environment

Laura Hubers
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

When you think about plants, you probably picture individual trees or your favorite type of flower, but you probably don't think of them in a bigger way: as habitat.

Hyland House

Definitively dating an old house can be tricky. Today, we have things like photographs and land records, but how would you figure out a house's age without that kind of stuff? 

Tom Barnes / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Hike through any forest in Connecticut and you're bound to encounter a relic of the state's agricultural past: stone walls. Decades ago, the walls enclosed large tracts of open pasture and farmland, which was ideal habitat for animals like the New England cottontail rabbit.

But as farms were abandoned and that open space turned into mature forest, those rabbits disappeared. Now, federal efforts are underway to recreate some of that open space, and bring the New England cottontail back.

Creative Commons

For the last few decades, lobsters have had to prove that they were healthy enough to ship by having blood drawn.

Now, thanks to a Connecticut native, all they’ll have to do is prove their strength in the most lobster of methods: by squeezing sensors with their claws.

DVIDSHUB / Creative Commons

New patterns of extreme weather have insurance companies thinking more seriously about climate change. As storms intensify and damages increase, many are looking at new ways to predict losses from climate related risks. 

USFWS Headquarters / Creative Commons

The Northern Long-eared bat is now a protected animal under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the move on Wednesday, saying the designation will come with a special interim rule aimed at relieving regulatory burdens on local land owners and government agencies in the bat's range.

Scientists in California are hoping to use your smart phone to solve a cosmic mystery. They're developing an app to turn your phone into a cosmic ray detector. If enough people install the app, the scientists think they'll be able to figure out once and for all what's producing the very energetic cosmic rays that occasionally hit the Earth.

Ryan King / WNPR

It all starts with a sugar bush. While that sounds like something out of the board game Candy Land, it's actually another name for a stand of sugar maples -- one of the trees that gives us maple syrup.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

A Russian rocket has carried a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut to the International Space Station, where they will live for a full year, twice as long as people usually stay.

No American has remained in space longer than 215 days. Only a few people have ever gone on space trips lasting a year or more — the longest was 437 days — and they're all Russian cosmonauts. The last year-plus stay in space occurred nearly two decades ago.

The Antarctic is far away, freezing and buried under a patchwork of ice sheets and glaciers. But a warming climate is altering that mosaic in unpredictable ways — research published Thursday shows that the pace of change in parts of the Antarctic is accelerating.

Wikimedia Commons

Residents on Connecticut's coast continue to underestimate the economic and physical dangers posed by severe weather, according to a new survey out of Yale.

dailyjoe / Creative Commons

Ask an environmental regulator what they do -- and they're likely to say this: making sure people don't break the law and don't pollute. But as a WNPR investigation found out, getting people to obey environmental rules can be tricky.

Backers of a renewable energy bill making its way through the Vermont Legislature say a draft ruling from regulators in Connecticut effectively endorses the Vermont legislation.

Finchlake 2000 / Creative Commons

Today, we take a deeper look at the beaver.

Beavers are sophisticated eco-engineers, one of few animals capable of broadening biodiversity and currently considered of the keys to reversing climate change. They build sophisticated dams and deep-water ponds that stem erosion of riverbanks, create cooler deep-water pools that support temperature-sensitive plant and fish species, and increase the water table, a big deal for Western states suffering the impact of worsening drought.

Towns Oppose "Open Space" Designation of Golf Courses

Mar 3, 2015
Tord Sollie / Creative Commons

Several first selectmen of the Connecticut State Legislature and other chief elected officials are opposed to a measure in the legislature to designate golf courses as open space, an act that would reduce town assessments and taxes.

NASA Goddard Photo and Video / Flickr Creative Commons

High levels of carbon dioxide are putting creatures in Long Island Sound at risk. That's the finding of a new study examining the economic impact of climate change on our shoreline.

Updated at 4:04 p.m. ET

The White House has notified the Senate that President Obama has, as promised, vetoed congressional legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project.

"Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest," Obama said in the notification to the Senate.

DMahendra / Creative Commons

The head of a state-funded watchdog agency is wondering what proposed budget cuts could mean for the future of environmental oversight in Connecticut. In question is the future of the Council on Environmental Quality, which for more than 40 years, has monitored everything from air to wildlife conditions in the state.

