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Environment

255 articles
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    Swimming in Noise

    For sea life, the ocean is becoming an intolerable racket.

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    The High Price of Cheap Shrimp

    Our appetite is destroying a natural bulwark against climate change.

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    How Are the Bees?

    The collapse of our pollinators may no longer be headlines, but we’re still killing their buzz.

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    Reshuffled Rivers Bolster the Amazon’s Hyper-Biodiversity

    The lush biodiversity of the Amazon may be due in part to the dynamics of branching rivers, which serve as invisible fences that continuously barricade and merge bird populations.

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    Who Are the Scientists Here?

    Mo’orea, a Pacific Island, spotlights the rift in conservation between foreign scientists and Indigenous people.

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    The Race to Explore the Ocean’s Twilight Zone

    As marine scientists strive to understand the mysteries of the deep, the miners are moving in.

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    The Race to Explore the Ocean’s Twilight Zone

    As marine scientists strive to understand the mysteries of the deep, the miners are moving in.

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    The Oceans Are Teeming with Unknown Species

    Scientists are finding 2,000 new marine species a year. Why it matters to name and categorize them.

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    The Return of New York Harbor’s Oysters

    This entrepreneur plans to revive the famous urban ecosystem with a billion oysters.

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    The Genius of Fishing with Tidal Weirs

    Native and non-native scientists have come together to counter overfishing with an ancient practice.

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    The Ocean Is Having Trouble Breathing

    A drop in oxygen levels is putting ocean ecosystems on life support.

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    The Portentous Comeback of Humpback Whales

    Humpbacks are returning to pre-whaling populations with a warning about ocean ecosystems.

  • The Man Who Seduced the World with Whale Songs

    Roger Payne sparked the anti-whaling movement. He’s not done yet.

  • Twilight of the Nautilus

    What the scientist who has studied the iconic sea creature for 45 years now sees.

  • Life Always Wins. Follow Me

    A botanist is introduced to escapees from the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

  • The Incredible Fig

    The fig is an ecological marvel. Although you may never want to eat one again.

  • Plants Feel Pain and Might Even See

    It’s time to retire the hierarchical classification of living things.

  • All the Biomass on Earth

    Our planet supports 8.7 million species. Here’s how they break down.

  • Race Against Time

    To preserve coastal heritage from the ravages of climate change.

  • The Power of the Waves

    Understanding how oceans move is key to understanding life on Earth.

  • Helm_HERO

    Trillions of Bacteria Are Screaming with Light

    Great writers waxed poetic over “milky seas.” Here’s the science behind the glow.

  • The Hunt for Milky Seas

    Can Moby-Dick help us find one of Earth’s rarest large-scale natural wonders?

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    The Witness Is a Whale

    Uncovering one of the greatest environmental crimes of the 20th century.

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    Nature’s Fear Factor

    Ecologists argue balance is maintained by predators on the prowl.

  • No Species Is an Island

    Cooperation in nature is the key to survival, including our own.

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    The Man Who Seduced the World with Whale Songs

    Roger Payne sparked the anti-whaling movement. He’s not done yet.

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    The Ecology of Good Weed

    How one small farmer is creating a buzz with organic pot.

  • Ward_HERO

    Twilight of the Nautilus

    What the scientist who has studied the iconic sea creature for 45 years now sees.

  • Falk_HERO

    What’s Fueling Today’s Extreme Fires

    A geophysicist breaks down the elements of wildfires.

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    The Incredible Fig

    The fig is an ecological marvel. Although you may never want to eat one again.

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    Life Always Wins. Follow Me

    A botanist is introduced to escapees from the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

  • Going Deep With Hadal Zone Expert Alan Jamieson

    This British scientist explores terrain 35,000 feet below the surface—and has some advice for the landlubbers.

  • Wohlleben_HERO

    Plants Feel Pain and Might Even See

    It’s time to retire the hierarchical classification of living things.

  • Hidden in Plain Sight

    How a trail of plastic waste might help us find the mysterious Velella

  • Life at the Edge of Impossible

    Ten thousand feet under the sea, these snails thrive with a little help from their friends.

  • Are Crabs Truly Crabby?

    Humans have long projected their insecurities and ill tempers onto animals, including crabs. Can science help us tell fact from fable?

  • Heeding the Water’s Call

    Allison Wallis’s disability rendered the ocean off-limits. But the adaptive surfing movement says they can get everybody—of any ability—in the water.

  • Changing the System

    Wendy Schmidt applies the spirit of Silicon Valley to saving the ocean.

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    How Taboos Can Help Protect the Oceans

    Pacific Islanders are charting a new course for ocean conservation.

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    How Surprising Connections Can Save the Ocean

    Marine biologist Heather Koldewey on conservation, seahorses, and cross-discipline work.

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    The Mother of All Accidents

    Odds are, if an asteroid hadn’t crashed into Earth, we wouldn’t be here.

  • Into the Blue

    A celebrated conservation photographer finds undersea beauty—and hope.

  • Building the Blue Economy

    Protecting the ocean isn’t just necessary. It’s possible.

  • To Protect the Ocean, We Must Love It

    How a life on the water inspired Dona Bertarelli

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    Digging Deeper Into Holocaust History

    What geoscientists are uncovering in Eastern Europe.

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    We Crush, Poison, and Destroy Insects at Our Own Peril

    Insects are escape artists. Now they face a threat more pernicious than predation.

  • How Surprising Connections Can Save the Ocean

    Marine biologist Heather Koldewey on conservation, seahorses, and the importance of cross-discipline work.

