Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Half-Naked ‘Zebra’ to Protest Circus Opening This Week in Chicago

(Courtesy PETA)

Dressed in little more than black-and-white body paint, a PETA supporter on Wednesday will urge passersby to skip performances this month by a circus company with a track record of mistreating animals. 

Chicago Considers ‘Good Food’ Procurement Policy

(Linda N. / Flickr)

Chicago could become the first U.S. city outside of California to adopt a policy requiring it to purchase food from sources that meet a set of health, environmental and fair labor standards.

Brookfield Zoo to Host International Symposium on Animal Welfare

(Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

More than 125 animal welfare experts from around the world will gather in October to share new research and best practices related to caring for animals in zoos and aquariums.

How Does an Aquarium Cut Water Use by 50 Percent in 5 Years?

(© Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez)

Since embarking on a new sustainability initiative, Shedd Aquarium has cut annual water use by more than half, from 60 million gallons in 2012 to 28 million gallons today.

Report: Online Puppy Scams Target Thousands of U.S. Pet Buyers

(George2001hi / Wikipedia)

A Chicago-area man who wanted to buy a dog for his daughter nearly fell victim to a West African-based scheme targeting thousands of hopeful pet owners. What the Better Business Bureau is saying about the scam.

Illinois Tree Climbing Championship Returns to Chicago

(Courtesy Illinois Arborist Association)

More than two dozen of the state’s best tree climbers will face off in challenges this weekend when a little-known event returns to Chicago after a decadeslong hiatus.

Chicago Installs New Mobile Cameras to Catch Illegal Dumpers

Before and after photos show an incidence of illegal dumping in Chicago. (Courtesy of Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation)

Fifteen new high-resolution security cameras will target those who illegally dump old furniture, tires and other waste across the city.

UChicago Study Reveals Tectonic Shift in Chronology of Earth’s History

(Basil Greber / University of Chicago)

A new study suggests that Earth’s tectonic plates began moving 3.5 billion years ago – about half a billion years earlier than previously thought.

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.