It's a relatively small line item in the budget: about $180,000. That money funds two full-time paid positions at the CEQ. There's also a nine-member board that collects no salary.

The love between two ferns knows few bounds, it appears. A DNA analysis of a hybrid fern shows that its parents are two different species separated by nearly 60 million years of evolution.

"A 60 million year divergence is approximately equivalent to a human mating with a lemur," says Carl Rothfels, a fern researcher at the University of British Columbia, who headed the study. The hybrid is a record, he says.

The Arctic cold snap that has gripped much of the U.S. lately may be causing hardship for many, but it's also creating some spectacular ice formations at Niagara Falls. The spectacle is drawing huge crowds on both the Canadian and American side of the border.

The air temperature is so cold that the water and mist coming off the falls is frozen in place. Some of the formations look like massive boulders, others look like long shards of white glass.

The Connecticut Gological Survey

Following a series of small earthquakes in the eastern part of Connecticut, WNPR’s Patrick Skahill set out on a mission to find out what was causing so many to occur over such a short period of time. Turns out, to fully understand, you have to go back hundreds of millions of years to a time when our state was being rocked by a massive continental collision. 

Hazel Motes / Creative Commons

State environmental officials are setting out their legislative priorities for 2015, and there's at least one unexpected issue that's being addressed: jet packs.

The legislative proposals are wide-ranging, covering everything from stricter labeling requirements on farm products made in Connecticut to a program requiring that tire companies assume more responsibility for disposing of their products after consumer use.

Then there are water jet packs. "It's basically a James Bond-style jet pack that uses the thrust of a personal watercraft to send the rider 20 or 30 feet in the air," said Rob Klee, head of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Olivia Drake / Wesleyan University

You may not think there are a lot of stellar wonders visible from Middletown, but astronomer and professor Wesleyan Univeresity Meredith Hughes disagrees.

"It's actually pretty amazing that in the middle of a city, we can see a ton of beautiful things in the night sky," Hughes said. Her observatory, located on a hill at Wesleyan, is now opening its telescope to the public every Wednesday night.

Space, you may have heard, can be a cold and lonely place. But the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope has identified a particularly well-adjusted corner of space — or at least that's what a recent image suggests, with the help of an effect called an Einstein Ring.

In the Hubble image of galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849, two bright galaxies resemble eyes, NASA says, "and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing."

Patrick Skahill / WNPR

Imagine Connecticut: mountains as high and as sharp as the Himalayas, volcanic activity, and ancient earthquakes shaking the ground -- much more powerful than those we feel today. To understand how this happened, we need to dial the clock back just a little bit... about 300 million years.

That's when the supercontinent of Pangea was taking shape, and an ancient landmass housing modern-day Africa and South America had slammed into Connecticut's coast. 

Before anyone tries to cool the Earth with technologies that could counteract global warming, there needs to be a lot more research into the benefits and risks. That's the conclusion announced Tuesday by a scientific panel convened by the prestigious National Research Council to assess "climate geoengineering" — deliberate attempts to alter the global climate.

Geoengineering has been seen as the potential last-ditch option to stave off the worst effects of climate change, given that agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been slow in coming.

ramseybuckeye / Flickr Creative Commons

The state is proposing changes to how towns and cities deal with storm water that runs into rivers and streams. The rules would change requirements for some towns around things like street sweeping and catch basin cleanups.

Invasive Pest Harms Hemlocks In The Catskills

Jan 30, 2015

A new study has found hemlock trees in the Catskill region have been declining in health amid an invasive pest infestation.

Cindy Cornett Seigle/Flickr

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has dire predictions for many of the coastline communities in Connecticut and Long Island.

A report released on Wednesday, "North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study: Resilient Adaptation to Increasing Risk," took two years and covered 31,000 miles of coastline along ten states. It says climate change is putting the region at risk of more flooding and more superstorms like Sandy in 2012.

Joeseph Vietri, with the ACE, said western Long Island and western Connecticut are particularly vulnerable, which is a problem because they're such heavily populated areas. "Not all of them have the ability and the wherewithal to pick up and just move," he said. "So there are entire cities, towns, and villages that are under direct threat."

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