;s not counting many more spread across the suburbs and Northwest Indiana.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But is there really a wall of brine heading to the lake and, if so, should we be worried? We found out that, at least according to a few environmental standards, Lake Michigan is actually in much better shape than Stigger expected. But another waterway may have earned his concern.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Just how much salt are we talking about, anyway?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before we get to specifics on any effects on Lake Michigan, let&rsquo;s put the amounts of road salt we use into perspective, at least when it comes to Chicago.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Since November 2009, the city has spread an average of 215,456</font></font>&nbsp;tons of salt to melt snow and ice each year, according to figures provided by The Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation:<a name="chart"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="300" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/CbhQh/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="350"></iframe></div><p><font><font>That&rsquo;s counting this winter,&nbsp;</font></font><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637" target="_blank"><font><font>which has been particularly brutal</font></font></a><font><font>. As of February 28, the city already dumped more than 370,000 tons of salt on city streets &mdash; a solid 42 percent more than the next heaviest use in the previous five years.</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/aaron%20stigger%27s%20salt%20pile.jpg" style="height: 304px; width: 525px; margin: 5px;" title="The Chicago salt pile that Oak Parker Aaron Stigger sees on his way to work. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" /></div><p><font><font>It&rsquo;s not just a problem in Chicago. Humans move a lot of salt. A 2004 study estimated that we mobilize more than 140 teragrams &mdash; that&rsquo;s 140 billion kilograms &mdash; of chlorides every year.</font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><font><font><strong>Video: </strong><a href="#video">Just how big are these salt piles</a>?</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Salt&rsquo;s destination: our streams and rivers</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So, with some of these figures in mind, let&rsquo;s consider the effects.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s &ldquo;aha moment&rdquo; came about when he saw one of the city&rsquo;s salt piles while it was uncovered. It&rsquo;s a reasonable concern, given that researchers from the University of Rhode Island </font></font><a href="http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/ww/Publications/Chlorides.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font>estimate uncovered salt piles lost about 20 percent</font></font></a><font><font> of their salt each year. Much of it ends up in nearby waterways.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most piles are covered during the off-season, however, so salt used for deicing is the main source of urban chloride pollution. Chemists know salt as NaCl, or sodium chloride, which breaks down in water. Hence there are pollution measurements and standards for &ldquo;chlorides,&rdquo; not &ldquo;salt.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But where&rsquo;s this runoff headed? The hydrological lay of the land is such that most salt-laden runoff in Chicago ends up in the Chicago River and other inland waterways &mdash; not Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>The principal reason is that </font></font><a href="http://chicagopublicradio.org/story/should-we-reverse-chicago-river-again-95661" target="_blank"><font><font>the city reversed the flow of the river more than 100 years ago</font></font></a><font><font>, so most of our runoff ends up in the waterways that feed into the Illinois River, which flows into the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.</font></font><a href="http://www.isws.illinois.edu/pubdoc/B/ISWSB-74.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font> A 2010 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found</font></font></a><font><font> road salt runoff and treated wastewater from the Chicago region are the dominant sources of chlorides in the navigable sections of the Illinois River, and two major tributaries in the Chicago region. The study says that number has risen steadily since about 1960.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;The lake doesn&rsquo;t receive very much input from stormwater from the city of Chicago,&rdquo; says Scott Twait, who works in IEPA&rsquo;s Water Quality Standards division. &ldquo;However with all the salting, all the road salt enters into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and the Cal-Sag channel, and flows downstream to the Des Plaines River. And collecting all the runoff, the chloride levels can spike in those areas and get quite high.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>In high concentrations, chlorides can be toxic to aquatic life. But it&rsquo;s hard to tell how many times salt runoff from Chicago has caused toxic levels of chlorides in inland waterways, because the Illinois Pollution Control Board doesn&rsquo;t classify those waters as &ldquo;General Use&rdquo; waterways. Those waters are subject to Illinois&rsquo; 500 mg/L water quality standard. Instead, IEPA regulates &ldquo;total dissolved solids&rdquo; in Chicago-area waterways, lumping together chlorides, sulfates and other chemicals for a single reading. Chloride levels have spiked above 1000 mg/L in some inland waterways &mdash; twice IEPA&rsquo;s standard for most of the state.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Chicago-area waterways are the only ones in the state that aren&rsquo;t regulated by General Use standards. As Twait explained, that&rsquo;s because they were so polluted when the standards were set that they earned their own benchmarks. (You can see IEPA&rsquo;s </font></font><a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/tmdl/303d-list.html" target="_blank"><font><font>full list of impaired Illinois waterways here</font></font></a><font><font>.)</font></font></p><p><font><font><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Aaron%20Stigger%20by%20Kurt%20Gerber.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 220px; width: 220px;" title="Aaron Stigger asked Curious City about road salt runoff. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" />&ldquo;Back in the 70s these were the only waters that were kind of beyond repair, as to their thinking back in the 70s, so they got kind of special standards&rdquo; Twait says. &ldquo;They really had no hope for them in the future.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But those waters are much cleaner now. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which handles and treats the region&rsquo;s combined runoff and sewer water, has improved its filtration methods. MWRD Spokeswoman Allison Fore &nbsp;says they&rsquo;ve adopted best practices suggested by the DuPage/Salt Creek Work Group for managing their roadways and facilities.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Twait says EPA is looking to bring Chicago-area waterways in line with the rest of the state&rsquo;s rivers and streams. If they update the water quality standards, he says, &ldquo;one of the things we know is that we&rsquo;ll have chloride issues in the winter time.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Regulators would come up with some kind of limit for chloride in Chicago-area rivers. That could make cities think twice before spreading so much road salt. It&rsquo;s much tougher for the EPA to regulate salt from so many spread-out sources (storm drains spread out across the city and suburbs) than from, say, a factory with a fallout pipe dumping salt into the river.