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.

Kira Puntenney-Desmond / Colorado State University

In parched states like Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, water is a big issue, especially with growing populations that constantly need more and more. But there’s a big question: How do we accurately forecast the amount of water that will be available any given year? It’s not easy. But some Colorado scientists think they’re onto a possible solution -- inspired by Pokemon.

Patrick Myers / National Parks Service

If it weren’t for the snowy alpine peaks in the background, camels would look perfectly at home in the undulating yellow sand hills of Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

“It’s really a very special place. And it is very unusual. It’s almost like an alien landscape when you happen upon it,” says Vanessa Mazal, who has been visiting the national park since she was a kid and now works with the National Parks Conservation Association.

Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Yiting Zhang / CDC

It began in 2014. Doctors noticed a cluster of mysterious cases in Colorado and Wyoming. Children were coming in with weak and paralyzed limbs. Eventually, 120 patients across the U.S. came in with similar symptoms.

Courtesy of Monica Perez

A fierce debate is taking place across the country right now: What to do about immigrants who came here illegally as children. Up until recently, they qualified for a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects them from deportation. But the Trump administration rescinded that Obama-era rule and Congress is debating what will take its place.  

We talked to three people affected by that debate right here in the Mountain West.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Courtesy of the Amache Preservation Society

In the spring of 1942, official posters went up across the West Coast and Arizona. All people of Japanese ancestry had one week to report to assembly centers. Ultimately, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly imprisoned in internment camps, many of them located in the Mountain West. This week is when we remember those camps and the people who lived in them.

One of them was a 13-year-old boy named Minoru Tonai.

Steele Hill / NASA

The government could be heading into another shutdown Thursday, but some of the places deemed too essential to close are seldom heard of, like this windowless office in Boulder. 

It’s a weather prediction center, but not the usual kind. Instead of talking about snow or rain, these forecasters talk about plumes of molten plasma. The winds they watch travel at a million miles an hour. This office specializes in space weather.

Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management

Across eight western states, voters increasingly consider themselves to be conservationists, according to a poll out Thursday from the Colorado College “State of the Rockies” Project. The survey also found that westerners largely prioritize protection of air, water and wildlife over energy development.

 

Courtesy Julie Comerford

  Black holes tend to get a bad rap, often as giant, cosmic vacuum cleaners sucking up everything in range. But as researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder recently found, they’re actually a lot like toddlers.

CU astrophysicist Julie Comerford says black holes nap after meals. They’re also messy and somewhat picky eaters.

Pages