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    Humans Have Rights and So Should Nature

    An “Earth lawyer” argues for cultural transformation in environmental law.

  • How to Bury Carbon? Let Plants Do the Dirty Work

    Carbon sequestration could slow or reverse human emissions—and nothing is better at sequestration than a green plant.

  • Making Climate Change Policy More Blue

    A new push for attention to coastal communities, marine conservation, and ocean infrastructure

  • How Neutral Theory Altered Ideas About Biodiversity

    The simple insight that most changes are random had a profound effect on genetics, evolution and ecology.

  • The Hidden Fruits of the Deep

    Vast meadows sprawl far beyond the old boundaries drawn for seagrasses. They may provide a unique refuge for biodiversity.

  • New Veggies for a Warming Planet

    We need a diversity of crops to adapt to Earth’s changing climate.

  • New Fish Data Reveal How Evolutionary Bursts Create Species

    In three bursts of adaptive change, one species of cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika gave rise to hundreds.

  • Getting To The Bottom Of It All

    Undersea explorer Victor Vescovo has piloted submersibles to the deepest depth of each of the world’s oceans, a feat shared by no one else on earth.

  • To Save the Ocean We Need Less Talk, More Action

    After helping the world’s largest pension fund divest from fossil fuels, Nina Jensen tackles the ocean’s problems.

  • The “Dying Seas” of the Anthropocene

    Declarations that the ocean is dying have become commonplace. We read headlines almost daily telling us that the oceans are choked with plastic, overfished, and rapidly acidifying. Yet even in “dying,” we are told, the ocean threatens human existence as sea levels rise, sea surface temperatures increase, and commercial fish stocks disappear.  The ocean has […]

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    What You Can Learn from Living in Antarctica

    Wisdom from the end of the Earth.

  • Coral Griefs: Finding Hope Amidst Loss

    Marine biologists have a front-row seat to catastrophic environmental change. There are lessons in how they cope.

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    Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Environmentalism

    To stop destroying nature, developers are mimicking it.

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    The Greening of Antarctica

    Few have witnessed the impact of global warming more closely than this scientist.

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    Kim Stanley Robinson Holds Out Hope

    The science-fiction author on why climate change doesn’t have to be humanity’s final story.

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    How Psilocybin Can Save the Environment

    To preserve nature, we need to open our minds to it.

  • Reciprocity in the Age of Extinction

    After so much taking, it’s time to give.

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    The Environmental Headache in Your Shampoo

    Palm oil is an environmental scourge. Plant biology has a solution.

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    Dawn of the Heliocene

    Why the next geological epoch should be named for when we tapped the sun’s energy.

  • Toxic but Fascinating

    Jellyfish have mesmerized people for millennia, and much remains to be learned about them.

  • The Ocean Is Struggling to Breathe, Too

    The little-appreciated but very big problem of marine hypoxia.

  • To Protect Coral Reefs, Protect Fishes and Birds

    Biodiversity itself seems to nourish the rainforests of the sea.

  • Global Wave Discovery Ends 220-Year Search

    An 18th-century physicist first predicted the existence of a chorus of atmospheric waves that swoop around Earth. Scientists have finally found them.

  • It’s Time to Redefine What Sustainable Fishing Means

    Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals are killed each year by fishing gear. This should not be considered “sustainable.”

  • Beneath the Ocean, a World of Mountains

    Scientists don’t even know how many seamounts there are—but the few they’ve explored are extraordinary.

  • Why Are Plants Green? To Reduce the Noise in Photosynthesis.

    Plants ignore the most energy-rich part of sunlight because stability matters more than efficiency, according to a new model of photosynthesis.

  • Dolphins Are Helping Us Hunt for Aliens

    Researchers look to dolphins as a model for alien intelligence.

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    The Idea of Entropy Has Led Us Astray

    Let’s stop hustling as if the world is running toward disorder.

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    Uncovering the Spark of Life

    What finding life on Mars could tell us about our own origins.

  • The Environmental Headache in Your Shampoo

    Palm oil is an environmental scourge. Plant biology has a solution.

  • The Perfect Wave Is Coming

    Surfers have dreamt it—now engineers are delivering.

  • Why Our Intuition About Sea-Level Rise Is Wrong

    A geologist explains that climate change is not just about a global average sea rise.

  • The Secret History of the Supernova at the Bottom of the Sea

    How a star explosion may have shaped life on Earth.

  • In Search of Life’s Smoking Gun

    A journey to the underwater volcanoes where life may have erupted.

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    The Hidden Life of Viruses

    The COVID-19 crisis has made the dark energy of evolution visible.

  • The Man Who Delayed D-Day

    The eminent oceanographer Walter Munk reflects on science and war.

  • Why We Need to Map the Ocean Floor

    We know more about other planets than we do about our own ocean floors.

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    Guided by Plant Voices

    Plants talk to this ecologist. They tell her how to do better science.

  • The Ocean Gets Big Data

    A new array of cameras, vehicles, and sensors promises to change ocean science.

  • Voice of the Ocean

    Sylvia Earle addresses the state of our seas.

  • Pirates, Killer Whales, and Cheap Jewelry: A Life in Science

    Near the end of my long career, I want to save the animal that started it.

  • When Good Waves Go Rogue

    Even in calm seas, waves can become monsters.

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    The Ecological Vision That Will Save Us

    To avoid the next pandemic, we need a reckoning with our place in nature.

  • A Voice for the Trees

    Shyla Raghav uses her ecology background to advocate for the environment.

