Beyond Cop21Paris: Climate Science & Policy

Today, Dec. 8, we offer the following feature:

Waleed Abdalati

Waleed Abdalati, photo credit David Oonk/CIRES

Changing Climate, Changing Policy (start time: 7:06): As political leaders are still hammering out an accord at the UN Climate Summit, or COP21, in Paris, to rein in global warming, today we discuss the underlying scientific facts about climate change, and the policy promises and challenges for our future. Hosts Susan Moran and Daniel Glick interview two Colorado scientists at the intersection of science and policy. Dr. Waleed Abdalati is a geoscientist and director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), a partnership between the University of Colorado-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lisa Dilling with CIRES at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

Lisa Dilling, photo credit Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado

Dr. Lisa Dilling is an associate professor of environmental studies, also at CIRES, who brings expertise in science policy related to climate issues. She directs The Western Water Assessment, a NOAA program that provides information for policy makers throughout the Intermountain West about the region’s vulnerabilities to climate change impacts. Contributing host Daniel Glick was an editor of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, and his team has produced videos on the immediate and human impacts of climate change.

Hosts: Daniel Glick, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional contributions: Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender

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Gold King Spill, Mining Prospects


Contaminated Animus River following Gold King Mine spill.
Photo credit: RiverHugger/Creative Commons

Science and Politics of Mining (start time: 6:49)  On August 5 an inactive mine named Gold King, which had been leaking toxins for years, spewed more than 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a creek that feeds into the Animus River in southwest Colorado. Its neon orange path of wastewater was shocking. But also shocking is the long history of acid mine drainage pollution and the lax regulations that allow mining companies to basically walk away from their disasters. Dr. Mark Williams, a professor of geography at CU Boulder, and an expert in mountain hydrology and hydrochemistry., has worked on remediation of several mines in the state. He speaks with How On Earth host Susan Moran about the anatomy of mines, how this disaster happened, what it suggests about the many other precarious mines in the state, and what should be done to prevent such disasters from happening.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Headline Contributors: Kendra Krueger, Joel Parker, Daniel Strain
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Birds v. Cats // Humor Science


Robin male and fledgling chick. Photo courtesy Jon Erickson, Creative Commons

Birds v. Cats (start time 4:35): Spring is in full bloom on Colorado’s Front Range. Robins and other birds wake us up before the crack of dawn with their choruses.  This is also a time when many chicks will hatch and then fledge — a time when they are most vulnerable to predators. The biggest single threat to birds is a favorite household pet – yes, cats. Actually, feral and pet cats alike.  Dr. Amanda Rodewald, an ecologist and director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University, discusses with host Susan Moran the various threats to birds and their habitat, and how humans can be part of the solution. Spoiler alert: Keep Felix inside, at least during nesting season. For more info on how you can get involved, go to the American Bird Conservancy‘s Cats Indoors program.

Humor CodeThe Science of Humor (start time: 14:32): Have you ever laughed at something you know you shouldn’t have? Like when someone you know falls down the stairs? Dr. Peter McGraw discusses with How On Earth contributor Daniel Strain the roots of humor — why we find some things funny, and other things not. He’s a quantitative psychologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder where he heads up the Humor Research Laboratory, or HuRL. Yup, HuRL.  He’s also coauthor of the book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. And he will be speaking this Thursday, May 21, at The Science Lounge, a monthly event at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Daniel Strain
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Beth Bennett
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Headline contributions: Daniel Strain

Listen to the show here:


Science of Booze // Rosetta Mission

Booze coverProof: The Science of Booze (starts at 8:09): Science journalist Adam Rogers, who claims to have taken a liking to single-malt whiskey when he reached drinking age, has immersed himself further into alcohol–particularly, the history and science of making booze, tasting it, and enjoying–or suffering—the effects of it. Booze is a big story: Indeed, making it was a key piece of the dawn of human civilization, as Rogers, who is articles editor at Wired magazine, shows in his inaugural book, called  Proof: The Science of Booze. Rogers talks with How On Earth host Susan Moran about fascinating fungi, sugar molecules and other key ingredients, as well as our human taste buds for alcohol. We have a couple of copies of Proof from our recent pledge drive, so call KGNU (303-449-4885) this week and pledge at least $60 to get your own copy.

