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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

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.

3 Singing Red-and-Yellow Barbets Debut at Lincoln Park Zoo

(Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo)

A trio of newly arrived birds is making noise – lots of it – inside Lincoln Park Zoo’s Dry Thorn Forest exhibit.

Bacterial Disease Kills 50 Ducks in Chicago River

A duck found dead in the Chicago River. (Courtesy of Friends of the Chicago River)

Dozens of mallards have been found dead over the past month in multiple locations along the Chicago River, marking what one expert says is the largest occurrence of birds dying in the river in decades.

UChicago Scientists Track First X-Rays From Mysterious Supernovas

Vikram Dwarkadas, research associate professor in UChicago's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics (Jean Lachat / University of Chicago)

A discovery by Chicago scientists could lead to new understanding about the largest explosions in outer space. 

Chicago Group Opposing Neo-Nazis Planned to Target Jihadists, Too

(Mark Dixon / Flickr)

A group cited for its efforts to thwart white supremacists has plans to counter Islamist extremists. But after the Trump administration revoked a $400,000 grant to Life After Hate, those plans may be on hold.

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.