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    The Pandemic Can’t Lock Down Nature

    The wilderness offers not just escape but reassurance.

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    The Pandemic Can’t Lock Down Nature

    The nonhuman world is free of charge; sunlight is a disinfectant, physical distance easily maintained, and no pandemic can suspend it. Nature offers not just escape but reassurance.Photograph by Tim Zurowski / Shutterstock Needing to clear my head, I went down to the Penobscot River. There they were, swimming with the mergansers, following an early […]

  • Billion-Year-Old Algae and Newer Genes Hint at Land Plants’ Origin

    An unearthed fossil and genomic discoveries are filling important gaps in scientists’ understanding of how primitive green algae eventually evolved into land vegetation.

  • The Future of Food Looks Small, Dense, and Very Bushy

    Vertical farming could make agriculture more robust and sustainable. To unlock that potential, scientists are redesigning crops for urban life.

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    These Maps Reveal Earth’s Unspoiled Places

    A revolution in archaeology is happening just when we need it most.

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    What Happens to Google Maps When Tectonic Plates Move?

    Earth’s tremors can tweak your GPS coordinates.

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    Australia’s Secret Rescue of Ancient Trees Offers an Insight Into Evolution

    When I read that more than a billion animals had lost their lives to bushfires still raging in Australia, I froze, staring at the incomprehensible figure on my screen. A sort of sinking feeling came. Scientists made the estimate from the numbers of animals that have died from previous land-clearing practices. It is dismaying to […]

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    The Climate Learning Tree

    Why we need to branch out to solve global warming.

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    Is Net Zero Emissions an Impossible Goal?

    What it would take to suck more carbon dioxide out of the air than we put in.

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    If Only 19th-Century America Had Listened to a Woman Scientist

    Where might the US be if it heeded her discovery of global warming’s source?

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    Where to See the Real Living Dead

    Everyone knows forests are alive, but Suzanne Simard, who studies complex, symbiotic networks, helps us see that life anew. Even dying, for a tree, is not what it seems.Photograph by Tomasz Wrzesien / Shutterstock Talk of “Mother Trees,” from a scientist studying plant life, can sound fanciful, like something out of a fairy tale. Suzanne […]

  • The Deep Time of Walden Pond

    The science and history of the lake Thoreau made famous.

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    As Winters Shrink, Our Discontent Grows

    Our sense of order is disappearing with the snow packs.

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    We Need to Talk About Peat

    Earth’s great storehouses of carbon are looking ominous.

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    Never Underestimate the Intelligence of Trees

    Plants communicate, nurture their seedlings, and get stressed.

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    Why We’re Drawn Into Darkness

    Author Robert MacFarlane on the awe and horror of subterranean places.

  • The Strange Blissfulness of Storms

    Is there a biochemical reason that extreme weather makes us happy?

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    Voice of the Ocean

    Sylvia Earle addresses the state of our seas.

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    The Last Drop of Water in Broken Hill

    In the Australian outback, the future of drought has come early.

  • What We Get Wrong About Lyme Disease

    The stories we tell about the epidemic get things backward.

  • Piecing Together the Big Picture of Coral Reef Health

    Scientists are seeing a glimmer of hope in the complicated future of coral reefs.

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    The Dam Problem in the West

    On a raft trip down the Green River, a writer faces her environmental preconceptions.

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    How Imagination Will Save Our Cities

    Scientists might need to take a cue from artists to adapt our cities for climate change.

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    This Is Urban Wildlife Biology

    Minks in TV graveyards, and other stories of Chicago’s hidden animals.

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    Stranger Places

    Brief encounters with cuckoos.

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    Is Fixing the Climate Incompatible with American Ideals?

    Inalienable rights in the age of carbon dioxide.

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    Is This Man the Elon Musk of E-Waste?

    Eric Lundgren’s electric car goes farther than a Tesla. He’s also going to prison.

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    How Nuclear Explosions Were Used to Save the Environment

    In the 70s and 80s, nuclear power made a dramatic flip in the public mind, changing from a futuristic miracle to an environmental disaster.Photograph by U.S. DOD / Wikipedia In the late spring of 2010, the world watched, often in real time, a new kind of environmental disaster unfold: An oil rig operating deep under the […]

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    Climate Change Is Making Plants Behave Like Costco Shoppers

    Plants have their own form of money: carbon dioxide. For decades, our fossil fuel industry has been artificially inflating their currency. What happens to plants during inflation—when CO2 levels in the atmosphere rise? The same thing that happens if you drop money from the sky over Times Square, leaving everyone there with $1,000 in their […]

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    The Deep Time of Walden Pond

    The science and history of the lake Thoreau made famous.

  • How the Elwha River Was Saved

    The inside story of the largest dam removal project in US history.

  • With ‘Downsized’ DNA, Flowering Plants Took Over the World

    Compact genomes and tiny cells gave flowering plants an edge over competing flora. This discovery hints at a broader evolutionary principle.

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    How the Elwha River Was Saved

    The inside story of the largest dam removal project in US history.

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    7 Surprises That Climate Change Will Throw Us

    The interdependence of ecosystems and their inhabitants means climate change may force animals, including us, to adapt in surprising ways—some startling changes are to come.“Leiv Eiriksson discovers North America,” by Christian Krohg (1893) Rising sea levels, lower air quality, and longer and more frequent droughts often top the list of climate change consequences that will […]

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    How to Give Mars an Atmosphere, Maybe

    The plan for an artificial Martian magnetosphere may sound “fanciful,” but researchers say that emerging research is starting to show that a miniature magnetosphere can be used to protect humans and spacecraft.NASA Earth is most fortunate to have vast webs of magnetic fields surrounding it. Without them, much of our atmosphere would have been gradually […]

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    Is the Modern Mass Extinction Overrated?