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So our question asker Aaron Stigger is right to worry about salt runoff, but not so much in Lake Michigan. In Chicago&rsquo;s case, it&rsquo;s our inland waterways that are in trouble.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Corrosive chlorides and city infrastructure</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before it even gets into area waterways, salt works its way through the city&rsquo;s subterranean network of pipes. That can cause problems for the city&rsquo;s Department of Water Management, which provides drinking water to Chicago and 125 suburbs. They also deliver stormwater to MWRD for treatment.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Tom Powers, the city&rsquo;s commissioner of water management, says chlorides are at such a low concentration in Lake Michigan that his department barely takes note.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;It would require an incredible amount of road salt to affect Lake Michigan &mdash; that&rsquo;s a very robust system,&rdquo; Powers says. &ldquo;When we test [the water], it doesn&rsquo;t even appear on what we&rsquo;re testing for.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>The EPA&rsquo;s national drinking water standard for chloride is 250 mg/L, some 20 times higher than Lake Michigan&rsquo;s current concentration. Chicago&rsquo;s Dept. of Water Management, like many such agencies, adds water softeners that can include salt. But it&rsquo;s not enough to even approach the EPA limits.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But road salt can corrode the pipes that carry that water, exacerbating the stress that the winter freeze-and-thaw cycle puts on an aging network of water pipes that would stretch 4,500 miles if laid end to end. About 1,000 miles of those water pipes are 100 years old or older, Powers says. In 2009 the department had to repair 8,873 catch basins &mdash; more than twice last year&rsquo;s 3,647.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Development in urban areas makes the salt corrosion problem worse, by funneling more runoff into the system. Studies have correlated growth in chloride levels with the rate of urbanization, and even with miles of road in the vicinity of the waterway in question.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;While we are right to be cautious in applying &lsquo;common sense&rsquo; to such things,&rdquo; says Stephen McCracken, who coordinates the Conservation Foundation&rsquo;s DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, &ldquo;in this case the relationship seems quite straightforward with salt being applied to road surfaces, increased road density means a larger salt total applied, even at a constant application rate.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>So more development, more impervious surfaces, more runoff.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>A saltier lake?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So not much of that salt ends up in Lake Michigan. But there is enough runoff to register an increase in Lake Michigan&rsquo;s chloride levels since Chicago first started spreading road salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Kim Biggs, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, says the current chloride levels in Lake Michigan are around 12 milligrams per liter.</font></font></p><p><font><font>That number has risen since widespread use of road salt began around 1960, according to</font></font><a href="http://www.saltinstitute.org/" target="_blank"><font><font> the Salt Institute</font></font></a><font><font>. Chloride levels in Lake Michigan rise about 0.1 mg/L each year, but they&rsquo;re still well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s 500 mg/L standard for &ldquo;General Use waters&rdquo;. Nationally, EPA&rsquo;s criteria for chloride toxicity</font></font><a href="http://www.iowadnr.gov/portals/idnr/uploads/water/standards/ws_review.pdf?amp;tabid=1302" target="_blank"><font><font> are 230 mg/L over a four day average, or an hourly average of 860 mg/L</font></font></a><font><font>. (EPA is currently reevaluating that standard, which was first set in 1988.)</font></font></p><p><font><font>If you measure chlorides in Lake Michigan in the spring, however, you pick up all that winter road ice and runoff. Since 1980, springtime average chloride levels have risen almost 50 percent:</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/epa data salt.png" title="" /></div><p><br /><font><font>High chloride levels choke aquatic species that depend on a certain salinity to keep their bodies in equilibrium. Amphibians, like salamanders and frogs, are especially susceptible to chloride pollution. Many of them breed in temporary </font></font><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/93733769@N03/9396817314/" target="_blank"><font><font>vernal pools</font></font></a><font><font> that are cut off from other bodies water, and thus have no way to flush out excess salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>IEPA&rsquo;s Biggs says chlorides in Lake Michigan aren&rsquo;t threatening aquatic life. &ldquo;There are not significant concerns or actions being taken to reduce chlorides in Lake Michigan as they are still reading below the water quality standard,&rdquo; she wrote in an email. &ldquo;We do not feel that salt runoff from the Chicago area is a major contributor to the chloride levels in Lake Michigan.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Winter deicing is the major driver of high chloride levels in Chicago&rsquo;s waterways, but wastewater treatment also contributes. In the outfall of waste water treatment plants in DuPage County, for example, chloride levels are more than ten times higher than they are in Lake Michigan. Studies by the Illinois State Water Survey and MWRD sampled the water flowing out from MWRD&rsquo;s Stickney wastewater treatment (the largest such plant in the U.S.), and found median chloride levels of 145 mg/L, compared to 8-12 mg/L in Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most of MWRD&rsquo;s contribution comes from human waste itself, which contains chlorides. They also use ferric chloride to help filter wastewater &mdash; the chemical is useful for, among other eyebrow-raising processes, &ldquo;sludge thickening&rdquo; &mdash; but are moving away from that in favor of biologically-based techniques that would replace ferric chloride.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>If you can&rsquo;t beet &rsquo;em ...</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So what&rsquo;s the city doing to cut back on its salt use?</font></font></p><p><font><font>Dept. of Streets &amp; Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe says they train salt truck drivers to spread salt judiciously &mdash; that means waiting until plows have cleared most standing snow, since salt sprinkled on top of several inches of the white stuff won&rsquo;t do much. When the forecast calls for mild temperatures, salt trucks take it easy and let the weather do some of the work.<a name="video"></a></font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="323" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WphGL9fjbbo" width="575"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>City workers move salt at the depot at Grand and Rockwell (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)</em></p><p><font><font>The city even enlists an unusual fruit cocktail of sorts to get more out of its salt: beet juice. It&rsquo;s full of sugar, and helps lowers the freezing point of ice. Mixing salt with molasses or another sugary substance can do the same thing. Salt solutions are good too, because they spread out easier than rock salt so they&rsquo;re more efficient. Wisconsin has started spraying cheese brine for similar reasons.