Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

‘I Lost My Wedding Ring’ and Other Stories of Chicago’s Accidental Trash

From lost jewelry to criminal evidence, a Pontiac landfill that receives trash from Chicago has plenty of bizarre waste stories. 

Chicago’s Trash Doesn’t Go to Waste at Pontiac Landfill

About 5,000 tons of trash from the Chicago area is dumped every day at a landfill in Livingston County, but hardly any of it goes to waste. How yesterday’s trash becomes tomorrow’s energy.

Recruiting America’s Future Hackers – On Chicago’s West Side

Students participate in the U.S. CyberPatriots competition, sponsored by the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Association. (U.S. Air Force)

Can a collectible card game teach cybersecurity skills to middle school students? A UIC professor wants to get young people excited about computer science and interested in high-demand, high-paying careers.

Piglets Born to American Guinea Hog at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo)

For the first time in two years, Lincoln Park Zoo welcomed the birth of piglets. Visitors can see the seven baby pigs, along with their mother, at the Farm-in-the-Zoo exhibit.

Chicago Restaurants Ditch Disposable Straws for a Day to Cut Plastic Waste

Americans use an estimated 500 million straws each day, but a Shedd Aquarium initiative is trying to put a dent in that figure. Last week, nearly two dozen restaurants joined the effort.

Giraffes Wear ‘FitBits’ to Measure Activity Rates at Brookfield Zoo

(Courtesy of Brookfield Zoo)

Customized activity monitoring devices are helping Brookfield Zoo staff study sleeping patterns and other behaviors in giraffes. 

CPS Chemistry Students to Study Toxic Metals, Environmental Racism

(Creative Commons /  © 2013, Jeremy Atherton)

A new $450,000 federal grant program partners CPS students with university professors to study the impact of toxic metals on Chicago neighborhoods. 

Adler’s Zooniverse Project Wants Your Help Finding New Baby Galaxies

(Courtesy of University of Oxford)

Citizen scientists can help researchers discover new distant galaxies as part of the Adler-led Zooniverse project. 

Chicago Park District Eyes Record for World’s Largest Swimming Lesson

Chicago swimmers are invited to participate in an international event this month that highlights the role of swim lessons in preventing drowning.

Chicago Fights Summer ‘Brain Drain’ With Superhero Science

With the end of the school year just weeks away, the Museum of Science and Industry is calling on Chicago’s “kid superheroes” to unite and defeat summer’s top villain: the “evil Dr. Brain Drain.”

Chicago Among 211 Cities Pledging to Uphold Paris Climate Agreement

(Courtesy of Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda)

Chicago, Pittsburgh and dozens of other U.S. cities are standing by Paris despite President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that he will withdraw the U.S. from the landmark climate change agreement.

Shedd Aquarium Team Cares for Abandoned Sea Otter Pup in Alaska

Shedd Aquarium's Animal Response Team has been assisting with the rehabilitation of an orphaned sea otter pup in Seward, Alaska. (©Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez)

On a mission from Chicago, two Shedd Aquarium staffers have been providing around-the-clock care for a sea otter pup rescued in Alaska. 

Chicago Reaction to Trump Withdrawing US From Paris Climate Agreement

Chicago elected officials and environmental leaders react to President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. 

Chicago Brauhaus Owner to Tap Keg at Lincoln Square’s Maifest

Maifest, a traditional German festival to usher in spring, kicks off Thursday in Lincoln Square. 

‘Stingray Touch’ Opens at Shedd Aquarium

(Courtesy of Shedd Aquarium)

Visitors to Shedd Aquarium’s seasonal exhibit can dip their hands into a pool and discover the texture of this unique sea creature. 

Okapi Calf Born at Brookfield Zoo

An okapi calf was born May 16 at Brookfield Zoo. (Chicago Zoological Society)

The striped “forest giraffe” is the 28th okapi to be born at the suburban zoo since 1959, when it became the first zoo in North America to have a birth of the species.

Lake Michigan’s First Floating Water Park to Open in Mid-June

Officials in Whiting, Indiana, think their city is about to become a whole lot more popular.

Chicago Earns 4 of 5 ‘Park Benches’ in Ranking of Urban Park Systems

Chicago didn’t quite crack the top 10, but the city did receive four out of five “park benches” and moved up to No. 11 in the latest ranking of park systems in the nation’s 100 biggest cities.

UIC Expands Rapid Water Testing at Chicago Beaches

(Flickr / Eric Allix Rogers)

Same-day water testing conducted at UIC's School of Public Health will give Chicagoans more timely alerts about water quality at their favorite beaches this summer. 

Brookfield Zoo Welcomes the Pangolin, World’s Most Trafficked Animal

For the first time, Brookfield Zoo is exhibiting a pangolin, a rare animal native to Africa and Asia. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

For the first time, Brookfield Zoo is exhibiting a pangolin, a rare animal native to Africa and Asia.

Illinois Agency Awarded Controversial Counter-Extremism Grant

(U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

A state criminal justice agency was awarded nearly $200,000 in grant funding as part of a federal initiative to prevent ideologically motivated violence, but critics say the program discriminates against Muslims.

Agency Awarded $200K Grant Without Approval from ‘Partner’ Organizations

An Illinois criminal justice agency secured a nearly $200,000 counter-extremism grant without approval from several “partner” organizations listed in its grant application. 

Legislator: Bill Would Trigger $2.2B in Illinois Wind Energy Projects

(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science)

Tweaking Illinois' landmark energy bill would trigger more than $2 billion in wind farm construction, a state senator says. 

Study: Chicago’s Forests Threatened by Climate Change

(Flickr / Laura Marie)

A first-of-its-kind study shows that forests in Chicago face significant threats from climate change, with native trees especially vulnerable to increases in temperature, precipitation and other changes.

Bill Aims to Overhaul Illinois’ Electronic Recycling Program

(Monterey Regional Waste Management District)

Legislation proposed this week in the Illinois Senate would require electronics manufacturers to pay for permanent recycling drop-off sites set up by counties.