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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Solar Eclipse 2017: ‘Business as Usual’ for Animals at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

About a dozen different species were under close watch during the event as scientists looked for any changes in behavior. 

Photos: Visitors (and Animals) Take in Solar Eclipse at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Animal behavior experts noticed the biggest change in one particular species during Monday’s eclipse: humans. 

Solar Eclipse Offers Unique Lens for Studying Animal Behavior

(Peter Roome / Flickr)

Like scientists across the country, Lincoln Park Zoo’s animal experts will spend Monday’s solar eclipse carefully observing the zoo’s residents for changes in behavior.

S.H. Bell Must ‘Reduce or Eliminate’ Manganese Emissions, Says City

A Chicago company has until Sept. 6 to submit a plan for reducing brain-damaging manganese dust that has been found nearby in a primarily low-income, minority neighborhood on the Southeast Side.

Solar Eclipse 2017: How to Safely Watch the Eclipse

(Courtesy of National Park Service)

What can happen if you look at the sun for too long, even if it’s partially or almost fully blocked? We speak to an ophthalmologist about how to safely watch the eclipse.

Solar Eclipse Buzz Good Sign for Science in US, DePaul Expert Says

(Neal Herbert / National Park Service)

Participating in the eclipse is a way for “people to demonstrate that they want to understand the world scientifically,” DePaul sociologist Roberta Garner says. 

New Group to Promote Humane Farming, Expose Animal Cruelty in Illinois

(Humane Society of the United States / Creative Commons)

Illinois farmers and animal welfare experts say they will promote farms where animals are raised humanely, following a Chicago Tribune investigation last year on the state’s biggest pork companies.

Cook County Jail Expands Family Planning, Birth Control Services

Most women in U.S. prisons and jails lack access to birth control. But for many of these women, incarceration is not the only obstacle to such care. A new program in Chicago is trying to change the trend.

Circus Elephants to Take Final Bow in Illinois

(Nazim Uddin / Flickr)

Illinois will become the first state to ban the use of elephants in circuses and other traveling exhibitions, putting an official end to a practice that animal rights activists have been protesting for decades.

3 Critically Endangered ‘Diving Duck’ Chicks Hatch at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Chris Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

The zoo’s newest residents are being hand-reared by keepers, and scientists will analyze their genetics as part of an international species survival plan.

Advocates Blast Ameren for Bucking Illinois Energy Savings Target

(Ameren Illinois / Facebook)

Residents in central and southern Illinois will pay nearly 30 percent more on utility bills than projected if Ameren is allowed to lower its energy savings target, environmental and consumer advocates said Wednesday.

Baby Monkey Born on Fourth of July at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Zingo, the first black-crested mangabey born at the zoo, has light-colored skin that will darken over time. 

EPA Cites S.H. Bell for ‘Excessive Manganese Emissions’ in Chicago

The bulk storage operator on Chicago’s Southeast Side has exceeded a federal threshold for emissions of toxic manganese dust, according to new air monitoring data published by the EPA.

Chicago Expands Investigation of Manganese Sources on Southeast Side

The city will monitor soil and air pollution near residents’ homes and begin increased inspections of industrial sites. 

Chicago Health Department Examines Rust-Colored Stains Linked to Manganese

An overhead photo of S.H. Bell's Chicago facility appears to show rust-colored stains from manganese handled by the company. (Google Maps)

A Chicago neighborhood once permeated with black dust from uncovered piles of petroleum coke now faces another toxic pollutant, but one that is not as visible or widespread.

ZooBrew Set For Aug. 25-26 at Brookfield Zoo

(Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

Sample more than 80 beers while taking in the zoo’s wildlife and nature at the sixth annual event.

A Day After Lawsuit, EPA’s Pruitt Backtracks on Delaying Pollution Rules

(Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said he does not believe in “regulation through litigation,” but his stance appears to be subject to change.

2 Plains Zebras Debut at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Lincoln Park Zoo)

The young males belong to a highly social zebra species and will eventually share a habitat with the zoo’s giraffes. 

Toxic Metals Study Examines Kids’ Toenails on Chicago’s Southeast Side

Chicago researchers are looking for lead, manganese and other metals that could affect lung function in children with asthma. 

Durbin to CDC: Investigate Manganese Risks on Chicago’s Southeast Side

The Illinois senator is calling on federal environmental and public health regulators to conduct a new assessment of toxic pollutants in one of the city’s most industrialized areas.

Cash for Carbon: Paying People to Conserve Trees Works, Study Finds

A first-of-its-kind study shows that giving people a financial incentive to save trees is an effective strategy for fighting climate change.

Shedd Researchers: Shark Eats Fishing Spear, Pushes it Out Through Skin

(© Joanne Fraser)

Just in time for “Shark Week,” researchers published a study this month that highlights the unique recovery capabilities of sharks.

Adler Astronomer Discovers Previously Invisible Star Formations


A team led by Adler Planetarium astronomer Grace Wolf-Chase used a telescope instrument to discover infrared light undetectable to the human eye, revealing new stars in the Milky Way. 

Shedd Unveils 1,600-Pound Seahorse Sculpture Made From Ocean Garbage

(©Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez)

Stella the Seahorse is the first of 19 marine animal sculptures made from plastic debris on display at Shedd Aquarium. 

Behind the Scenes at Lincoln Park Zoo’s New Penguin Encounter

Aje, a 2-year-old male penguin at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo)

For the first time, Lincoln Park Zoo is offering visitors a chance to get up close and personal with their African penguins. We meet three waddling, webbed-feet bachelors.