    We are ignoring the gains that balance the losses.

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    What We Get Wrong About Lyme Disease

    The stories we tell about the epidemic get things backward.

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    How Hurricanes Turn Nature Upside Down

    When hurricanes tear apart cityscapes and shorelines, and humans rebuild them, the biosphere twists and turns, shuffling the ecological deck.“The Garden of Earthly Delights,” central panel, by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1480-1490) / Wikimedia Alligators wandering through inundated streets, snakes hiding on porch doors, deer careening across neighborhoods, and other wild sights emerged in the aftermath […]

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    This Ecologist Wants to Tell You What Matters in Science

    “What physicists and astronomers do is trivial compared to solving these problems.”

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    What the Meadow Teaches Us

    Feeling is the physics of the organic world.

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    What the Meadow Teaches Us

    Feeling is the physics of the organic world.

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    Reinventing Staten Island

    The ecological philosophy of turning a garbage dump into a park.

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    Reinventing Staten Island

    The ecological philosophy of turning a garbage dump into a park.

  • Sylvia Earle Is Not Done Exploring

    The legendary marine biologist discusses why she’s excited about the coming era of ocean science, the shortsightedness of maritime exploitation and diving in the Arctic in her 80s.

  • Awash in Sea of Data, Ecologists Turn to Open Access Tools

    To assess the ocean’s health, ecology’s “rugged individualists” learned to get with the big data program.

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    The Woman Who Gave Us the Science of Normal Life

    Before Rachel Carson there was Ellen Swallow Richards, MIT’s first female student.

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    It’s Time to Take the Gaia Hypothesis Seriously

    Can a planet be alive? Lynn Margulis, a giant of late 20th-century biology, who had an incandescent intellect that veered toward the unorthodox, thought so. She and chemist James Lovelock together theorized that life must be a planet-altering phenomenon and the distinction between the “living” and “nonliving” parts of Earth is not as clear-cut as […]

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    The Cancer of the Great Lakes

    Mussels are devastating a unique ecosystem.

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    To Fix the Climate, Tell Better Stories

    The missing climate change narrative.

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    To Fix the Climate, Tell Better Stories

    The missing climate change narrative.

  • Predicting the Future of Earth’s Forests

    Forests are an important buffer against climate change—so understanding forest dynamics is vital.

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    Can You Identify These Cities From Their Light Signatures?

    The light that a city emits is like its glowing fingerprint. From the orderly grid of Manhattan, to the sprawling, snaking streets of Milan, to the bright contrast of Kuwait’s ring-roads, each city leaves its own pattern of tiny glowing dots. See if you can ID these cities based on the way they shine.    […]

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    When Climate Change Starts Wars

    Rising temperatures are bringing ethnic tensions to a boil in Central Asia.

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    When Climate Change Starts Wars

    Rising temperatures are bringing ethnic tensions to a boil in Central Asia.

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    Why Most Planets Will Either Be Lush or Dead

    The Gaia hypothesis implies that once alien life takes hold, it will flourish.

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    Spark of Science: Rob Pringle

    The Princeton ecologist tells us about the scientists who inspired his work.

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    How “Useless” Science Unraveled an Amphibian Apocalypse

    One spring day in 1984, Joyce Longcore got a phone call from Joan Brooks, a biologist at the University of Maine. Brooks had received a National Science Foundation grant to study the interactions of fungi and bacteria in peat bogs. She needed a hand, and she heard through the grapevine that Longcore knew a bit […]

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    If Nature Had a Human Personality, What Would It Be?

    It can be foolish to anthropomorphize the natural world. Perhaps the most frequent version of this failing is when people attribute human thoughts and emotions to animal behavior. Look at that adorable polar bear caressing that sled dog! Clearly that’s an endearing display of affection. It wasn’t, as a Washington Post article titled, “First a […]

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    Why a Post-Nuclear World Would Look Nothing Like “Mad Max”

    Mad Max: Fury Road envisions an embarrassing, nightmarish future. Worldwide droughts have driven humanity to nuclear war over water, destroying modern civilization, and disfiguring the earth into a planet-spanning Sahara. Decrepit old goons control the last remaining pockets of groundwater and arable land; essentially, the movie is one drawn-out, violent chase scene through a sterile […]

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    The Queer Ecology of the Colombian Civil War

    Meet the transgendered ecologist helping her country move past years of conflict.

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    A New Threat to Oceans: Deep-Sea Mining for Precious Metals

    Around 500 miles southeast of the bright turquoise waters at Honolulu Harbor, and two and a half miles down to the dark ocean floor, a massive carpet of potato-sized rocks stretches thousands of miles on the seabed. These rocks, called polymetallic, or manganese, nodules, are made up of manganese, nickel, copper, and cobalt. The nodules’ […]

  • How to Restart an Ecosystem

    Economics and conservation are converging to resurrect one of the planet’s greatest parks.

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    Plastic Is the Ocean’s New Junk Food

    By 2050, it’s likely that plastic in the oceans will outweigh all the oceans’ fish.

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    The Forgotten Landscapes of the United States

    When Lauret Edith Savoy first heard the word “colored” at five years old, she saw herself as exactly that—full of veins as blue as the sky. Not long after, she learned another definition, steeped in racism. “Words full of spit showed that I could be hated for being ‘colored,’” she writes. “By the age of […]

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    The Harsh, Hidden Lessons of Tree School

    Tree education is full of tearing and screaming.

