From June until the beginning of September, I worked as a metro intern at the Chicago Tribune.
There, I got the chance to follow my curiosity and produced an eclectic collection of long-form news features. For a few weeks I obsessed over Illinois' ostrich industry. I drove three hours to meet some Amish pyrotechnics. I spent another chunk of the internship learning about the arsenal for battling Asian Carp and the boom-and-bust cycle of aquaponics in Chicago.
Oasis of Diversity
My first Sunday front page at the Tribune was a story about the Morgan Shoal, a hidden bounty of biodiversity less than a mile off the coast of Lake Michigan. Most of the lake is cradled by unremarkable flat mud. Surveyed for the first time this year, a sunken shipwreck and dozens of critters call Morgan Shoal home.
Decades after first crash, ostrich industry poised to take off
My final story to run in the Tribune was a piece on ostrich meat. About 30 years ago, farmers and breeders flocked to, and over saturated, the ostrich market. With pervasive scams and a lack of consumer demand, it quickly tanked. In Illinois, now home to the country's third largest statewide inventory of ostrich, those who weathered the first crash believe demand for exotic meats and healthy, locally sourced food could enable the ostrich market to spread its wings again.
Fireworks spectacle goes volcanic in Amish Country
Perhaps the most fun story I've ever written was about Amish pyrotechnics. In Arthur, Ill. -- population 2,300 -- Larry Schlabach, a former member of the Amish community turned pyrotechnic, spends all year preparing for the Fourth of July. On the national holiday, tens of thousands choke the streets leading to Arthur to witness the town's fireworks, which feature choreographed plumes of fire that reach hundreds of feet into the air.
New wave of ecopreneurs hope aquaponics will be profitable this time around
Not all eco-friendly businesses are sustainable. Aquaponics — a method of farming that cultivates aquatic life and produce in connected tanks — offers a possible method for harvesting both greens and protein in an urban environment. In the past five years, a string of Chicago ecopreneurs launched aquaponics farms. But those ventures folded as quickly as they appeared, buckling under the demands of a niche industry that is capital-intensive, risky and delicately technical.