Science & Environment

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Whenever she takes people out on her boat, Vicki Richmond from the Healthy Rivers Partnership likes to ask if they know where their drinking water comes from.

“You’d be amazed how many people don’t know it’s the Missouri River,” says Richmond as members of the media clamber aboard. For Drinking Water Week, the Kansas City Water Department arranged to have Richmond show us the Missouri River.

(This reporter would like to state, for the record, she knew before today where our drinking water came from.)

Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because it’s turtle mating season in Missouri.

Department of Conservation spokesman Joe Jerek says young male turtles are usually in search of territory while females are trying to nest.

“And if you think about it, comfort’s also a factor for turtles. They’re reptiles. As reptiles, they’re cold-blooded, so basking on a warm asphalt road feels good on a cool spring day,” Jerek says.

Unfortunately every year some of these turtles end up getting hit by cars.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

The questions never stop coming. All fall and winter, people have not forgotten the 2016 outbreak of oak leaf itch mites. This itch mite is the pest that caused your friends and neighbors to hibernate indoors until a hard freeze brought this apocalypse to an end.

Kansas City Zoo

For the first time, the Kansas City Zoo’s baby chimpanzee has enjoyed being on public display with her twelve companion chimps. Baby Ruw was born at the zoo in April last year but rejected by her mother.

The 10-month-old spent Sunday morning touring her open habitat, clinging to the backs of older chimps. The zoo's senior director of zoological operations, Sean Putney, says Ruw’s reintroduction is going well.

Clean Line Energy Partners website

For the second time in three years, a massive electricity line project is back in Missouri seeking approval. 

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line would connect Kansas wind turbines to the eastern states with an 800-mile-long overhead transmission line. The company running the $2 billion project says it has approvals from three of the four states in its path, only Missouri stands in the way.

The transmission line is supported by  utility companies and unlikely bedfellows such as the Sierra Club and Walmart.

Natalie Curtis / Flickr--CC

An ice storm is expected to move across the Kansas City metro starting Friday, bringing sleet, freezing rain and likely hazardous road conditions.

The National Weather Service issued an ice storm advisory for the metro beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, prompting many schools and universities to suspend classes and activities for the day. 

Districts that have canceled classes include Belton public schools, Grandview public schools, Olathe public schools and Gardner/Edgerton public schools.

Tom Schroeder / Kansas City Wildlands

It took bee expert Mike Arduser about seven months to discover all the bee species living in two small patches of nature preserve in Kansas City.

But with a net and a lot of patience, he found something unexpected: 89 different bee species – including two never before seen in Missouri – pollinating flowering plants.

The surprising diversity is good news for conservationists because many of the bees evolved to fill narrow niches and serve vital roles in pollinating specific native plants.

USGS

Updated: 10:40 p.m. 

Kansas City metro area residents on Sunday night experienced rattling windows and shifting furniture due to another Oklahoma earthquake. 

According to the Associated Press, "The U.S. Geological Survey reported the earthquake struck at 7:44 p.m., with an epicenter located one mile west of Cushing, about 50 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. The USGS initially stated it was a magnitude 5.3 earthquake but lowered that rating to 5.0."

courtesy of Mark Brodwin / Janet Rodgers

Astronomer Mike Browdin understands that the immensity of our universe can be intimidating to some people. He gets that people don't think about supernovas and black holes as much as he does, and that it overwhelms them when they try to wrap their heads around it.

"Some people feel that when they are faced with the vastness of the universe and space and time, they feel insignificant," Browdin told Central Standard's Gina Kauffman. "And we are really small compared to that."

Kat Northern Lights Man / Flickr-CC

You know you've thought about it before — whether or not you could survive a zombie outbreak. Well, according to a new study, Kansas City is one of the best cities to be in during a hypothetical zombie apocalypse.

United Sates Department of Energy / Flickr-CC

A drive 30 minutes north of Omaha, Nebraska, leads to the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant. It's full of new equipment. There's a white concrete box building that's still under construction. It's licensed until 2033. But the plant is closing Monday.

Nuclear power is expensive, especially when compared to some of the alternatives, so the U.S. nuclear power industry is shrinking. As more plants go offline, industry leaders are forced to reckon with what critics call a "broken system" for taking plants out of service and storing radioactive waste.

sashapo / Flickr - CC

Try to find a hotel room in St. Joseph, Missouri a year from now, and you might be disappointed. On August 21, 2017, tens of thousands of visitors will have descended on the city to watch a remarkably rare event: a total solar eclipse.

St. Joseph falls in the small band in which the entirety of the sun will be blocked by the moon, causing the sky to go dark.

Eduard Solà / Wikimedia Commons

Seeing a planarian for the first time, you might not even know what you’re looking at. Brown, black, or white in color, these flatworms are about the size of a toenail clipping and have two light-sensing spots on their triangular-shaped heads that make them look cross-eyed. Their simple appearance, though, belies a surprising ability.

 

“You can take one of these animals and cut them into 18 fragments,” says Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, who does this for a living, “and each and every one of those fragments will go on to regenerate a complete animal.”

The year is 2091 and you have a business trip to make to Kansas City. You wake up in the morning, ask the speaker in your wall for a car to be brought to your door to take you there. A car arrives, no driver, naturally, and you set up camp in the back seat with your laptop to prepare for a big meeting. The car, dodging traffic reported along Forest Park Parkway, hops onto I-70 and into a line of other driver-less cars along a solar-paneled highway.

Echo Bluff State Park is officially open.

Gov. Jay Nixon cut the ribbon Saturday on Missouri's newest park, which is being promoted as a hub from which visitors can explore the state's Ozark region.

