Eli Chen

Eli Chen is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. She comes to St. Louis after covering the eroding Delaware coast, bat-friendly wind turbine technology, mouse love songs and various science stories for Delaware Public Media/WDDE-FM. Before that, she corralled robots and citizen scientists for the World Science Festival in New York City and spent a brief stint booking guests for Science Friday’s live events in 2013. Eli grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where a mixture of teen angst, a love for Ray Bradbury novels and the growing awareness about climate change propelled her to become the science storyteller she is today. When not working, Eli enjoys a solid bike ride, collects classic disco, watches standup comedy and is often found cuddling other people’s dogs. She has a bachelor’s in environmental sustainability and creative writing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has a master’s degree in journalism, with a focus on science reporting, from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

Wildlife conservationists worry that a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to remove federal protections for the endangered gray wolf will hurt efforts to restore the species in states where it has disappeared, such as Missouri.

Although the species is native to Missouri, the state has not had gray wolves since the 1950s, largely due to hunting, habitat loss and landowners killing them for preying on livestock. Today, only about 5,000 live in the western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies regions.

Scientists who study pollinating bees and butterflies report that state laws across the U.S. aren’t doing enough to protect the very animals that help crops grow.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are developing a water filter that could help people in countries where there is not enough clean drinking water.

Engineers at WashU are combining bacteria and tiny engineered particles to create a filter that can kill harmful bacteria. The United Nations expects that by 2025, about half of the world’s population will be living in areas where water is scarce. That’s put pressure on scientists to develop water-purifying technologies to help increase global access to drinking water.

The filter under development at Wash U blends fibers generated from bacteria. They combined the fibers with graphene oxide, an extremely thin material that can convert sunlight into heat, which then kills the bacteria on the surface of the filter’s membrane.

No one has seen the flower of the 60-foot-tall Karomia gigas tree in Tanzania; scientists at the Missouri Botanical Garden hope they’ll be the first.

For decades, botanists at the garden have been helping the Tanzanian government prevent rare and threatened trees from becoming extinct. Scientists recently started growing one of those trees, the Karomia gigas, in a greenhouse at the garden. There are 19 members of the species in the wild.

The garden’s scientists are cultivating the trees in St. Louis because conservationists have had no luck growing them in Tanzania. The seeds are extremely vulnerable to fungus and insect predators, said Roy Gereau, the garden’s Tanzania program director.

State and local government officials in Missouri are offering to collect natural Christmas trees to be turned in to mulch or fish habitat.

After Christmas, residents of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County will be able to drop off trees at various parks and recycling centers. Most trees collected by St. Louis’ forestry division and St. Charles County will be processed through a chipper and turned into mulch that residents can use for home gardening.

St. Louis County is working with the Missouri Department of Conservation to collect trees for fish habitat.

Scientists are concerned that the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently announced limits on dicamba herbicide use will not be effective in preventing widespread crop damage.

The federal agency last week approved the use of dicamba-based herbicides, such as Bayer’s XtendiMax, until 2020. However, it noted several restrictions in attempts to curb the herbicide’s off-target movement that has ruined more than 1.1 million acres of soybeans in the United States this year

Animal conservationists near St. Louis are planning to breed red wolves, the rarest species of wolves on the planet, at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

The Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, which provides refuge for endangered wolf species, has been working with A-State to raise awareness of red wolves in recent year. The species became A-State’s mascot in 2008, after it retired its former mascot, the Indian Family.

Conservationists and university officials plan to build a red wolf breeding center in the next three years to house four or five pairs of wolves. Red wolves were once found in many parts of the eastern U.S., but only 30 wolves remain in the wild, on the North Carolina coast. About 200 live in captivity in sanctuaries such as the Endangered Wolf Center.

For the next three years, Missouri conservation officials are bringing 300 ruffed grouse into the state from Wisconsin in hopes of raising the native bird’s population.

The ruffed grouse is a stout-bodied, medium-sized bird with white, grey or brown feathers and mostly spends its time on the ground. In Missouri, the ruffed grouse lives mainly in the River Hills region, located in an east-central part of the state that covers Callaway, Montgomery and Warren counties. 

While the ruffed grouse have fairly healthy populations in the northern parts of the United States, its Missouri population has declined in recent years. In 2011, the state suspended the hunting season for the bird, in place since the 1980s.

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