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    Climate Change Has Produced a New Underwater Sound Superhighway

    In March, a team of scientists dragged a blast furnace on a sled across a giant slab of ice in the Beaufort Sea, above the Arctic Circle. With the furnace, the researchers (from the United States Navy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) melted a hole in the ice big enough to fit their 850-pound, […]

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    New York City Battles on Against Dutch Elm Disease

    To many people in New York City, a beautiful summer day is all about the trees. To be more specific, the American elm trees in the Central Park Mall, which form a promenade through the heart of the park. “Everybody’s always impressed by the wonderful cathedral-like ceiling of the Mall, especially if they’re new to […]

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    My Rap Guide to Climate Change

    Even though there’s virtually nothing you can do as an individual to combat climate change, the problem remains solvable. It’s almost like a riddle, the world’s thorniest challenge. In my new off-Broadway production, “Rap Guide to Climate Chaos” (now running at the Soho Playhouse), I delve into this dilemma, taking my literary inspiration from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. […]

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    The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times

    The 1883 eruption on Krakatoa may be the loudest noise the Earth has ever made.

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    The Last of the Earthquake Predictors

    A handful of underfunded researchers still believe science can defy the odds.

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    Alaska Is a Perfect Place for Birds to Spread Disease Worldwide

    Last May, as wild birds from around the globe converged on Alaska’s western shores for the summer breeding season, local citizen scientists did, too. Armed with sterile polyester-tipped swabs and screw-top vials, the amateur biologists descended upon dozens of homes belonging to hunters in villages such as Kotlik, Pilot Station, Chefornak, and Eek. In exchange […]

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    The Ocean Gets Big Data

    A new array of cameras, vehicles, and sensors promises to change ocean science.

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    This Piece of Ocean Trash Criticizes Ocean Trash

    Nearly three years ago, George Boorujy took a trip to Wolfe’s Pond Park, on the southeastern edge of Staten Island in New York City, and threw a bottle into the ocean. On a cold, sunny day this February, artist Brigitte Barthelemy, her husband, and their schnauzer, Elton, went for a walk on a beach in […]

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    The Strange Blissfulness of Storms

    Is there a biochemical reason that extreme weather makes us happy?

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    The Birth and Death of a Landscape

    A trip to a Louisiana river delta reveals an ecosystem that is growing up.

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    Your Legacy on Earth May Be a Plant

    Where I grew up in northern California, we were surrounded by the remains of Gold Rush towns, now subsumed into the wild rye. I used to look for these places on old maps and then search them out by car and on foot; sometimes the only sign I had arrived was a single blackened chimney […]

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    Should We All Be Helping Trees Relocate?

    Torrey pines seem like they could use some human help. According to the U.S. Forest Service, they are the rarest pine species in North America, with fewer than 10,000 trees growing in the wild. They’re split between Santa Rosa Island, off California’s southern coast, and a small state forest perched on the coastal bluffs just […]

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    There’s Plenty of Space for One Trillion More Trees

    Gregor Hintler had what seemed like a simple question: How many trees are there? As part of Plant for the Planet, a youth initiative that aimed to plant one billion trees in every country by 2020, he needed a way to figure out how many trees the planet could fit. But when he tried to […]

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    The Strange Ecosystem in the Sea: Dead Whales

    One April day in 2013, the submersible Shinkai 6500 descended to the base of the steep São Paulo Ridge, 13,000 feet under the Atlantic Ocean. “Hang on,” Paulo Sumida, a marine biologist, radioed to the submersible pilot from the support vessel on the ocean’s surface. “Those are whale bones.” In fact, they were frozen vertebrae of […]

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    Junk Food Is Bad For Plants, Too

    How a steady diet of fertilizers has turned crops into couch potatoes.

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    Biosphere—The Remake

    This time the test is Earth’s own ecological future.

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    The Ecologist Who Threw Starfish

    Robert Paine showed us the surprising importance of predators.

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    You Need to Know About Bahrain’s Loneliest Tree

    Bahrain’s “Tree of Life” is a beauty. Low and wide, its thick, craggy branches dive under the surface of the desert before curving back up toward the hot sun. Delicate, feathery leaves flutter at its edge. It’s also profoundly alone. Diminutive shrubs dot this sandy wasteland, but there’s not another tree in sight, across miles […]

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    How Climate Change Could Starve the Monkeys

    My sister the scientist makes a startling discovery in an Ugandan jungle.

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    Why Our Intuition About Sea-Level Rise Is Wrong

    A geologist explains that climate change is not just about a global average sea rise.

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    Why Our Intuition About Sea-Level Rise Is Wrong

    A geologist explains that climate change is not just about a global average sea rise.

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    The Case for Common Sense Gum-Control

      To walk the streets of New York and think about all the little black spots on the sidewalks is a little like pondering the stars in the night sky: How many people must have walked this way, deciding at just this moment to spit out their gum? It’s almost beautiful, except that gum attracts […]

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    Don’t Believe the Hype: Winter Does Not Begin Tonight

    Tonight, at 11:48 PM Eastern Time, is the moment of the winter solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is pointed as far away from the sun as it ever gets. It will be the longest night of the year, and tomorrow will be the day with the fewest hours of sunlight. As most people know, this […]

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    When Plants Go to War

    In the fight against insects, plants have evolved an arsenal of ingenious chemical defenses.

