Rae Ellen Bichell

Mountain West Reporter

As a regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau, I cover stories from northern Colorado that matter to people across the states that touch the Rocky Mountains, with a focus on science and health.

I love public radio because truth is its currency. It provides a voice of reason in an often troubled media landscape.

Before coming to Colorado, I reported from Washington, D.C. and Helsinki, Finland. As a national science reporter with NPR, I covered general science and biomedical research. In the spirit of bringing humanity and humor to sometimes dry topics, I once managed to dig up a recording of NASA astronauts lamenting the presence of biohazards floating through their shuttle.

I spent some time in Finland as a freelance journalist and Fulbright grantee before returning to the U.S. as a 2013 NPR Kroc Fellow. I was part of a reporting team that won NPR a Peabody Award for Ebola virus coverage.

When I’m not reporting, I’m usually reading, playing soccer or blowing raspberries with/at my kiddo.

Julien Chatelain / CC BY-SA 2.0

The question of where chronic wasting disease came from reopened in the spring of 2016.

Roy Andersen was monitoring reindeer in Norway. He’s a research technician with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. On a rare, sunny day, Andersen and his colleagues were doing what they often do in the spring: blasting across a snowy plateau, chasing a herd of about 500 wild reindeer.

Heather Swanson
Rae Ellen Bichell / KUNC

Heather Swanson and Ryan Prioreschi monitor wildlife with the City of Boulder. They're standing in knee-high golden grass on a slope where the Rocky Mountains start slumping into the plains — the epicenter of a now-international animal epidemic. The ecologists have their binoculars out and they’re staring right at the problem.

A fawn is running circles around the rest of the herd, with the boing of a muscular slinky toy.

Ryan Hagerty / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Chronic wasting disease is crippling deer populations in the Mountain West, around the country and in bordering Canadian provinces. It's not a bacterium or a virus or even a fungus, but caused by something called a prion, a type of protein that all mammals have in their bodies.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Forecasters in Colorado are warning of “very destructive” avalanches as heavy snowfall and strong winds are expected Wednesday.

Avalanches have already buried cars, killed skiers and left chunks of forest scattered across highways —  even dangling from power lines — in what’s considered a historic avalanche season. But Colorado isn’t alone.

Antonio Grosz / Unsplash

A study in the medical journal BMJ found a strong association between the strength of a state’s gun laws and its rate of mass shootings.

Paul Reeping is an epidemiologist with Columbia University and first author on the paper. He says researchers had already looked at the relationship between gun laws and outcomes like suicide or homicide.

Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. / Flickr

A report out Monday from environmental groups looked at groundwater contamination from coal-fired power plants. Three of the worst sites are located in the Mountain West.

Coal ash is the solid waste leftover when you burn coal. It often gets mixed with water and washed into a pit — an ash pond. If the base of a pond isn’t properly sealed, pollutants in the mix can make their way into groundwater.

Brewtography Project

The closest that Travis Rupp came to getting fired, he says, was the time he tried to make chicha. The recipe for the Peruvian corn-based beer, cobbled together from bits of pre-Incan archaeological evidence, called for chewed corn partially fermented in spit. So, Rupp’s first task had been to convince his colleagues to gather round a bucket and offer up their chompers for the cause.

Dr. Partha Sarathi Sahana / Flickr

Updated at 1:55 p.m., Feb. 26, 2019:

As a measles outbreak continues in Washington state, a congressional hearing Wednesday will discuss the preventable disease, now considered to be a “growing public health threat.”

Several states are considering legislation to encourage higher rates of childhood vaccines. The response in our region is mixed.

David A Mitchell / CC BY 2.0

Researchers studying wild black bears have found that eating human food could have a deep impact on the animals’ bodies.

Ecologists tracked 30 wild black bears around Durango, Colorado over a few summers and winters. They also tested their hair and blood.

They found that bears that foraged more on human food hibernated for shorter periods of time.

Jorge Gonzalez

Paleontologists have found a new species of tyrannosaur based on fossils in Emery County, Utah.

Lindsay Zanno found the fossilized leg bone sticking out of a grey hill in a part of Utah where landmarks get names like "Cliffs of Insanity" and "Suicide Hill."

Pages