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Typical salt (sodium chloride) is not effective in subzero temperatures, but other salt compounds can break ice crystals at lower temperatures &mdash; calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are common substitutes, but they eat into concrete and metal faster than table salt. Right now the city uses sodium chloride.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s salt pile is probably going to exist as long as severe winter weather visits Chicago. But if IEPA ups the standard for the metropolitan area&rsquo;s inland waterways, he might start to see the salt disappear a little bit more gradually.</font></font></p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/"><font><font>Chris Bentley</font></font></a><font><font> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at</font></font><a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"><font><font> @Cementley</font></font></a><font><font>.</font></font></em></p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 Role reversal: Kids train teachers at South Side school http://www.wbez.org/news/role-reversal-kids-train-teachers-south-side-school-108975 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Kaleb Depluzer.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Clutching an iPad, sixth grader Kaleb Depluzer looks up at a group of grown-ups and instructs them to grab a device from the middle of the table.</p><p>&ldquo;My name is Kaleb, and today I&rsquo;m going to be teaching you how to use Keynote,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Everybody press &lsquo;presentation.&rsquo; It&rsquo;s all the way at the top left.&rdquo;<br /><br />This is app speed dating at Depluzer&rsquo;s school, National Teachers Academy, and it&rsquo;s essentially student-led professional development.<br /><br />&ldquo;App speed dating is when teachers go around and view kids doing different types of apps so we can teach the teachers how to use it,&rdquo; Depluzer explained.<br />Today, it&rsquo;s not just teachers. Other adults are here as part of a Chicago Ideas Week event.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s much more dynamic to have the student sharing and hearing it from their voices. It&rsquo;s also a lot less threatening as a teacher to come in and hear from a 9-year-old how this app works. They&rsquo;re not talking down to you. They&rsquo;re nine,&rdquo; Jennie Magiera said.</p><p>Magiera is the digital learning coordinator at the Academy for Urban School Leadership, the organization that runs National Teachers Academy.</p><p>She says there are a couple of different schools of thought when it comes to technology in the classroom.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got your non-believers who think that technology is just fluff, that it&rsquo;s distracting from the actual goal of the classroom, which is teaching and learning,&rdquo; Magiera said. &ldquo;Then there&rsquo;s the folks who believe it&rsquo;s worthwhile, but for many different reasons.&rdquo;<br /><br />Magiera is part of the latter group, and she&rsquo;s about as techie as they come. She runs a blog called Teaching like it&rsquo;s 2999 and stays connected to other technology teachers and coordinators around the country.<br /><br />The idea behind letting kids do the training is to get and keep them excited about school. Depluzer is a perfect example.<br />&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;Before I created the student innovation team, he was in my math class,&rdquo; Magiera said. That was two years ago, when she tells me Depluzer used to fake fevers to get out of school.<br /><br />Magiera, who frequently had her students try out different educational apps she found, asked Depluzer and a few other students to test an app called &ldquo;Explain Everything.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;I came in on Monday morning and I thought it was going to blow all my students away,&rdquo; Magiera said. &ldquo;Kaleb uses it with his student peers and they hated it. They used a lot of very strong, fourth-grade appropriate language to say it was the worse app they&rsquo;ve ever seen.&rdquo;<br /><br />Depluzer and his friends wrote a blog post about it and within hours, the app developer emailed Magiera.<br /><br /><br />The developer, Reshan Richards, set up a Skype appointment with Depluzer and the other students to allow them to explain everything they thought was wrong with the app.<br /><br />&ldquo;(They were) brutally honest,&rdquo; Richards said. &ldquo;Brutally honest. It was just things like saying, I didn&rsquo;t like this. This doesn&rsquo;t work properly. I didn&rsquo;t understand why when I drew on the page and then moved the page the annotation didn&rsquo;t move with the page. Little things like that, but he was very, very clear I remember.&rdquo;<br /><br />After that &ndash; Magiera says Depluzer was a totally different student.</p><p>&ldquo;He was like, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m going to come to school every day. I want to be app developer. Oh my God I got to tell an adult what to do and they didn&rsquo;t yell at me, they listened to me,&rsquo;&rdquo; Magiera said.</p><p>Sitting at his station teaching the Keynote app to a rotating crop of adults last Thursday, Depluzer hardly seemed like the kind of kid who would play sick to stay home.<br /><br />He actually sounded a lot like a teacher.<br /><br />&ldquo;When you please leave, can you not exit out [of the app] because yesterday, I was deal with that and people, I had wasted time when people kept on exiting it out,&rdquo; Depluzer instructed.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 21 Oct 2013 16:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/role-reversal-kids-train-teachers-south-side-school-108975 Women still face gender bias in math, science fields http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/women-still-face-gender-bias-math-science-fields-108870 <p><p><img alt="" bang="" big="" cbs="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The%20Big%20Bang%20Theory%20promo%20photo.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" the="" title="Publicity photo for &quot;The Big Bang Theory.&quot; (CBS/Big Bang Theory)" /></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">A recent article in the&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/magazine/why-are-there-still-so-few-women-in-science.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">New York Times</a></em>&nbsp;asking and then answering the perpetual question,&nbsp;&quot;Why are there still so few women in science?&quot; should be required reading for anyone who believes that gender bias in higher math and science fields no longer exists.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Author Eileen Pollack&mdash;who was one of the first women to receive a bachelor of science degree in physics at Yale in 1978&mdash; writes that even in 2013, American women are not only given low expectations from the start for success in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but also are seldom encouraged, sometimes even discouraged, to pursue higher education in these fields.&nbsp;Additionally, Pollack cites several research studies as proof that gender inequality remains a rampant problem in the male-dominated world of STEM careers and academia, especially in the upper echelons of physics, engineering and computer science. &nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">One such study, published last year by Dr. Jo Handelsman and Corrinne Moss-Racusin, found direct gender bias in American faculty members in three scientific fields&mdash;physics, chemistry and biology&mdash;at six major research institutions across the country. Each professor was given identical resumes to rate in terms of competence, hireability, likeability, and willingness to mentor the student, with the only difference being that one applicant was named John, and the other named Jennifer. When the results were collected, John was rated an average of half a point higher than Jennifer in all categories except &quot;likeability.