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.

Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau

Protesters dressed as swamp creatures kayaked down a river while others marched along a bike path, past private tennis courts and swanky swimming pools outside the hotel where governors met with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

“My shirt says keep your oily hands off of Colorado's public lands,” says Chelsea Stencel, who was among the protesters. “David Bernhardt, the ultimate swamp monster.”

Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau

This post was updated May 28, 2019 at 9:15 p.m. to include the leastest outbreak numbers and an additional infographic.

Measles have reached the highest numbers in 25 years, with more than 900 cases reported so far to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Mountain West is especially vulnerable. According to CDC data, too few kindergartners in our region are fully vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella. One Colorado family took that to heart — and then things got personal.

Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau

There’s evidence that bee and butterfly populations are in decline, a phenomenon that some have dubbed the “insect apocalypse.” In response, the Colorado Department of Transportation has brought in a bug expert.

About 3.8 million babies were born in the U.S. last year. That’s the lowest annual production of babies since 1986, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same time, fertility rates have hit record lows.

Tony Webster/CC BY-SA 2.0

Colorado lawmakers passed a bipartisan bill giving patients more protection from a practice called “surprise medical billing,” or “balance billing.” Now, it’s headed to the governor’s desk.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This story was updated May 3, 2019 at 3:40 p.m.

Measles cases have reached a 19-year high in the U.S., but a bill in Colorado aimed at improving childhood vaccination rates didn’t succeed. It didn’t really fail, either. It just got mired in super-long hearings, pushback from the governor and, ultimately, a legislative schedule that ran out of time before the bill could reach the Senate.

“I’m still today trying to figure out exactly what happened,” says Rep. Kyle Mullica, who sponsored the bill.

Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau

Back in March, Zayd Atkinson was picking up trash outside his dorm at Naropa University in Boulder when a group of police officers confronted him, apparently refusing to believe that he lived there.

Courtesy of Tim Korpita

There’s a fungus wiping out a special kind of toad that lives in the Rocky Mountains, but scientists may have a solution: a probiotic skin soak.

The boreal toad is a tough little animal, with a lifespan longer than a decade, about half of which is spent buried underneath a thick layer of snow high up in the mountains.

“They’re really impressive little guys,” says Tim Korpeta, a graduate student in biology at the University of Colorado Boulder who has recently embodied another title: toad-bather.

An organization called ‘500 Women Scientists’ got its start in the Mountain West. Now, it has gone global with a database of experts who are also women.

It all started when members of the group noticed a pattern: an overabundance of something they call ‘manels.’

“They are all-male panels,” says Liz McCullagh, a neuroscientist at the University of Colorado and a member of 500 Women Scientists. “And in particular in fields where we know there’s a lot of representation of women, it’s incredibly frustrating.”

Elk and bison
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Michael Osterholm is worried. He directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He's also serving a one-year stint as a "Science Envoy for Health Security" with the State Department. And he told Minnesota lawmakers that when it comes to chronic wasting disease, we are playing with fire.

Pages