Science news

Sean Coburn

In 2015, a storage facility near Los Angeles experienced a blowout. More than 10,000 tons of natural gas was released. . For responders, that created a problem. Natural gas is invisible and tracking just when the gas was dissipating and where it was going proved to be a challenge. The incident inspired a team of researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder to make that process easier.

USDA Scientists Told Not To Publicly Share Their Work

Jan 24, 2017
Grace Hood / KUNC

Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s main research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), received an email from the division’s chief of staff ordering them to stop publicizing their work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” the email from Sharon Drumm reads, in part. “This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content.”

The agency operates a handful of research sites in Fort Collins, Colorado, including a seed vault on the campus of Colorado State University, and a crop research laboratory.

Luke Runyon / KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Americans waste a staggering amount of food. Instead of letting it rot and wreck the environment, some entrepreneurs want to put it to work feeding insects, and see the potential to revolutionize how we feed some of the livestock that provide us our meat.

Phil Taylor’s enthusiasm for insects is infectious. The University of Colorado Boulder research ecologist beams as he weaves through a small greenhouse in rural Boulder County, Colorado. A room about the size of a shipping container sits inside.

It's a breeding chamber, Taylor says. “I hesitate to say it, but it’s called ‘the brothel.’”

David Steinmann

Native American legends spoke of a gateway to the underworld, with noxious clouds of steam spewing from the Earth. Humans would pass out in a few minutes if they enter the cave because of the lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Located on the side of Steamboat Springs' Howelsen Hill, the ancient cave was formed by hot spring water flowing through the travertine rock.

This dark, slimy, stinky site -- Sulphur Cave Spring -- is also the only place in the world a new species of tiny worms have been found.

Courtesy of Colorado State University

Colorado State University researchers are working on finding new ways to measure air quality. To help pilot a new wearable air quality monitor, they’ve turned to people like Katherine Steger. The thing is, Steger is a fifth-grader.

“Eventually the hissing noise it would make when it would suck in the air became kind of soothing to me, helped me go to sleep at night, it really sort of helped me,” she told a CSU asthma researcher in a focus group at the end of the study. “I didn’t notice it was there.”

Steger and her classmates at Fort Collins’ Rivendell Elementary helped Dr. John Volckens and his team test the what’s called the Automated Microenvironmental Air Sampler.

courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

With warm weather approaching, many scientific and conservation organizations in Northern Colorado are appealing to volunteers to help with data collection. While aiding in important research is the goal, summer fun is also a bonus.

Here Are 6 Things To Know About The Latest GMO Science

May 17, 2016
Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Genetically-engineered crops are generally safe to eat, but in the 20 years since the first commercial GMO crops hit the market, they haven’t delivered on all their promises, according to a new analysis from a National Academy of Sciences panel.

For more than two decades genetically-engineered crops -- plants in which scientists have transferred genes among species to achieve new traits like herbicide tolerance or insecticide -- have been lightning rods in food discussions.

Perhaps the report’s greatest charge to its readers: avoid sweeping generalizations about GMOs, which can paint a broad swath of plant varieties considered to be “GMO” as either good or evil, panacea or scourge, savior or destructor.

Curious About A Cow's Feelings? Listen To Her Moo

May 11, 2016
Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

We all learned it as kids: Old MacDonald has a farm and on that farm he has a cow that says “moo.” But why? Why do cows moo?

Whenever I’m out reporting in the field I can tell many ranchers have a powerful connection with their cattle – they can almost understand them. But researchers today are trying to figure out exactly what cows are saying.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

The costs of wind and solar power have fallen dramatically in recent years. Still, renewables only account for a fraction of the energy produced in the United States.

That's one of the challenges facing the new director of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado. Dr. Martin Keller, who took over following the retirement of Dan Arvizu in late 2015, describes NREL's mission -- acting as the nation's premier renewable energy research laboratory -- as one of filling in the gaps in science and technology.

H.A. Weaver et al / published in Science.

Standing in a hallway decorated with images of planets and other space objects, John Spencer is looking at a high resolution photo of Pluto hanging in front of him. It’s striking, a mostly gray sphere with dark maroon and golden hues. Spencer, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute’s who works out of their Boulder office, points out features.

"The North Pole is up here. This area up here is a vast plain of frozen nitrogen."

It’s hard to believe, but until July 2015, scientists like Spencer had almost no idea what Pluto looked like. That’s when the New Horizons spacecraft zoomed by the dwarf planet, capturing images and data that led to a vast reimagining of Pluto. Now, he and others are sharing what they’ve learned.