&quot; Also, John was offered an average starting salary of $30,238, while Jennifer was offered $26,508.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Another study, conducted by the American Mathematical Society to track standout performers in various international competitions, found that American competitors were almost always the children of immigrants, and very rarely female. Moreover, according to the study&#39;s authors, &quot;gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/science.jpg" style="float: right; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="Woman working in Genspace Lab. (Flickr/William Ward)" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Immediately, my mind flashed to the apropos film and television references, from Lindsay Weir attempting to hide her Mathlete past&nbsp;on &quot;Freaks and Geeks&quot;&nbsp;to Cady Heron&nbsp;heeding the advice of her new friend Damien in &quot;Mean Girls,&quot;&nbsp;who blurts, &quot;You can&#39;t join Mathletes; it&#39;s social suicide.&quot; Still, Lindsay and Cady&#39;s quests to become &quot;cool&quot; ultimately result in newfound appreciation of their gifts, perhaps prompting other young women watching them to realize their &quot;limit does not exist!&quot; as well. We all have Tina Fey to thank for that line.&nbsp;</p></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">However, the main characters on the CBS sitcom <a href="http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/stereotype-and-the-big-bang-theory-are-keeping-women-out-of-science" target="_blank">&quot;The Big Bang Theory&quot;</a>&nbsp;tend to serve a more unfavorable purpose: reinforcing stereotypes of male and female nerds in popular culture, while also keeping the gender divides firmly drawn.&nbsp;For example, the character of Amy (played by the lovely and talented Mayim Bialik, who also happens to hold a <a href="http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/08/zombie-science-math-education/" target="_blank">Ph.D. in neuroscience</a> in real life) is a dowdy, socially inept spinster-turned mate for theoretical physicist Sheldon. Bernadette, the other female scientist on the show, has a comically high-pitched voice and doesn&#39;t contribute much outside of playing the love interest to mechanical engineer Howard. The other male leads, Leonard and Raj, are respected physicists who also cater to stereotypes as socially awkward man-children, while the beautiful, science-illiterate neighbor Penny serves as the bubbly object of adoration for both sexes.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Of course, &quot;Big Bang&quot; has its cute and funny moments; but, as Pollack also suggests in her article, what &quot;remotely normal&quot; person would choose to be an Amy when she could be a Penny? Furthermore, what other cultural biases factor into the current acceptance (or lack thereof) of women in these fields; and, as a result, potentially discourage would-be female engineers or astrophysicists from continuing their studies? How many brilliant young minds do we leave untapped, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1DnltskkWk" target="_blank">Will Hunting</a>-style, when science and math teachers fail to provide female students with the same opportunities and encouragement given to male peers?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><p>To gain new insight into these questions and more, I asked four women involved in STEM fields to share their thoughts and personal experiences in bridging the gender gap.&nbsp;</p><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Veronica I. Arreola, Director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender&#39;s Women in Science and Engineering Program&nbsp;at the University of Illinois at Chicago.</span></em></p><p><strong>On gender bias: </strong>&quot;The literature clearly shows a bias against women, by both men and women, in STEM.&nbsp; As for how it plays out in the classroom...it plays out in different ways. We have seen women delegated to secretary positions, men doing the actual experiments. Men often yell out answers, women raise their hands and wait to be called on. There are ways to minimize these examples, but it takes additional work. The tough thing about bias is that we often feel like we don&#39;t have them, so we don&#39;t work to minimize them. But we&#39;re all biased.&quot;</p><p><strong>On the lack of women pursuing higher math and science degrees:</strong>&nbsp;&quot;There are many theories. The one I focus on is awareness of the different careers in STEM. For example, I work with a lot of pre-med students, who might be better suited as researchers versus clinicians. Our society does not do a great job at exposing young people, boys or girls, to the wide range of careers available. When students are debating leaving, I often hear, &#39;I want to work with people.&#39; Which is exactly what scientists and engineers do &mdash; they work with people to solve problems for people. From climate change to curing cancer, it&#39;s all teamwork. I also hear that there aren&#39;t enough jobs. For some fields, it may be true, but tech companies and banks cannot hire enough computer scientists fast enough, yet fewer men and women go into computer science. Lastly, the family-work juggle does get mentioned. For some reason, science and engineering does not come across as family-friendly. I remind students that until we have a national child care system and paid family leave, few careers are truly family-friendly. Plus, the women in academia do have much more control over their hours than women in almost any other field.&quot;</p><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Colleen, Northwestern University graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and a minor in Earth and Planetary Sciences.&nbsp;</span></em></p><p><strong>On studying physics at Northwestern: </strong>&quot;The majority of my peers were male, and I&#39;m sure I wanted to stand out and prove to everyone that I was capable and that I could do physics just like them. But when I joined a lab, it felt like everyone knew more than I did, and everyone who was working on a research project had brilliant ideas right away. By not meeting those standards from the start, I saw myself as being behind; but the truth is, there was far more collaboration and discussion than I realized. I could have been asking for help, but to me that felt like admitting I wasn&#39;t good enough to contend with the &#39;big boys&#39; in the lab...&nbsp;I eventually decided that pursuing a Ph.D. was not for me. In talking with other female graduates of STEM fields, it sounded like I was not the only person who felt lonely working through her degree. I think if I had figured out the keys of positive collaboration and had managed to boost my confidence earlier in my college career, I might have graduated with a different outlook on what a life of academia would hold for me.&quot;</p><p><strong>On gender roles in an academic setting:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;This certainly isn&#39;t true for everyone, but to me, it appears that young women are appealing to the popularized notion that they should be polite, considerate, and soft spoken rather than being loud and roaring with&nbsp;competitive&nbsp;opinions. I think something about our educated culture results in men being more willing to ask questions and find solutions without encouragement; so, it&#39;s not that they&#39;re any more capable of problem solving, men are just more visible while they&#39;re doing it. I&#39;m sure this&nbsp;trend can be traced all the way back to young boys: something about young male culture makes it cool to be the &quot;class clown,&quot; to confidently disrupt class and be loud. I did not experience a young female culture that would support or encourage those traits. If there is a confidence curve, then in my experiences, young girls are positioned to be playing catch-up from an incredibly early age.