From 2016 - 18, I covered science and the environment for the Columbus Dispatch.
My beat ranged from natural resource issues to cutting edge research and climate change issues. When Washington got busy, I also localized national environmental policy — from the regulatory rollbacks to dramatic budget cuts and sweeping executive orders.
Here are some of my favorites:
Tensions grow between conservation, commerce in Ohio’s state forests
Across the country, political clashes have renewed debate over whether industry and conservation can co-exist on public lands — from national monuments out West to swaths of Ohio’s Shawnee State Forest.
In the past couple of years, plans to log and frack in Ohio’s state and national forests have drawn the ire of environmentalists who are calling on officials to prioritize biodiversity, recreation and carbon sequestration in the state's few public wild spaces.
A new brand of Republicans: The rise of conservative conservationists
Sarah Spence is a Republican through and through.
Her dad taught her how to shoot a gun when she was around 14.
As a teenager, she baby-sat for the children of conservative candidates for the Ohio House.
President Donald Trump won more than 75 percent of the vote where she’s from: Oak Hill, a southern Ohio coal- and brick-producing village with a population of 1,551.
“When I left, my parents said, ‘Please don’t become a tree-hugging liberal,’” Spence said. “Only part of that became true.”
Today, Spence represents a national percolation of young, concerned conservatives reclaiming conservation.
It's Mother Nature's world, and we're living in it
In recent months, I produced a range of news features exploring the more delightful, curious ways that humans relate to the natural world, including:
No time to waste
Most of the trash that ends up in the regional landfill could have been recycled, composted or reused. That’s partially because the infrastructure needed to reduce widespread waste is still in early stages, despite public interest in minimizing environmental impact.
In this two-part mini-series, I explored how local governments and forward-thinking businesses -- as well as individuals -- are bridging the gap between the vision for sustainability and current roadblocks.
Can maggots to eat away at nation’s food waste crisis?
Bacteria take about a year to break down a loaf of bread in a backyard compost pile or a few months in an industrial-scale operation. Black soldier fly larvae can devour that loaf in a matter of hours.
Aa small, growing group of eco-entrepreneurs wants to harness organic methods of recycling planet-warming food waste— and they say the voracious black soldier fly is nature’s best recruit for the job.
As coal dies, Appalachian Ohio seek ecotourists
In a post-industrial era, former coal-mining communities in Ohio creeping towards the ghost town cliff have decided to experiment with a new formula for survival. Instead of pumping coal, iron ore, gas, clay and timber from the valley’s rich hills, residents are restoring the landscape to its original fertility and re-building their towns into eco-tourism hotspots. This time around, Appalachia wants to profit from the region's natural capital without exploiting it.
I went a little overboard for August's eclipse.
First came the preview of locals planning to make the trip down south to catch the event in full splendor. Then came eclipse tips for how to save your eyeballs from bursting into flames. I followed that piece with the story of some Ohio middle schoolers among the youngest engineers in NASA's historic livestream of the celestial event from high-altitude balloons floating 60,000-plus feet in the air.
Finally, reporting from Kentucky, I tracked down other Ohioans who traveled hours and hours to hear cicadas stop chirping, feel the air drop 25 degrees Fahrenheit, see the sun compress into a gaseous, silvery halo and gasp as night spilled over the afternoon like someone hit a dimmer switch in the sky.
Engineering our future
As Columbus continues to evolve, The Dispatch put together a series on what heights it might reach in 20 years. The August CBus Next project explored advances in health and science and included four of my pieces:
A tour of six Ohio labs where cutting-edge research could lead to medical and scientific breakthroughs
An overview of the future of medicinal and scientific research
A forecast by scientists of the local effects of climate change
Responses from experts to some wild ideas for new gadgets and technology brainstormed by budding inventors
Ongoing Rover Pipeline woes
In May, federal officials ordered a halt to new drilling activity along the troubled Rover pipeline project until the company complies with new measures and receives authorization. That move followed a spill where millions of gallons of bentonite mud smothered a protected wetland, and a prior string of legal hiccups. The day the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prohibited any new drilling activities, I was out shooting video at a home encircled by construction of the controversial pipeline project.
Despite odds, Ohio coal miners put faith in Trump
The coal industry employed their fathers, uncles and grandfathers. Now that they are in the mines, it puts food on their tables. But in the past decade, that dependable family trade has become precarious.
Trump promised to roll back costly environmental regulations, but it's unclear whether policy changes can save the coal industry from profound shifts in the energy market. Still, communities such as Freeport — a Harrison County village of about 400 — have put their faith in President Donald Trump's vow to bring back coal country.
Can electric-car ownership expand beyond techies?
So far, the transition to electric vehicles has been littered with roadblocks. As the recipient of several transportation-focused grants, Columbus has joined ranks with San Francisco and New York City as a proving grounds for electric-vehicle infrastructure. City planners are investing part of a $50 million Smart City grant in EV research, Columbus' charging infrastructure and programs to encourage residents and businesses to purchase the adopt the technology.
"People are keeping a close eye on what's happening there," said Nick Nigro, a technology analyst based in D.C.
Faith leaders reframe climate change as moral issue
Faith organizations spanning churches, mosques and synagogues are joining the climate change debate - not as political enemies but as a moral conscience. During an intensely divisive political atmosphere, religious officials are beginning to address the human-rights implications of global warming in the rare, bipartisan community spaces. And recent national report suggests that presenting climate change as a spiritual issue could be a successful strategy for attracting previously unreachable religious folks to environmental causes.
Will wildlife search save Shawnee forest from logging?
When spring comes, experts who study plants and lichens, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and other creatures will descend on Shawnee State Forest in what they call a full-blown "bioblitz."
Scientists use earthquake tools to watch football fans rock the Horseshoe
When jocks and nerds unite, they plant seismometers in OSU's football stadium to measure how much it shakes as fans stomp and jump around. In the overtime game against Michigan a few days after this story ran, a crowd of more than 108,000 shattered previous "Shake the 'Shoe" recordings.
Mysterious mussel die-off continues to baffle experts
An ongoing series of mine follows a massive die-off of mollusks along 60 miles of Big Darby Creek, a protected waterway and one of the country's healthiest and most biodiverse freshwater streams. The initial story was my first for the Dispatch. For a follow-up weeks later, experts were still no closer to ruling out any cause: exotic disease, a spill or diminishing water quality. That's bad news because mussels are highly sensitive, immobile filter-feeders and the “canaries in the coal mine” for aquatic ecosystems. Then, about a year after the original incident, I headed back to Darby as experts conducted a diagnostic survey of the waterway.
What’s that stink? It’s just ginkgo
After seeing some online forums discussing the smell of poo wafting through Columbus, I investigated. Very quickly, I learned that female gingko trees drop their seeds to the ground at this time of year. The seeds decompose and give off a smell that’s been likened to such things as dog poop and rancid butter.