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    Rising Skyscrapers Are Sentencing Hundreds of Millions of Birds to Death a Year

    Siegfried Layda/Getty Images On a chilly day in Toronto, Michael Mesure, executive director of a local bird conservation group, leads me up several flights of stairs in City Hall. We walk down a hallway and there stands a large, white chest—a freezer—with a lid straining to close against its contents. Mesure removes a heavy Rubbermaid […]

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    Climate Change Is the Moonshot of Our Times

    Consider this scenario: Suppose astronomers had tracked an asteroid, and calculated that it would hit the Earth in 2080, 65 years from now—not with certainty, but with, say, 10 percent probability. Would we relax, saying that this is a problem that can be set aside for 50 years, since people will by then be richer, […]

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    We Are About to Start Mining Hydrothermal Vents on the Ocean Floor

    Forty years ago, scientists found alien life. Not on another planet, but on Earth, in the deep sea, in places where plumes of steam and nutrients heated by volcanic activity fed entire ecologies of creatures adapted to harness chemical energy rather than energy from the sun. The discovery redefined life’s biophysical possibilities, and scientists and […]

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    How to Restart an Ecosystem

    Economics and conservation are converging to resurrect one of the planet’s greatest parks.

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    A Fijian Village Adapts Tradition to Try to Save Its Ailing Reefs

    The day that conservation biologist Joshua Drew, his two students, and I arrive in the Fijian village of Nagigi, the wind is blowing so hard that the coconut palms are bent sideways. “Trade winds,” we are told. And, “El Nino.” The villagers here also know that climate change is affecting the weather, but their more […]

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    Water & Vice: Producing Intoxicants in an Era of Extreme Drought

    California is thirsty. The state is in its fourth year of a drought that is especially severe, by any measure. For instance, an April 1 snowpack measurement, a key indicator of surface-water supplies, was lower than any year on record, going back at least to 1950. Dry statistics aside, you can grasp the scope of […]

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    Why A Post-Nuclear World Would Look Nothing Like “Mad Max”

    Mad Max: Fury Road envisions an embarrassing, nightmarish future. Worldwide droughts have driven humanity to nuclear war over water, destroying modern civilization, and disfiguring the earth into a planet-spanning Sahara. Decrepit old goons control the last remaining pockets of groundwater and arable land; essentially, the movie is one drawn-out, violent chase scene through a sterile […]

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    The Last Drop of Water in Broken Hill

    In the Australian outback, the future of drought has come early.

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    The Last Drop of Water in Broken Hill

    In the Australian outback, the future of drought has come early.

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    Can New Research & Old Traditions Save Fiji From Ecological Collapse?

    I look out the windshield of the taxi and see that the road through the tropical forest ends, but our journey does not. We continue on a rutted dirt road, then ford a small stream, and eventually emerge from the thick vegetation at the edge of a vast and empty beach. Here, we wait. A […]

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    The Ocean in Motion

    How Earth’s seas get around.

  • Sierras granite water Julia Rosen

    How Water, Paradoxically, Creates the Land We Walk On

    It’s no secret that water shapes the world around us. Rivers etch great canyons into the Earth’s surface, while glaciers reorganize the topography of entire mountain ranges. But water’s influence on the landscape runs much deeper than this: Water explains why we have land in the first place. You might think of land as the […]

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    No One Knows What to Do With Fukushima’s Endless Tanks of Radioactive Water

    This is what passes for good news from Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese nuclear power plant devastated by meltdowns and explosions after a cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami in 2011: By the end of last month, workers had succeeded in filtering most of the 620,000 tons of toxic water stored at the site, removing almost all of […]

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    Florida’s Special Sponge for Soaking up Pollution: Fish

    In the swampy center of Florida, 15 miles northwest of Orlando, lies Lake Apopka, a 30,000-acre monument to the transformative power of fish. Apopka may be almost exactly the same size as nearby Disney World, but it’s far from a tourist attraction. For decades the lake served as an agricultural dumping ground for adjacent citrus […]

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    The Deadly Plant Sneeze

    High-speed cameras capture how bouncing rain spreads crop disease.

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    The Hidden Importance of Clouds

    A climate scientist asks whether nature can save us from ourselves.

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    Intemperate Planet: How Natural Systems Magnify the Effects of Global Warming

    As Arctic ice warms and forms dark melt ponds, it absorbs more sunlight, accelerating global warming.Kathryn Hansen, ICESCAPE mission, NASA Besides a few lucky astronauts, the entire human experience is contained within a narrow envelope of gas maintained in a relatively narrow temperature range on a single rock hurtling through the vacuum of space. That […]

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    The Hidden Ocean Patch That Broke Climate Records

    Why the recent global warming hiatus may have ended.

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    The Hated, Invasive Parasite That’s Actually a Key Part of Its Ecosystem

    Sea lampreys showing off their unusual mouthsJoanna Gilkeson/USFWS Several years ago, a young man bow-fishing on New Jersey’s Raritan river spotted a long, thin creature in the murky water. He shot the animal through the neck, reeled it in, and posed for photographs. Eventually a friend posted one to Reddit. Within days it went viral, […]

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    Can Remnants of Ancient Life Show Us How to Live Wisely Into the Future?