Joel Parker standing in front of an image of the Rosetta spacecraft with the jet coming off it. Photo credit: Joel Parker

Joel Parker (SwRI) is the Deputy Principal Investigator of the “Alice” ultraviolet spectrograph instrument on the Rosetta spacecraft.
Photo credit: Joel Parker

Rosetta’s Rendezvous (start time: 17:40): How On Earth’s own Joel Parker, whose “real” job as a planetary scientist is a director at the Southwest Research Institute, a collaborating partner on the Rosetta Mission. The mission last week successfully became the first to land a craft on a comet flying through our solar system. It was a well earned landing: Rosetta left earth in March of 2004 and has traveled about 3 billion miles to rendezvous with this moving target. To learn more, read this recent Q&A with Joel in the New York Times.

Also, Shelley Schlender offers a special headline (starts at 3:39), an interview with CU-Boulder’s Dr. Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiologist, about his new study offering new clues about why shift work can lead to extra weight.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Kendra Krueger
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Additional contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producers: Kendra Krueger, Jane Palmer

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Gold Lab // National Climate Assessment

For our May 13th show we offer two features:
REVISED_GLS 2014 artwork_borderGold Lab Symposium (starts at 3:42): Biotech entrepreneur Larry Gold, a CU Boulder professor at the BioFrontiers Institute, talks with How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender about the annual Gold Lab Symposium, which will be held in Boulder May 16th and 17th.  This year’s theme is Embracing the Reptile Within: Head, Heart and Healthcare.  The event will focus on research and educational approaches that can potentially help improve the U.S. healthcare system.

NCA_2014U.S. Climate Change Report (starts at 11:50) The National Climate Assessment, a sobering new report on the science and impacts of climate change in the U.S., makes it starkly clear that human-induced climate change is already affecting all parts of the country. It is making water more scarce in some regions while bringing torrential rains elsewhere. It is making heat waves more common and severe, and it’s causing more severe and destructive wildfires. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran talks with two guests: Kristen Averyt, PhD, is a lead author of a chapter on Energy, Water and Land. She is associate director for Science at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at CU Boulder.  Dan Glick is a journalist who helped edit the report. His company, The Story Group, also produced a series of videos that highlight the report’s key findings and how climate change is affecting many people’s lives and livelihoods.

Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

Listen to the show (click below):


2014 Science Stories // Spacecraft Experiments

earth_NASA Earth ObservatoryFor our first show in 2014 we offer two feature interviews:
Feature #1: We continue our conversation from Dec. 31 with science writer and CU professor Tom Yulsman about what “hot” stories 2014 holds in store regarding earth and planetary science, especially climate and weather. Yulsman, who also writes a regular blog for Discover magazine, called Imageo, talks with co-host Susan Moran.



Cygnus_NASAFeature #2: In expectation of the first official cargo flight of the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station, co-host Joel Parker interviews researchers David Klaus and Stefanie Countryman about their respective experiments: a biomedical antibiotic experiment and an educational K-12 experiment involving ant behavior in microgravity. The Cygnus spacecraft is built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, and follows the earlier, successful launch of a Cygnus demo flight on October 22.  The experiments are built by the BioServe Space Technologies Center within the Aerospace Engineering and Sciences Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen

Due to a technical problem at the station, unfortunately, we were not able to save the audio archive of the show. Our apologies. All other shows include the audio file.


Buzz Aldrin’s Vision for Space//The Bees Needs

Buzz Aldrin’s Vision for Space Exploration (starts at 6:14) Dr. Buzz Aldrin advocates that the United States should not enter a space-race to the moon against the Chinese, or a race to Mars against the Russians, but rather show leadership by cooperating with the major space-faring nations to systematically step across the great void to the Red Planet. This is his personal Unified Space Vision. He is also working toward an independent council, a United Strategic Space Enterprise, that would advise American citizens about the nation’s space policy. USSE experts would draw on a deep knowledge of America’s previous successes and failures to present a unified plan of exploration, science, development, commerce, and security within a national foreign policy context. Buzz shared these visions with How On Earth’s Jim Pullen. Here’s an excerpt from his hour-long discussion with Jim. Stay tuned for the rest of his discussion, in which he shares little-known insights into why Apollo 11, not Apollo 12, was first to land humans on the moon, and never-before-shared honors for Neil Armstrong and Pete Conrad.

