Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Brookfield Zoo Addresses Ethics of Animal Captivity

(Brookfield Zoo / Chicago Zoological Society)

The ethical debate over zoos – and whether animals belong in them – has resurfaced over the past year, and now Brookfield Zoo is joining the discussion.

Chicago Lawmaker Proposes Urban Agriculture Zones

(Linda from Chicago / Creative Commons)

“The whole idea is to use our vacant land as a way to adjust the issue of food access by encouraging urban farms and community gardens in certain areas,” said state Rep. Sonya Harper.

Report: Candy-Flavored Tobacco Hooks New Generation of Kids

(Diedra Laird, MCT Campus)

Candy-flavored e-cigarettes and other sweetened tobacco products threaten to create a new generation of addicted users, warns a new report by five prominent public health organizations.

Illinois Lawmaker Wants to Protect Animals from Lead Poisoning


A state senator has proposed legislation that would partially ban the use of lead-based ammunition, but one gun rights group is calling the bill “a blatant attack” on the rights of hunters.

Donors Hear Extinction Stories at Shedd Conservation Event

Western pond turtle (Courtesy of Yosemite National Park)

The tale of the Western pond turtle was one of several success stories shared with donors Monday evening at a Shedd Aquarium event focused on conservation efforts nationwide. 

EPA Cuts ‘Matter of Life and Death’ for Chicago Communities

Experts say proposed cuts to the EPA would affect Chicago communities already impacted by pollution and other environmental threats. (Creative Commons /  © 2013, Jeremy Atherton)

Cuts to the EPA’s budget would affect a disproportionate number of minority and low-income residents in Chicago, experts say. 

Chicago to Investigate Manganese Sources

Chicago's Department of Public Health plans to investigate manganese sources throughout the city. 

Dragged Behind a Boat, Shedd Team Searches for Queen Conch in Bahamas

(© Shedd Aquarium / Sam Cejtin)

Shedd Aquarium researchers are studying queen conch populations in the Bahamas to understand the decline of the popular snail in the Caribbean. 

Illinois Eyes Expanded Trade With Cuba

(Kevin Dooley / Flickr)

Advocates for Illinois’ agriculture industry anticipate new export opportunities if the U.S. relaxes trade barriers with Cuba. 

New Sponge Can Soak Up 90 Times its Own Weight in Oil

(Argonne National Laboratory)

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have invented a new sponge that can absorb oil from water and then be wrung out and reused, a potentially game-changing tool for dealing with oil spills.

Neurologist: Manganese Exposure Limits Not Adequate

Manganese is one of the materials processed at a refinery in Worsley, Australia. (Courtesy of South32)

Federal limits for exposure to manganese might not be adequate to protect public health, says a Washington University neurologist. 

Alderwoman: More Info Needed to Evaluate Chicago Manganese Ban

Several advocacy groups are calling on Chicago to ban storage of materials containing manganese in residential areas following a 2016 study that revealed potentially harmful levels of manganese dust on the city’s Southeast Side.

Chicago Rejects Company’s Plan to Control Manganese Dust

A company on Chicago’s Southeast Side has 30 days to submit a revised plan to control the release of manganese dust, according to the city’s Department of Public Health.

Chicago Facility Linked to Manganese Meets Air-Monitor Deadline

A company under pressure from the EPA over potentially harmful emissions of manganese dust has met the agency’s March 1 deadline for installing air monitors at its Chicago facility.

Chicago Pushes Charging Stations as Electric Car Sales Rise in Illinois

(Janitors / Creative Commons)

Chicago is offering grant funding to cover up to 30 percent of equipment and installation costs for new direct current fast-charging stations, which can charge electric vehicles in 20 to 30 minutes. 

Bill Would Allow Illinois Farmers to Grow Industrial Hemp

(kat_geb / Flickr)

At least 16 states have legalized industrial hemp production for commercial purposes. Could Illinois be next?

Despite ‘Activist Fatigue,’ Chicago Community Addresses Manganese

Part 3 of our series examining pollution on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side

S.H. Bell’s South Avenue O Terminal in Chicago (Chicago Tonight)

A group of Southeast Side residents and activists met Tuesday night to formulate a plan for confronting the latest threat of pollution in one of Chicago’s most industrialized areas.

Shedd Staff Help Rescue Endangered Penguin Chicks in South Africa

(Shedd Aquarium)

For the fifth year, members of Shedd Aquarium's Animal Response Team participated in a rescue mission of endangered penguin chicks in South Africa. Learn about their work.

‘Public Health Hazard’ in Ohio Has Chicago Community Concerned

Part 2 of our series examining pollution on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side

The carefully documented history of manganese emissions in a small Ohio city serves as a warning for those concerned about newly discovered manganese concentrations on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side.

S.H. Bell: We’re Not Sole Manganese Source on Chicago’s Southeast Side

S.H. Bell Co., a company linked to potential manganese pollution on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side, said Thursday it is not the sole emitter of manganese dust in the area. 

After Petcoke, Community Confronts More Dangerous Pollutant: Manganese

Part 1 of our series examining pollution on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side

(Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

For decades, residents on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side lived with clouds of black dust from nearby industrial sites. Now, the community faces a more dangerous pollutant: manganese. 

EPA Staff Rally in Chicago, Protest Trump’s Nomination to Head Agency

(Courtesy of the Sierra Club)

Several dozen employees based in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chicago office joined a downtown rally Monday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump’s nomination to lead the agency.

Meteor Lights Up Skies Above Chicago, Midwest

(Lisle Police Department)

A bright meteor streaked across skies in Chicago and the Midwest at about 1:30 a.m. Monday. 

Chicago-Based Climate Change Skeptics Eager for Trump to Reset ‘Fake Science’

Heartland Institute President and CEO Joseph Bast (Courtesy of Heartland Institute)

With an expected audience of officials appointed by President Donald Trump, the Heartland Institute hopes to reset U.S. climate policy, which is also the theme for its upcoming International Conference on Climate Change.

Buy Toys for Animals from Lincoln Park Zoo’s Enrichment ‘Wish List’

(Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Siku the polar bear wants a floating stone. Bella the baby guerilla wants carrots. The holiday season has passed, but Chicago zoo animals are still hoping for gifts.