All posts by elenabruess2020

Rat-eating monkeys hold promise for sustainable agriculture

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

A macaque sits patiently on the forest floor, waiting by an oil palm tree.

There’s a rustling and a thump as two more macaques gripping a nearby trunk remove some of the tree’s leafy base. A large rat falls from its hiding place. It attempts to run, but the macaque is faster. A scuffle, a jump, a chomp. The pest hangs limp from the macaque’s mouth, a tasty snack. The monkeys move on to the next tree.

On the oil palm plantations of Malaysia, the southern pig-tailed macaque – a primate primarily found in Southeast Asia – loves to feast on rats. In a recent study, researchers spent three years following two groups of these monkeys around forests and plantations, monitoring their daily activities. The findings showed that, not only do macaques go out of their way to eat an outstanding number of rats, but their eating preference also a proved to be a great benefit to the oil palm plantations by ridding the workers of their greatest pest. According to the research, the rat-eating monkeys are astonishing and make a pretty good case for wildlife preservation and reconnection.

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When science needs a little art

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

Imagine you broke a bone in your left toe while paragliding.

It was intense. And now you can’t walk, so you hobble to the doctor’s office and await an x-ray. When you finally learn what exactly is broken, the doctor pulls out a brightly illustrated and tightly labeled drawing of a left foot. She points. “It’s right here.”

The drawing is practically made for you. It’s not very complicated and it makes so much sense. You are really starting to understand your left toe.

And that’s because the drawing is made for you. Continue reading

Rapid glacial melt near Mount Everest peaks threatens Nepali communities

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

Near the peaks of Mount Everest – towering some 5.6 miles above sea level – the ancient Khumbu Glacier is melting.

Never before in the last 70 years has the massive ice rock melted more quickly than at present. It is losing thickness at an unprecedented rate – about 131 feet in the last 10 to 15 years, to be exact. And the Nepali communities surrounding the Khumbu are feeling the consequences.

The impact of the depleted glacier could eventually reduce access to freshwater for these areas and could hinder Nepali guides who are dependent on the tourism from Mount Everest.

Rapidly melting glaciers result in floods or, as geoscientist Jeff Severinghaus calls it “a glacial lake outburst flood” – a gradual accumulation of meltwater from a receding glacier which often forms a lake in the space previously occupied by the glacier.

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A heritage of artists highlight Chicago Inaugural Indigenous Peoples’ Day Concert

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

The Chicago show began by honoring those who owned these ancient lands.

It was a recognition of what was past, a moment of thought and solidarity with the natives peoples who held this land before it was taken away. Shout-outs from some of the audience and solemn nods from others came in response. This is a vital piece of every concert at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, but it felt especially eloquent at the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Concert.

Mateo Mulcahy, the director of Community Projects and Events at the Old Town School of Folk Music, had been approached by Native American singer OPLIAM about a concert to commemorate for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrated Monday with Columbus Day. OPLIAM would get the artists if Mulcahy could provide the room. The inaugural concert Wednesday offered a space for expression about indigenous rights and created awareness about native communities from all over the world.

Since South Dakota initiated the legacy in 1989, hundreds of cities and several states have now adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day in favor of Columbus Day. Mulcahy said he hopes that Chicago will follow suit.

Frank Waln, NuFolk Rebel Alliance and OPLIAM performed.

The show concluded with songs by Frank Waln, a Sicangu Lakota Hip Hop artist and music producer. He is from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and attended Columbia College in Chicago. Between every song, Walen spoke earnestly with the audience about his experiences as a Lakota indigenous person.(Elena Bruess/Medill)

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4,000 floating robots take on climate change

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

I ziplined recently with a scientist who told me that her work involved almost 4,000 floating robots and a massive global computer database that could help her predict the future of our world’s climate.

This was during a break in the Comer Climate Conference and the woods behind conference headquarters held many mysteries, including a zipline and now – for me – the world’s most interesting researcher. I quickly scribbled “should probably catch up with her” in a notebook.

I did. She gave a presentation on her work the next day to climate scientists from across the nation gathered at the annual science meetup in southwestern Wisconsin. Continue reading