Bees Needs baby bee block at the KGNU Boulder studios © 2013 Jim Pullen

The Bees Needs (starts at 16:04) Colorado is home to over nine-hundred species of wild bees. Most of these solitary creatures nest in the ground, but others nest in the hollow stalks of plants, and about one hundred and fifty species nest in holes in wood. How are these bees doing? Are pesticides striking them down, like their honeybee cousins? How will they respond to changes in climate? CU scientists Dr. Alex Rose and Dr. Virginia Scott have embarked on a journey of discovery, and they’ve invited ordinary people to help. It’s the Bees Needs, a citizen-science project. How On Earther Jim Pullen is a part of that citizen-science team, and he invited Virgina and Alex to see what’s happening at the bustling bee block nest outside our studio.

Hosts: Jim Pullen and Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional Contributions: Joel Parker and Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Everything died under a broiling sky

Extinction at the K-Pg boundary

Illustration courtesy NASA/JPL

CU professor Doug Robertson and a multidisciplinary team  argue afresh that a global firestorm swept the planet in the hours after a mountain-sized asteroid vaporized above the Yucatan, 66 million years ago. When the blown-out rock missiled back to earth, Robertson says the atmosphere became so hot the whole world burned. Almost every organism above ground and in the air perished. We talk to Dr. Robertson about that terrible day and how some species reemerged. His team just published their research in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.

Host: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Big Waves // Omega 3 Fatty Acids

University of Colorado applied mathematics researchers Mark Ablowitz and Douglas Baldwin stand with photographs of an "x wave" on an Oregon beach.

University of Colorado applied mathematics researchers Mark Ablowitz and Douglas Baldwin with photos of an "X wave" on an Oregon beach.

Big Waves (start time 4:39):  When does one plus one not equal two? When waves behave non-linearly, according to CU researchers Mark Ablowitz and Douglas Baldwin.  The two have been researching how multiple water waves can add together to form a wave with a height much greater than twice the height of either wave. The mathematicians refer to these as X and Y waves, which sounds mathematical but actually just refers to the shape of the wave front as seen looking down on the wave from above. Rather than being rare, these waves are readily observable and may be the reason that some tsunamis are much larger than anticipated.  We spoke yesterday with the pair to find out more about these interesting waves.

Fish Oil Pills (from Wiki Commons)

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (start time 14:49): It’s widely accepted that Omega 3 supplements are good for many things, especially your heart, and that fish oil is high in Omega 3. But earlier this month, Greek researchers made a splash with a meta-analysis that concluded that fish oil supplements do not help your heart. They came to this conclusion even though, in their analysis, people taking fish oil pills or eating fish had 9 percent fewer deaths from heart disease and 11 percent fewer heart attacks than people who don’t. Fans of Omega 3 shot many other harpoons into the study, and we look at one of their most compelling complaints – it’s that the amount of Omega 3 that people’s bodies absorb depends on many things, and the Greek scientists did not examine studies that checked Omega 3 fatty acids levels where they count the most. That’s in people’s blood.  To find out more about why blood levels of Omega 3’s might matter, How On Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with Doug Bibus. Bibus is part of the team that years ago basically discovered Omega 3s. He’s a two-time winner of the American Chemical Society’s Award in Analytical Chemistry.  Bibus says that most Americans have very low levels of Omega 3s, and they’d be healthier if their levels were higher.

Hosts: Beth Bartel, Joel Parker
Beth Bartel
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: 
Susan Moran


The Accelerating Expansion of The Universe // Pine Bark Beetles

The Accelerating Expansion of The Universe (start at 5:11).   Have you ever had the feeling that things are moving faster and faster these days?  Well, maybe it’s not your imagination.  Proof that the universe is not just expanding but is accelerating garnered a Nobel Prize last year.   To help explain what’s going on, we talk to Dr. Adam Riess, a professor of physics and astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University and is a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.   When he was a research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1996 to 1999, Dr. Riess and his colleagues conducted the research that was to win him a share of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.  The citation for the prize stated it was: “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae.”  In today’s show, Dr. Riess translates what that means and the implications about the ultimate fate of the universe.

Pine Bark Beetle - photo by Jeff Mitton

Pine Bark Beetles (start at 19:22).  The tree-killing pine bark beetles used to breed once a year.  Warming annual temperatures now allow them to breed twice, resulting in 60 times more offspring.  Hungry, tree-eating offspring.  University of Colorado biologists Jeff Mitton and Scott Ferrenberg have just published their findings that the doubled-up breeding season explains why the recent pinebark beetle epidemic has killed so many trees.  And it’s not over yet.  How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender talks with the scientists about which trees are the most vulnerable to pinebark beetles.  You also can hear the extended version of that interview.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Beth Bartel
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Headline Contributor: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

Listen to the show:

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