Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Adler Event Explores the Question, ‘Are We Alone in the Universe?’

An artist’s impression of what the surface of the planet Proxima b might look like. (M. Kornmesser / European Southern Observatory)

Viewers on four continents will watch a virtual presentation hosted by Adler Planetarium in early November to learn about the possibility of life on other planets.

Baby Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Debuts at Brookfield Zoo

(Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

One of Brookfield Zoo’s newest tenants recently emerged from her mom’s pouch and can now be seen at the zoo’s Australia House.  

Durbin Co-Sponsors Bill to Bolster Environmental Justice Efforts

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is among a handful of legislators behind a bill that would strengthen legal protections for communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and other environmental threats.

Obama Science Adviser: ‘Do Not Be Intimidated, Speak Truth to Power’

(Bonnie Robinson / Illinois Institute of Technology)

Scientists should respond to a “political climate of opposition to facts” by speaking out about their work, said John P. Holdren during a recent lecture on climate change at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Dramatic Recovery of Illinois Sport Fish Traced to Clean Water Act

(Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons)

The remarkable comeback of 13 sport fish species in the Illinois River began just after implementation of the Clean Water Act, according to a new study by the Illinois Natural History Survey. 

Zoos Celebrate International Sloth Day

(Jill Wagner / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Did you know it’s International Sloth Day? We check in with one of Lincoln Park Zoo’s experts to learn about these furry, slow-moving animals. 

Study: 68,000 Illinois Residents Use Well Water High in Arsenic

More than 2 million Americans, including nearly 68,000 in Illinois, get water from wells with high levels of toxic arsenic, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Virtual Reality Submarine to Set Sail at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo's upcoming Sea Explorer 5-D lets visitors "dive" into the ocean in a virtual submarine. (Courtesy Attraktion!)

A new experience coming this fall to Lincoln Park Zoo will allow visitors “dive” into the ocean and explore landscapes and wildlife at the North and South Poles or in deep ocean waters. 

Astronomers Detect Colliding Neutron Stars in Historic Observation

| Paul Caine
A NASA animation shows the pending collision of two neutron stars. (NASA)

An international team that includes Chicago astronomers recently observed the collision of two high-density neutron stars, a historic discovery that confirms decades of scientific work. 

Young Angler Catches Rare American Eel at Chicago River Fishing Event

Hundreds of anglers participate in the #ChicagoFishes event Oct. 13 to celebrate decades of cleanup efforts to the Chicago River. (© Shedd Aquarium)

An American eel caught by a 5-year-old angler last week is possibly the first such eel ever recorded in the Chicago River, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

UChicago Poll: Most Americans Want Government to Address Climate Change

| Marc Vitali
(Daniel Dionne / Flickr)

A new poll on climate and energy reveals surprising attitudes from Americans. We talk with the leader of the University of Chicago study group.

Obama Science Adviser to Give Lecture on Climate Change

Former President Barack Obama with Science and Technology Adviser John P. Holdren (U.S. National Archives)

President Barack Obama’s science and technology adviser will deliver a lecture on climate change this week in Chicago. John P. Holdren was the longest-serving science adviser in the history of the position. 

Rare Herons Thriving But Keep Falling Out of Their Nests, Zoo Says

Black-crowned night herons average about 2 feet in length and weigh nearly 2 pounds. (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

The black-crowned night heron is one of the rarest birds in Illinois. Lincoln Park Zoo now hosts a colony of more than 600 herons, but things have getting a bit crowded. 

Tough Road Ahead for 4-Week-Old Beluga Whale Rescued in Alaska

(Courtesy ©Alaska SeaLife Center)

Shedd Aquarium experts are among those caring for a whale calf rescued Sept. 30 in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The calf belongs to a critically endangered population of beluga whales.

Group Plans to Sue EPA’s Pruitt Over East Chicago Coke Plant

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks April 19 after meeting with residents of East Chicago’s lead-contaminated neighborhoods. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Since 2010, the EPA has cited an East Chicago steelmaking facility six times for violations of the Clean Air Act. Now, a group representing nearby residents intends to sue EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt over the renewal of the company’s operating permit.

Guests Welcome at Lincoln Park Zoo’s New ‘Insect Hotel’

(Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

It looks like an art project, but a seven-floor structure at Lincoln Park Zoo is outfitted with logs, bricks, sticks and other materials to provide cozy spaces for insects to nest.

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.