&quot;</p><p><strong>On dating:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;Outside of individuals in a traditional STEM field, I have yet to introduce myself to someone who upon learning that I earned my degree in physics didn&#39;t respond with a double-take or a &#39;Wow really? You must be really smart.&#39; I&#39;m never sure how I should respond to that, so I usually mumble a, &#39;Yes, maybe? I just really liked physics.&#39; I don&#39;t know if this has ever deterred the potential pursuit of a significant other, but if the prospect of dating a physics major is intimidating to the point of deterrence, then I probably wouldn&#39;t be happy dating them anyway.&quot;</p><div><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Kelsie, Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.</span></em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><strong>On pop culture reinforcing stereotypes: &quot;</strong>In&nbsp;&#39;The Big Bang Theory,&#39; there is a lot of physics jargon and complicated topics that Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj talk about that I feel aren&#39;t even meant to be understood by the audience. However, I think that Amy and Bernadette&#39;s careers are presented in a much more palatable, &#39;dumbed-down&#39; version and are generally less referenced. Aside from maybe one or two times, I think Amy&#39;s research topic is presented as tobacco addition in monkeys&mdash;which is a very easy-to-understand topic, unlike many of the physics topics studied by the male characters. Also, what is presented about Amy&#39;s research is often inaccurate or comical. To name a few off the top of my head, Amy having a cigarette-smoking research monkey in her apartment (which goes against so many animal research federal regulations) and eating lunch/answering her phone while dissecting a brain in lab. Aside from Bernadette being a microbiologist and doing drug development, I don&#39;t think much is ever really mentioned about her science career.&quot;</p><div><strong>On the theory that more women are drawn to &quot;people&quot; sciences, like biology:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;It&#39;s certainly a reasonable explanation for why more women go into biomedical and social sciences, though this isn&#39;t really my specific reasoning. To me, the difference is working with something that feels concrete and tangible. I started at Northwestern University intending to be a chemistry major, and then switched to biology when I realized I liked working with living things that I can see or conceptualize better (meaning, cells or proteins in biology as opposed to chemical reactions with chemistry). I don&#39;t really consider my work to involve people, since I typically work on a much, much smaller scale, with a culture dish.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Jessica, Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering.</span></em></p><p><strong>On gender discrimination:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;I&#39;ve heard from a number of women that they&#39;ve been told by male professors they shouldn&#39;t be an engineer or don&#39;t belong in the field. There are also a number (very few)&nbsp;classmates&nbsp;who refused to work with female students, because they don&#39;t feel that they pull their weight. Those same men sometimes accuse their female&nbsp;classmates&nbsp;of being able to get answers or help on homework easier then men because of their looks or a&nbsp;damsel-in-distress act. I had one classmate who acted this way, but then would ask one of my female classmates for help.&quot;&nbsp;</p><div><div><strong>On misunderstandings of STEM careers:</strong> &quot;From the research I&#39;ve read, girls gravitate toward &#39;helping&#39; careers (doctors, vets, teachers, nurses) and stereotypes about STEM careers don&#39;t include that. That&#39;s why you see so many women in biology&mdash;much of biology research is centered on killing disease. What people don&#39;t understand is that engineering is all about making people&#39;s lives better and math modeling (or applied math) can be used on genetics projects to help cure diseases, find the best path for emergency vehicles, etc.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>On the power of support and encouragement:</strong>&nbsp;&quot;I attended a private school where there was never any gender bias in math and the sciences. I had male and female teachers who encouraged me in my course work. I also had very supportive parents and a mother who was a biology major and eventually a computer programmer. I think that as long as a girl has support from parents and teachers, she will succeed.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As for positive influences in pop culture, there is some good news!&nbsp;Marvel is teaming up with the National Academy of Science,&nbsp;the Girl Scouts of America&nbsp;and Natalie Portman to use the upcoming release of&nbsp;&quot;Thor: The Dark World&quot;&nbsp;to promote female interest in careers in STEM. The project is called Thor: The Dark World <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2013/10/03/can-thor-2-and-natalie-portman-hook-girls-on-science/" target="_blank">Ultimate Mentor Adventure</a>, and it sounds incredible.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. You can find her on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Tumblr</a>.</em></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 09 Oct 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/women-still-face-gender-bias-math-science-fields-108870 In Archer Park, an odor at large http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/archer-park-odor-large-108436 <p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Topper_WEB.jpg" title="Curious city-dweller Juliet Martinez and reporter Annie Minoff do their best to follow their noses to track down the mysterious scent. (WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F105626316&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">Juliet Martinez is the first to admit she&rsquo;s &ldquo;olfactory-oriented.&rdquo; Ask her about living in Chicago and she responds with a catalogue of smells.</p><p>&ldquo;I used to live in Logan Square, and you could always smell coffee and burnt toast&rdquo; she says, balancing three-year-old son Diego on one hip. &ldquo;And then I lived in Bridgeport, and you could smell blueberry muffins. Not always, but just if the wind was a certain way.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s a gorgeous Friday afternoon in July, and we&rsquo;re walking through Archer Park with Diego and Juliet&rsquo;s nine-year-old daughter Paula. We&rsquo;ve gone in search of Juliet&rsquo;s latest smell interest, an odor she noticed last fall when Paula was taking tumbling classes at the park. While Paula practiced forward rolls, Juliet and Diego killed time at the playground. And that&rsquo;s where she smelled it: the unmistakable, nostalgic odor of Silly Putty.</p><p>Haven&rsquo;t heard about Silly Putty in a while or maybe never? Well, it&rsquo;s the putty that bounces, stretches, and (most bizarrely) snaps when given a blow, and it comes in a plastic egg. According to Juliet, it also has a distinctive &ldquo;plastic-y chemical type of smell.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s this smell she recalls wafting over the playground from Archer Park&rsquo;s industrial western edge on those fall evenings.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/factory park_WEB.jpg" style="height: 242px; width: 400px; float: right;" title="South Kilbourn Avenue runs alongside the industrial western edge of Archer Park. It draws a distinct different in usage for either side. (Jennifer Brandel)" /></p><p>&ldquo;There were definitely times when I felt like, &lsquo;what am I inhaling?&rsquo;&rdquo; she remembers. And so she asked Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;Where does the Silly Putty smell in Archer Park come from, and is it healthy for the homes that surround the park?