    At long-term nuclear repositories in Finland and Sweden, waste will be ensconced in cast-iron inserts (right), which are then placed in copper canisters (left).Posiva Oy This is part 2 of Vincent Ialenti’s report on how how to think about nuclear waste in the environment over the very long term. Also see part 1, which ran […]

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    Looking Into the Far Future of Earth’s First Long-Term Nuclear-Waste Vault

    On June 1, 1676 the Battle of Öland was raging, as the Swedish navy grappled with a Danish-Dutch fleet for control of the southern rim of the Baltic Sea. Amid bad weather, Kronan—Sweden’s naval flagship in the region and one of the largest warships of its kind at the time—made a sudden left turn. Its […]

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    Wild-Winter Whodunnit—Climate Change Over the U.S. With a Slow Jet Stream?

    This map produced by NOAA shows the land-surface temperature anomaly: how the temperature deviated from normal, on average, over the month. The darkest red areas were 12 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit) above average, while the darkest blue areas were 12 degrees Celsius below average.NOAA A question hangs like a cloud over the deeply weird […]

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    Los Angeles Should Be Buried

    A day in the war between the city and its mountains.

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    Los Angeles Should Be Buried

    A day in the war between the city and its mountains.

  • Bang_HERO

    Secrets in the Ice

    Love notes and warning messages are buried in Earth’s frozen archive.

  • Bang_HERO

    Secrets in the Ice

    Love notes and warning messages are buried in Earth’s frozen archive.

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    Art + Science = Innovation

    The “chapel” area at the Vocal Vibrations exhibitAmy Kraft Upon entering the Vocal Vibrations installation at Le Laboratoire Cambridge, visitors are directed to a room called the chapel, where a haunting vocal composition plays out of nine speakers positioned around the room. After relaxing on a bench to focus on the music, people are led […]

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    The Mystery of the Missing Frost

    On some clear winter mornings, we are treated to one of the highlights of the season: a thin layer of white frost delicately coating surfaces like individual grass blades. But even when a veneer of ice crystals encrusts much of the outdoor landscape, you may notice it missing from certain sites—the grass beneath a pine […]

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    Take Two Hikes and Call Me in the Morning

      One hundred sixty years ago, Henry David Thoreau published his magnum opus, Walden. In it he detailed his time spent living alongside nature in a cabin adjacent to Walden Pond. In one of the book’s emblematic lines, Thoreau wrote, “We can never have enough of nature.” He believed that it was a “tonic” for us. […]

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    Six Pictures of Paradise

    I was puzzled by the artist’s photographs of my home in the Amazon—then I looked again.

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    Pirates, Killer Whales, and Cheap Jewelry: A Life in Science

    Near the end of my long career, I want to save the animal that started it.

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    What the Deer Are Telling Us

    A lesson in home improvement.

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    The Men Who Planted Trees

    In West Africa, a model for worldwide conservation takes root.

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    One Key to Wisdom: Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

    Folsom Lake, near Sacramento, provides a clear illustration of the extent of California’s drought. On July 20, 2011, the reservoir was at 97 percent of capacity. On January 16, 2014, it was at 17 percent, and there was no water flowing through the Folsom Dam.California Department of Water Resources via NASA   California is the […]

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    Dragons, Memory & Navigating the Globe Using Only Your Wits

    “Vniversale descrittione di tvtta la terra conoscivta fin qvi,” a map of the world from 1565. Click through to see the entire amazing map, or download the super-hi-res version. Paolo Forlani Terra incognita. Unknown land. You may be familiar with this Latin phrase, which most notably appears on old maps, sometimes next to images of dragons, […]

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    How Nuclear Explosions Were Used to Save the Environment

    During the Cold War, the USSR and U.S. had programs to harness the power of nuclear explosions, demonstrated here in the “Baker” test, for peaceful purposes.U.S. DOD via Wikipedia In the late spring of 2010, the world watched, often in real time, a new kind of environmental disaster unfold: An oil rig operating deep under the […]

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    The Wild, Secret Life of New York City

    Get back to nature, right in your own neighborhood.

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    Iran’s Great, Dying Salt Lake

    As Urmia dries up, it leaves huge salt beaches behind.Giulio M via Flickr The last time my cousin Houman traveled to Lake Urmia was 10 years ago. He and four of his friends piled into his car and drove for roughly 12 hours, snaking west from the capital of Tehran. Iran is shaped like a […]

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    The Woods That Time Forgot

    In the Mist, a film about a Canary Island forest, opens the archives of Earth’s history.

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    Using Sharks’ Tricks to Prevent Lethal and Costly Infections

    Staph bacteria (red) forming a biofilmNational Science Foundation A common enemy befouls surgeons, plumbers, and sailors alike: slime. In each of their professions, they wage ceaseless war against biofouling—layers of living organisms that stick around exactly where we don’t want them.  Removing these various scum layers is a billion-dollar endeavor. Boats were among the first […]

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    What’s Worse: Unwanted Mutations or Unwanted Humans?

    Three of the rare Przewalski’s horses that now roam the area near the Chernobyl nuclear plant.Sergey Gaschak After a fatal series of errors and malfunctions in the early morning of April 26, 1986, the core of the Chernobyl nuclear facility melted down and then exploded, killing 31 workers at the plant. The accident spewed massive […]

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    When Good Waves Go Rogue

    Even in calm seas, waves can become monsters.

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    When Good Waves Go Rogue

    Even in calm seas, waves can become monsters.

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    The Man Who Delayed D-Day

    The eminent oceanographer Walter Munk reflects on science and war.

  • Pitman_HERO

    Six Pictures of Paradise

    I was puzzled by the artist’s photographs of my home in the Amazon—then I looked again.

