Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Photos: Shedd Debuts Giant Sea Life Sculptures Made From Ocean Trash

Sea creatures made from flip-flops, beach toys, water bottles and other plastic garbage that washed ashore are part of a new exhibit illuminating the proliferation of pollution in the world’s waterways.

Brookfield Zoo to Unveil Statue of Beloved Cookie the Cockatoo

(Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

The colorful bird who lived to the ripe old age of 83 had a global fan base and seemed to enjoy being the center of attention. A year after his death, Brookfield Zoo is set to unveil a statue in his honor.

Why a Chicago Building Appears to be Cracked Like a Melting Iceberg

(Joel Wintermantle / University of Chicago)

A public art installation along the Chicago River aims to bring the realities of climate change in Antarctica to Chicago. 

How to Help Birds Migrate Safely Through Chicago

(Joseph Mietus / Flickr)

Thousands of birds are killed or seriously injured each year in Chicago after colliding with buildings because they fail to see reflective or transparent surfaces. Here’s what you can do to help.

Illinois to Participate in ‘The Great ShakeOut’ Earthquake Drill

(Courtesy Southern California Earthquake Center)

More than 300,000 people across the state are registered for a worldwide earthquake drill next month that encourages participants to drop, cover and hold – actions that could help you survive a quake.

New Law Requires Illinois to Track Food Deserts

 (Zol87 / Creative Commons)

Research shows that hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans live in food deserts. According to a 2006 report, most of those in Chicago were made up entirely of African-American residents. 

Chicago Says It Has Met 40 Percent of Paris Climate Agreement Goals

(Courtesy Chicago Mayor's Office)

A new analysis of citywide carbon emissions data shows that Chicago is 40 percent of the way to meeting emission reduction targets set under the Paris climate deal. 

Octopuses Might Not Be Loners, Study Shows

(Albert Kok / Wikimedia Commons)

While little is known about the typically solitary lives of octopuses, new evidence out of Australia suggests that octopuses can congregate and socialize under the right conditions.

Preckwinkle, Other Officials to Jump In Chicago River on Saturday

Ping Tom Memorial Park at the Chicago River (Courtesy Metropolitan Planning Council)

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and about a dozen other elected officials will take part in a fundraiser aimed at boosting efforts to improve the quality of the river’s water.

Meet the Women Behind Chicago’s New Women in Science Conference

From left: Marie Curie, Christina Ciecierski and Julie Des Jardins (Courtesy Northeastern Illinois University)

Honoring the 150th anniversary of the birth of physicist Marie Curie and its own 150th anniversary, Northeastern Illinois University this month hosts a conference celebrating women’s contributions to science. Find out what’s on tap.

Crossbow Hunting Allowed in Illinois Under New Law

(Kansas Tourism / Flickr)

Starting Oct. 1, crossbows can be used to hunt deer and turkey in Illinois thanks to a state law signed last week.

Honeybees Could Produce the Next New Antibiotics, Study Says

A compound made by honeybees could become the basis for the first new antibiotics in more than 30 years, according to UIC researchers. 

Illinois OKs Ameren Plan to Lower Energy Savings Target

(Ameren Illinois / Facebook)

State regulators signed off Monday on an energy savings plan that consumer advocates say could cost downstate residents nearly 30 percent in savings on utility bills.

2-Toed Sloth Luigi Joins Mario, a Monkey, at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Jill Wagner / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Luigi, a 1-year-old Hoffman’s two-toed sloth, is getting settled alongside his new primate neighbors in a mixed-species exhibit.

Chicago Park District Gets $900K for Big Marsh Upgrades

(Friends of Big Marsh / Facebook)

Grant funding will be used to restore wetlands and improve water flow at a 278-acre park that opened last year at a former industrial site on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

Company Approved for Fracking Has Recent Violations in Illinois

(Tim Evanson / Flickr)

A Kansas company that last week won approval of Illinois’ first horizontal fracking permit has been cited with more than two dozen violations in multiple states, records show.

S.H. Bell Gets Deadline Extension for Manganese Dust-Control Plan

(Google Maps)

Chicago public health officials have given the Southeast Side company an additional week to come up with an improved plan for reducing emissions of manganese dust.

Turning Trash into Fuel Reduces Need for Landfills, Study Finds

(Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Instead of dumping it in landfills, organic waste could be used to power cars, heat homes and potentially reduce the need for new landfills in the U.S., according to research by Argonne National Laboratory.

Fracking Permit is First to Be Approved in Illinois

Despite more than 5,000 public comments opposing the permit, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources this week approved an application for the controversial oil-drilling practice.

Argonne Teams to Compete in ‘Shark Tank’ for Scientists

(Mark Lopez / Argonne National Laboratory)

New technologies that could change the way we live and work will be on display this month during a reality TV-inspired competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Photos: World’s Largest Dinosaur Coming to Field Museum

(Courtesy of The Field Museum)

Chicago’s iconic T. rex Sue will get a makeover when the largest dinosaur ever discovered comes to town. Stretching 122 feet from snout to tail, the titanosaur is longer than two accordion CTA buses end to end.

Solar House Built in Chicago Heads to Energy Competition in Denver

(Monika Wnuk / Northwestern  University)

Northwestern University students spent more than a year designing and building a fully solar-powered home that will soon be part of an international competition organized by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Judge: Illinois Should Deny Ameren Bid to Trim Energy Savings Target

(Ameren Illinois / Facebook)

The Illinois Commerce Commission has until mid-September to rule on a downstate utility provider’s energy efficiency plan, which consumer advocates say would cost residents nearly 30 percent in savings on utility bills and jeopardize 7,000 jobs.

PETA Activist From Chicago Wears Lettuce Bikini on Streets of Europe

(Dmitry Korotkov / PETA)

As part of PETA’s eye-catching “Lettuce Ladies” campaign, South Elgin native Mysti Lee travels the globe promoting animal rights. 

Shedd’s New Alligator Snapping Turtle Debuts After Passing Physical

(Heidi Zeiger / © Shedd Aquarium)

Dante, a 30-pound alligator snapping turtle, made his public debut after passing a routine physical exam, which was actually quite similar to a human checkup.