&rdquo;</em></p><p>In a city of thousands of smells, Juliet asked us about just one. But our search for this one smell would bring us nose-to-nose with the immense challenges of keeping an entire city&rsquo;s odors in check. In pursuit of putty, we&rsquo;d learn how noxious neighborhood odors get &ldquo;official,&rdquo; how smell mysteries are (sometimes) solved, and how a smell&rsquo;s capture can involve ridiculous looking nasal enhancements. And we&rsquo;d gain a newfound appreciation for the city&rsquo;s odor investigators: those hardworking men and women on the front lines of city stink.</p><p><strong>A walk down Kilbourn Avenue</strong></p><p>At Archer Park, our effort to answer Juliet&rsquo;s question faces one immediate setback: the Silly Putty smell is nowhere to be sniffed. Juliet has a hunch: &ldquo;In the fall, pretty much the main wind comes from the West, Northwest. I think it just blows right over those factories over there, and washes the park in the aroma of Silly Putty.&rdquo; Today the air is still. So we decide that if the smell won&rsquo;t come to us, we&rsquo;ll go to it. Silly Putty eggs in hand, we head towards the park&rsquo;s northwest edge, in the direction of those autumn winds.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/family%20shot%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 203px; width: 270px;" title="Juliet, Diego, and Paula Martinez on the smell trail on Kilbourn Avenue (Jennifer Brandel)" /></p><p>You can think of Archer Park as a buffer between the single-family and two-flat homes to its east and the railroad lines and factories to its west. On the western side of South Kilbourn Avenue, industrial blond-brick buildings sport non-descriptive names like &ldquo;Skolnik Industries&rdquo; and &ldquo;A. Lava &amp; Son Co.&rdquo; We begin our Silly Putty search at &ldquo;Cotton Connection,&rdquo; a decidedly odorless t-shirt warehouse where a few hungry employees are observing the final hours of their Ramadan fast. No smell here the office workers say, but maybe check out the mattress manufacturer next door?</p><p>At A. Lava &amp; Son, things get a bit smellier, but not much. We head into the facility&rsquo;s open loading area and Juliet spots a box filled with cut fabric. She holds up a handful of scraps and takes a whiff.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean these fabrics do have that kind of [a] petroleum smell,&rdquo; she says. But even on a windy day, she adds, she &ldquo;wouldn&rsquo;t imagine that it would stink up the park.&rdquo;</p><p>Omar Bermudez &mdash; who&rsquo;s driving a nearby forklift &mdash; agrees. Has he ever smelled anything here? &ldquo;Not really&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s the trash cans.&rdquo;</p><p>At last, we trek one business over to Home Products International Inc. A trucker loitering in his cab tells Curious City producer Jennifer Brandel that Home Products makes plastic bins. As we round the building corner looking for an entrance, Paula pipes up.</p><p>&ldquo;It smells weird over here. And there are these vents,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Maybe &hellip;.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/peering%20around%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 182px; width: 270px; float: right;" title="Sniffing outside the vents at Home Products International Inc, we look for a place to ask employees about a smell. (Jennifer Brandel)" /></p><p>Just a few paces away from the vents: nothing. But as we approach the warm air blasting out of the building&rsquo;s side: something. Juliet says she&rsquo;s getting &ldquo;that strong kind of petroleum-like component&rdquo; and an undertone of alcohol. Then she takes a deep breath.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like this is it,&rdquo; she says. &nbsp;</p><p>We pass through a factory filled with huge machines (and yes, a lot of plastic bins) only to find that the office staff has left for the day. Inside, the astringent, chemical smell is moderately stronger. Is it our Silly Putty smell? Juliet&rsquo;s confident, but not certain.</p><p><strong>Smell investigation 101</strong></p><p>Our search &mdash; promising as it is &mdash; raises a good question: Could this &ldquo;sniffing around&rdquo; really be how professional smell investigators do it? The answer is both &ldquo;yes&rdquo; and &ldquo;no.&rdquo; Otis Omenazu is Chief Air Engineer at the Chicago Department of Public Health, the agency tasked with addressing odor complaints in the city. While the investigative process he describes is not wildly different from our Archer Park sleuthing, it is more systematic.</p><p>CDPH receives most of its odor complaints via 311, the city&rsquo;s non-emergency hotline. Complaints range from vague (&ldquo;Chemical odors in the area&rdquo;) to specific (&ldquo;Caller states that smell coming from restaurant barbeque wood charcoal is too strong&rdquo;).</p><div><p style="margin-bottom:3px"><a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Environment-Sustainable-Development/CDPH-odor-complaints-over-the-past-year/q56j-n2vq" style="font-size:12px;font-weight:bold;text-decoration:none;color:#333333;font-family:arial;" target="_blank">CDPH odor complaints over the past year</a></p><iframe frameborder="0" height="425px" scrolling="no" src="https://data.cityofchicago.org/w/q56j-n2vq/3q3f-6823?cur=snPo3uiZ6D8&amp;from=root" title="CDPH odor complaints over the past year" width="620px">&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;https://data.cityofchicago.org/Environment-Sustainable-Development/CDPH-odor-complaints-over-the-past-year/q56j-n2vq&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; href=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;https://data.cityofchicago.org/Environment-Sustainable-Development/CDPH-odor-complaints-over-the-past-year/q56j-n2vq&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; title=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;CDPH odor complaints over the past year&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; target=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;_blank&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;CDPH odor complaints over the past year&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;</iframe><p><a href="http://www.socrata.com/" target="_blank">Powered by Socrata</a></p><p><em>Smell complaints submitted to Chicago&#39;s Department of Public Health between Aug 1, 2012 and today. Press the bullet list left of a record to see that record&#39;s details.</em></p></div><p>While the department&rsquo;s goal is to address complaints within 24 hours, Omenazu admits there&rsquo;s a certain amount of triage that happens. Gas, chemical smells, and anything that&rsquo;s causing people to feel sick, &ldquo;that&rsquo;s priority number one,&rdquo; he says. And then there are complaints like the one Omenazu got last week, from a man claiming to smell the asbestos removal happening fourteen floors below his apartment.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you smell asbestos?&rdquo; Omenazu demands, incredulous. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just like sand. It&rsquo;s a rock! It doesn&rsquo;t smell!&rdquo; He&rsquo;s smiling, but quickly checks himself.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean it&rsquo;s not a funny thing,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We take all complaints seriously.&rdquo;</p><p>And, judging by the numbers, they do: Omenazu&rsquo;s department has investigated approximately 200 odor-related complaints so far this year.</p><p>How do odor investigations work in Chicago? City inspectors carry portable gas meters called EntryRAEs capable of detecting dangerous volatile organic compounds such as chlorine, methane, and carbon monoxide.