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    Weaving the World’s Stories Like an Expert Carpet-Maker

    To explain her motivations as a writer, Anna Badkhen quotes the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert: “you have little time you must give testimony.” Badkhen recently stopped by the Nautilus office to sit for an interview and take us behind the scenes of “The Men Who Planted Trees,” her cover story for the Spring 2014 Nautilus […]

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    The Men Who Planted Trees

    In West Africa, a model for worldwide conservation takes root.

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    Voice of the Ocean

    Sylvia Earle addresses the state of our seas.

  • Badkhen_HERO

    The Men Who Planted Trees

    In West Africa, a model for worldwide conservation takes root.

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    Best of 2013: Ingenious: Peter Ward

    Call the daring marine biologist and paleontologist “Professor Nautilus.”

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    The Racehorse on the Runway

    The hybrid ecologies of Frankfurt Airport show us how homes and borders intersect.

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    How Humans Made Squirrels a Part of the Urban Environment

    This engraving of a gray squirrel was included in the December 1841 issue of Robert Merry’s Museum. One day in 1856, hundreds of people gathered to gawk at an “unusual visitor” up a tree near New York’s City Hall. The occupant of the tree, according to a contemporary newspaper account, was an escaped pet squirrel, […]

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    The Eerie Lawn Pest That Comes From Our Obsession With Lawns

    Fairy Ring #3Collage by Amy Ross (with permission) The front lawn is an American symbol of middle-class status and respectability. We trim ours with ride-on mowers, condition them with nitrogen, and hydrate them with elaborate sprinklers, largely because they represent us to everyone driving by. Ironically, it’s due to this energetic maintenance that one pest […]

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    Big Sky, Big Data: Art Made From Atmospheric Science

    Many common air pollutants—ozone, various sulfur oxides, and even some particulate matter among them—are completely invisible to the eye. How interesting, then, that the EPA and other environmental organizations around the world, use color scales to communicate information about air quality. The US Air Quality Index, for instance, starts at green, meaning good air quality, moves […]

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    You Are Made of Waste

    Searching for the ultimate example of recycling? Look in the mirror.

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    When Waste Becomes Home

    Sea life settles on plastic.

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    One Weird Trick to Save the World (Using Polar Bears)

    This is exactly the kind of photo you would not see in environmentalist literature.BMJ / Shutterstock When environmentalists petitioned to designate the polar bear a threatened animal under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, they were not, in fact, out to save the polar bear. They were out to save the world. Since the polar […]

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    How a Kids’ Cartoon Created a Real-Life Invasive Army

    Tales of monsters invading Japan are a longstanding tradition, usually involving menacing kaiju—literally “strange creatures”—rising from the sea to wreak havoc on a Japanese city. At this very moment, the country is engaged in just such a war, with an entire army of invasive creatures, but they’re both less fearsome and more adorable than Godzilla […]

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    Unwinding the Mystery of Namibia’s Natural Crop Circles

    The Himba bushmen who inhabit the Namibian grasslands—a 1,200-mile-long swath of land running from Angola into South Africa—have come up with different stories over the years to explain the unusual circular bare patches, called “fairy circles,” dotted throughout the grassy expanse. These reddish-hued circles, sometimes several feet in diameter, are dubbed “footprints of the gods,” […]

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    The Death and Life of the Frontier

    A voyage to the limits of the knowable.

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    Watching Our Every Move—From Space

    Should extraterrestrials be looking down at Earth from space, they would know a few things about us humans. They would know our routines are dictated by the sun. They would see that we tend to congregate and build near water. But perhaps most of all, they would know that we move. Today’s world is an […]

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    By the Light of the Moon, the Poles of the Earth

    The remarkable ways animals get around.

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    Frack ’er Up

    Natural gas is shaking up the search for green gasoline.

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    On the Wilderness Continent

    Building new lands requires sacrifice.

  • Geiger_HERO_1280x376

    On the Wilderness Continent

    Building new lands requires sacrifice.

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    How to Tell The Future(s)

    In 1972 the Club of Rome, an international think tank, commissioned four scientists to use computers to model the human future. The result was the infamous Limits to Growth that crashed into world culture like an asteroid from space. Collapse, calamity and chaos were the media take-aways from the book, even though the authors tried […]

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    A Weather Man Who Reaches for Months, Not Days

    If you want to know the weather tomorrow, meteorologists can tell you. If you’d like to know what it’ll be like in 50 years, climatologists can tell you that reasonably accurately, too. But if you want to know the weather six months from now? That’s a far trickier matter. Between the reliability of short-term and […]

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    Tracking Honeybees to Save Them

    Can outfitting bees with tiny radio transmitters solve colony collapse disorder?

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    In Global Warming’s “New Normal,” Florida May Be Uninsurable

    This afternoon, President Obama gave a major speech at Georgetown University laying out his administration’s climate and energy policy. The most notable bit was probably that he’s directing the EPA to take the unprecedented step of creating federal limits on power plants’ emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas that is the main driver of global […]

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    Taming the Unfriendly Skies

    How one airline wrestles with the uncertainty of weather.

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    You Didn’t Build That: The Best Animal Engineers

    If an intelligent alien species landed on the small bit of galactic rock that we call home, they might get out of their spaceships, have a look around, and decide that we—that is, our species—are the master builders on our planet. There would be plenty of reasons to think so. We build bridges spanning enormous […]

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    You Didn’t Build That FONT WEIGHT BUSTED

    If an intelligent alien species landed on the small bit of galactic rock that we call home, they might get out of their spaceships, have a look around, and decide that we—that is, our species—are the master builders on our planet. There would be plenty of reasons to think so. We build bridges spanning enormous […]

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    Gasoline and Fertility

    We consume unlike any other.