Courtesy U2D, Inc.

A device that could improve homeland security, help the military and protect workers in nuclear facilities and hospitals has won a coveted award for a team led by a UMKC professor.

Physics professor Anthony Caruso led a team of 20 student researchers plus researchers at MU-Columbia and Kansas State University and two private companies in taking the product from concept through prototype to production.

Americasroof / Wikimedia--CC

The Mid-America Regional Council, or MARC, releases a Skycast each day with a forecast of ozone air quality. The third orange ozone alert in 2016 for the Kansas City area was issued for Thursday. It recommended "limiting prolonged outdoor exertion" by children and adults, especially those with respiratory issues, such as asthma. 

In recent years, ozone alerts haven't been issued until July, says Amanda Graor, MARC's air quality program manager.

Rex Archer and Alex Garza
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

The greatest threat to public health in the face of bioterrorism, viral pandemics and natural disasters may actually be less of a headline-grabber: An insufficient budget.

Speaking on KCUR’s Up to Date on Friday, the former chief medical officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that while various programs are in place to protect against biological weapons and disease outbreaks, the system could still break down at the state and local level.

Courtesy of KCP&L

Kansas City Power and Light has agreed to buy wind energy from two plants now under construction in northwest Missouri.

NextEra Energy Resources is building its Osborn wind farm east of St. Joseph. It’s expected to be up and running by the end of the year and provide 200 megawatts of energy. A little further north, Tradewind Energy plans to complete the 300 megawatt Rock Creak wind farm near Tarkio, Missouri by September 2017.

ROY ANDERSON / OKLAHOMA FORESTRY SERVICES/ OKLAHOMA HIGHWAY PATROL

UPDATED, 10:20 a.m.:  A massive wildfire still rages in south-central Kansas, though authorities on the scene  indicate much of the blaze is coming under control. 

Active fires are still burning in Harper and Barber Counties in Kansas. The AP also reported Thursday emergency responders were called back out to Comanche County after a fire that was contained Wednesday night briefly reignited Thursday morning. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR

KC Water officials say a rigorous testing protocol should keep what happened in Flint, Michigan, from happening here.

“We’re trying to make sure the water is the best we can get out of here,” says plant manager Mike Klender. “We live in the city. We drink our water.”

The ongoing crisis in Flint began when the city switched to a new water source, but Kansas City is still pumping from the source it’s relied on for 80 years: the Missouri River.

CREDIT JOESPH NOVAK / FLICKR--CC

You may take it for granted, but electricity gets to your outlets through wires that originate all the way back to the source.

Now, if that’s a solar panel on your roof, it’s not very far. But when it comes to wind, power is generated a long way from where it’s used — often crossing hundreds of miles, numerous personal property lines and, increasingly, state boundaries.

Building new high-voltage lines across all those jurisdictions is now the biggest obstacle to the growth of wind energy.

KCUR 89.3

An anticipated winter storm moved through the Kansas City metro Tuesday, bringing snow and ice in the early afternoon with the possibility of continuing snowfall throughout the evening commute.

Many schools and churches canceled evening activities or let students out early. Here is a list of those closures from The Kansas City Star.

Amanda Gehin / Missouri Department of Conservation

A hard freeze is bad for most flowers, but a patch of prairie in midtown Kansas City has seen so-called “frost flowers” in full bloom this winter.

Frost flowers aren’t really flowers at all. They are ribbons of ice twirling out from the stalks of some plants including the white crownbeard, a wildflower flower native to Missouri and Kansas.

X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Missouri/M.Brodwin et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Infrared: JPL/CalTech

A team of astronomers led by a UMKC professor have nailed down more particulars about the most distant massive galaxy cluster ever discovered.

Galaxy cluster IDCS J1426.5+3508 was first formally discovered in 2012, though UMKC associate professor Dr. Mark Brodwin and astronomers from around the country have worked on projects since 2007 that led up to it.

Heavy rainfall and swollen rivers have caused major flooding in Missouri and southern Illinois, leading to voluntary evacuations and road closures. The governors of both states have declared a state of emergency, and water levels on the Mississippi River shattered records. While this story is still developing, here are the main things you need to know about the recent floods.

At least 10 people were confirmed dead after a winter storm moved across Missouri Monday. Most of them drowned after driving along submerged roads.

Flood waters continued to submerge roads and lowlands across Missouri late Monday, including major highways. Portions of Interstate 44 were closed near Rolla and Fort Leonard Wood. I-70 eastbound was also closed in St. Charles County. 

Despite declaring a state of emergency on Sunday, Gov. Jay Nixon has no plans so far to activate the Missouri National Guard.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Around 100 activists didn't let cold rain dissuade them from marching through the Country Club Plaza Sunday to voice their support for more strict environmental regulations before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris.

The group, organized by environmental advocacy groups 350KC and the KC Climate Coalition, wove through the Plaza chanting, "Turn on clean energy, turn off fossil fuels." They were part of the Global Climate March, which encompassed more than 2,000 events in 175 countries over the weekend.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

Finding a fossil in Kansas City can be as easy as going to the park or checking around your basement.

"Both Kansas and Missouri have great fossil deposits," Bruce Lieberman told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

"They represent, in some respects, different time periods, especially if you get further east into Missouri, east of the Kansas City metro," he said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Engineering firm Burns & McDonnell has received Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly drones for commercial use.

The Kansas City-based company celebrated the new certification with a test flight Wednesday over the new campus being built in south Kansas City.

Steve Santovasi says using unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, to complete inspections presents a significant time savings over having to obtain permits to bring in heavy equipment.

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