</p><p>There are other means of determining a smell&rsquo;s provenance, though, according to expert sniffer Dr. Alan Hirsch, the Director of Chicago&rsquo;s Smell &amp; Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been called in to analyze Chicago smells, called into landfills,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We collect smells and do chromatography, and we use a Nasal Ranger to do intensity.&rdquo;</p><p>Given an air sample, a gas chromatograph can reveal a smell&rsquo;s constituent chemical elements. But this is dubiously helpful, Hirsch says, when you don&rsquo;t know what smell the chromatograph&rsquo;s chemical analysis corresponds to. The hilariously named Nasal Ranger on the other hand, can provide scientists like Hirsch with precise readings of odor strength in the field. What it won&rsquo;t do is tell them what the odor is.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nasal%20Ranger%20polish%20get%20name.JPG" style="height: 227px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Field olfactometry practice with students trying out Nasal Rangers. (Wikimedia Commons/Kosmider)" /></p><p>From Hirsch&rsquo;s vantage, we need better noses, not necessarily better instruments. His favorite method of smell investigation is the &ldquo;smell panel,&rdquo; whose members rate smells by hundreds of different parameters (musty, moldy, etc.) and compare mystery smells to known odors such as rose or cinnamon (or Silly Putty).</p><p>Supersmellers, Hirsch says, &ldquo;can smell almost a thousand times better than you or I&rdquo; as a result of their unique genes or afflictions like Addison&rsquo;s disease and cluster headaches. Given the right panel of noses, Hirsch says, &ldquo;[supersmellers] can actually tell you what the smell is.&rdquo;</p><p>The city&rsquo;s public health inspectors might not be supersmellers, but Omenazu agrees that out in the field, inspectors&rsquo; noses are their most effective instruments. Once at a scene, inspectors analyze smells according to parameters like frequency, intensity, duration, and how offensive the odor is. If there are health effects, the inspector will describe them. He may also interview people in the area. (We did this too. No one at the Archer Park playground admitted smelling &ldquo;eau de silly.&rdquo;)</p><p>Based on the intelligence gathered, an inspector will decide whether the odor&rsquo;s perpetrators are in violation of city environmental code, which prohibits &ldquo;public nuisances,&rdquo; which Omenazu explains, could be &ldquo;anything that can impact negatively on you enjoying life or your property.&rdquo;</p><p>In the subjective world of smell, that broad definition sometimes has unexpected consequences. Take the West Loop&rsquo;s Blommer chocolate factory. Being bathed in the factory&rsquo;s fresh-ground cocoa scent may be a highlight of my daily commute, but not everyone is similarly enthusiastic.</p><p>&ldquo;There were some people who were really irritated by the smell of chocolate everyday, and we could sympathize with that,&rdquo; Omenazu says, recalling the city&rsquo;s 2006 cocoa crackdown. &ldquo;We had to work with Blommer&rsquo;s in this case to employ some &hellip; engineering controls to make sure that people [were] not inconvenienced.&rdquo; Blommer used a baghouse (a particulate filtering system) and Omenazu says the number of chocolate-related complaints has fallen. For CDPH, this is the best-case scenario. Businesses that fail to comply with environmental code can face hefty fines.</p><p>All this assumes of course that the city&rsquo;s odor detectives are successful in tracking down an odor&rsquo;s source. What happens, I ask, in cases like ours where investigators show up only to find that the smell has left the building? Omenazu says this happens a lot, and unfortunately, there&rsquo;s not much the city can do.</p><p>&ldquo;Odor is very transient,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It might be intense now, but in the next ten minutes, it&rsquo;s gone.&rdquo;</p><p>Smell also poses the additional challenge of being a moving target. &ldquo;Sometimes it&rsquo;s from Indiana&rdquo; Omenazu says. &ldquo;Sometimes it&rsquo;s from as far away as Peoria. There was a case of a gas smell that everybody was smelling. &hellip; People&rsquo;s Gas discovered that [the leak] wasn&rsquo;t even in Chicago.&rdquo; One complaint and one investigation may yield nothing, but Omenazu suggests persistence usually wins out. When I ask him how often he inspects facilities, he says if there are complaints &ldquo;then we visit them as many times as we get complaints.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The smell strikes back &hellip; Does Juliet?</strong></p><p>The Tuesday after our Archer Park excursion, I get an email from Juliet. &ldquo;The smell is back!!&rdquo; she writes. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to go &lsquo;sniffing around.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>As she tells me the next day, she was driving down Kilbourn Avenue, with her car windows open, and got a big ol&rsquo; whiff of putty right outside Skolnik Industries.</p><p>&ldquo;And this is the thing,&rdquo; she recalls, &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t sort of like the smell. It wasn&rsquo;t a faint, but you know, not-quite-the-same-chemical smell. It was definitely the exact same smell.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Paula%20silly%20putty%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 158px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Paula Martinez plays with putty. We brought it along on the investigation to remind our noses of the scent we were tracing. (Jennifer Brandel)" /></p><p>Near Skolnik shipping and receiving, Juliet had found &ldquo;Danny,&rdquo; a self-described Skolnik welder, taking a smoke break. She captured the moment (and his comments) on her phone.</p><p>&ldquo;That smell that you smell,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s from the weld, from the federal welder.&rdquo; And the aroma, he agreed, is like Silly Putty.</p><p>Which now makes Juliet feel a bit vindicated: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s great to not feel like I&rsquo;ve been having olfactory hallucinations, you know?&rdquo;</p><p>Danny told Juliet that Skolnik Industries produces steel drums, the kind used to contain toxic waste, for example. On the phone, Howard Skolnik, the company&rsquo;s President, confirms this, but he denies that the welding and painting the company does creates an odor. As for Juliet&rsquo;s Silly Putty suspicions?</p><p>&ldquo;I have no idea what she&rsquo;s referring to,&rdquo; Skolnik says.</p><p>Perhaps this is simply a case of a businessperson protecting his interests, but when I speak to CJ Sikora, an industrial welding instructor at Daley Community College, she agrees that Skolnik could be right. Certain kinds of small-scale welding (probably not the kind going on at Skolnik) can create localized fumes, Sikora says. But nothing you&rsquo;d smell a block away. And then there&rsquo;s the fact that we couldn&rsquo;t independently confirm that Danny works at Skolnik. After one tantalizing clue, our smell trail has once again gone cold.</p><p>Again, when Chicagoans face weird odors, they have two options: call 311 and register an odor complaint, or shrug it off. Juliet&rsquo;s still curious about Archer Park&rsquo;s Silly Putty smell, but she hasn&rsquo;t complained to the city and doesn&rsquo;t plan to.</p><p>&ldquo;I should be more concerned,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;but the jet fuel exhaust from Midway airport, the diesel exhaust from the Stevenson [Expressway] and the noxious emanations from the water treatment plant are probably clouding my mind. Seriously, and sadly, in this part of the city there is no lack of air pollution.&rdquo;</p><p>Juliet Martinez has made her own kind of peace with the putty.</p><p>&ldquo;There are only so many things in life that you can stop yourself from doing because of potential hazards,&rdquo; she says, as kids splash in the park&rsquo;s water feature behind her. &ldquo;The smell of Silly Putty may not be that high on my list of risks in life.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Happen to live or be passing through Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side? If you have Silly Putty smell leads, send them to us: <a href="mailto:curiouscity@wbez.org">curiouscity@wbez.org</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 18:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/archer-park-odor-large-108436 Herd of goats, llamas, sheep and burros are grazing around the O’Hare grounds http://www.wbez.org/news/herd-goats-llamas-sheep-and-burros-are-grazing-around-o%E2%80%99hare-grounds-108408 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-07707cd9-7e20-3f9e-2c35-610b395b0a92">A herd of goats, burros, sheep and llamas are chewing their way through the grounds of O&rsquo;Hare International Airport in Chicago. The Chicago Department of Aviation showed off their latest &ldquo;employees&rdquo; this week, though the animals have been at work, clearing the vegetation around the airport for almost a month.</p><p dir="ltr">The group of 14 goats, five sheep, three burros and two llamas will graze inside fenced areas around the airport at least until the end of 2014. Officials say the animals were brought to the airport as a sustainable way to clean up the dense scrub vegetation that covers much of the grounds.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It gets pretty rocky under here,&rdquo; said Rosemarie Andolino, CDA commissioner. pointing to a five-acre field of grass and brush behind her. &ldquo;And there (are) areas where it kinda goes up and down and lawnmowers in many cases don&rsquo;t provide or aren&rsquo;t adequate to get to some of these areas.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/goats13.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Three of O’Hare airport’s latest hires explore their new workspace. The burros are part of a herd of 25 animals that will eat vegetation around the airport to help maintain the grounds. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Andolino said the contract for the goats won&rsquo;t exceed $19,500, and it expires by the end of 2014. The commissioner didn&rsquo;t have estimates as to how much it cost to maintain the grounds before the animals, yet a spokeswoman maintained there may be some cost savings down the road.</p><p dir="ltr">The herd won&rsquo;t be eating at the same spot everyday &mdash; Andolino says they&rsquo;ll move around to different places on the airport&rsquo;s grounds, depending on need. As for concerns about the animals during brutal Chicago winters, officials say the herd will only be out as long as weather permits.</p><p dir="ltr">Most of the animals in the O&rsquo;Hare herd come from Settler&rsquo;s Pond &mdash; a shelter for abandoned animals in Beecher, Ill. &mdash; but four of them were originally owned by Joseph Arnold, head of Central Commissary Holdings, LLC. The airport contract isn&rsquo;t technically their first job: Arnold&rsquo;s four goats used to provide milk for the goat cheese served at Chicago restaurant <a href="http://butcherandtheburger.com/">Butcher and the Burger</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/goats17.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="A day-old lamb stays close by her mother at their new home, the O’Hare International Airport. They’re part of a herd of animals eating its way around the fields at O’Hare. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" />Though they might seem an unlikely sight among the security fences and planes flying overhead, the burros, goats, sheep and llamas Tuesday seemed to make themselves quite at home. One of the sheep even gave birth to a lamb Tuesday, and all the animals gathered around to greet him.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a little boy and his name is O&rsquo;Hare,&rdquo; said Pinky Jenota, one of the caretakers from <a href="http://www.settlerspondshelter.net/about.html">Settler&rsquo;s Pond</a>. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s doing great, he was up suckling on mom, planes flying overhead. He didn&rsquo;t flinch, Mom didn&rsquo;t move - everybody&rsquo;s content.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">For now, the herd will continue munching around a five acre space on the airport grounds. Officials say they should finish that section in the next few weeks, and then it&rsquo;s on to the next spot.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a> .</em></p></p> Wed, 14 Aug 2013 13:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/herd-goats-llamas-sheep-and-burros-are-grazing-around-o%E2%80%99hare-grounds-108408 U of C study finds dolphins display memory better than elephants http://www.wbez.org/news/u-c-study-finds-dolphins-display-memory-better-elephants-108319 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/dolphin.png" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; Forget elephants. Dolphins can swim circles around them when it comes to long-term memory.</p><p>Scientists in a new study repeatedly found that dolphins can remember the distinctive whistle &mdash; which acts as a name to the marine mammal &mdash; of another dolphin they haven&#39;t seen in two decades.</p><p>Bailey the dolphin hadn&#39;t seen another dolphin named Allie since the two juveniles lived together at the Dolphin Connection in the Florida Keys. Allie ended up in a Chicago area zoo, while Bailey got moved to Bermuda. Yet 20 1/2 years later, Bailey recognized and reacted to Allie&#39;s distinctive signal when University of Chicago researcher Jason Bruck played it on a speaker.</p><p>Other dolphins had similar steel-trap memories. And it&#39;s not just for relatives. It&#39;s non-kin too.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s mind-blowing; I know I can&#39;t do it,&quot; Bruck says. &quot;Dolphins in fact have the longest social memory in all of the animal kingdom because their signature whistle doesn&#39;t change.&quot;</p><p>Studies have shown that monkeys can remember things for about four years and anecdotes have elephants remembering for about 10, Bruck says in a paper published Wednesday by Proceedings of the Royal Society B. But remembering just a sound &mdash; no visuals were included &mdash; boggles even human minds, he says.</p><p>For Bruck, 33, it&#39;s as if a long-lost classmate from middle school called him up and Bruck would be able to figure out who it was just from the voice.</p><p>Faces, yes, yearbook pictures, definitely, but voices that change with time, no way, Bruck says.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re not as acoustically as adept as dolphins,&quot; Bruck says. It helps that dolphins have massive parts of the brain that are geared toward sound.</p><p>Bruck thinks dolphins have the incredible memory because it could help them when they approach new dolphins on a potential group hunt. And even more likely it probably allows dolphins to avoid others that had mistreated them in the past or dominated them, he says.</p><p>Male dolphins had a slightly better memory than females and that&#39;s likely a case of worrying about dominance. Some males would hear Lucky or Hastings, dominant males, that they hadn&#39;t heard in years and they&#39;d react by going into an aggressive S-posture or screaming their own signatures, Bruck says.</p><p>Outside dolphin researchers praised the work, saying the next effort is to see whether somehow the dolphins visualize their old buddies when they hear the whistle. Bruck says he is working on that.</p><p>&quot;The study raises some very interesting questions and hints at the wider importance of long-term social memory in nonhuman mammals and suggests there are strong parallels between dolphin and human social recognition,&quot; said dolphin researcher Stephanie King at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.</p></p> Wed, 07 Aug 2013 10:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/u-c-study-finds-dolphins-display-memory-better-elephants-108319