Shahla Farzan | KBIA

Shahla Farzan

Shahla Farzan is a general assignment reporter and weekend newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio. She comes most recently from KBBI Public Radio in Homer, Alaska, where she covered issues ranging from permafrost thaw to disputes over prayer in public meetings. A science nerd to the core, Shahla spent six years studying native bees, eventually earning her PhD in ecology from the University of California-Davis. She has also worked as an intern at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and a podcaster for BirdNote. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, combing flea markets for tchotchkes, and curling up with a good book. 

Shirley isn’t familiar with the concept of personal space.

The 80-pound Alpine milking goat wanders around the yoga class, closely inspecting the other participants and occasionally stepping on a stray finger.

“I guess Shirley is going to help me demonstrate this next pose,” said instructor Alicia Davis, as the goat parks herself at the front of the class.

Josh Davis likes to name his pigs after flowers: Petunia, Iris, Violet and Daisy.

That’s not the only thing that sets him apart as a hog farmer.

For the past three years, Davis and his wife, Alicia, have been raising one of the rarest pig breeds in the world on their farm in Pocahontas, Illinois. The American mulefoot hog was a popular breed in the Midwest in the early 1900s, but now, there are only a few hundred left. The Davises are among a small group of farmers hoping to revive the breed by putting it back on the menu.

The tap of Mike Wheeler’s hammer echoes through the forest, as he helps frame the walls of a new home in Wildwood.

Wheeler is one of a dozen carpenters volunteering to build a home for a returning veteran and his family. The project, which began in August, is the culmination of a years-long effort to provide a mortgage-free home for U.S. Army veteran and St. Louis native Heath Howes, who was severely wounded while serving in Afghanistan.

Julie Monroe is accustomed to seeing deer around her Kirkwood neighborhood, but not this many.

On a recent evening, Monroe and her son counted 17 deer on the drive home from Manchester.

“It was dark outside, so we don’t know how many were beyond our vision,” she said.

The organization 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis will host its 16th annual community health fair this weekend.

The event, held at Harris-Stowe State University, will feature a range of free health screenings for all ages, including blood pressure, cholesterol, hearing and vision tests. Organizers say the goal is to encourage community members to think more about their own health and wellness.

The lights illuminating the Gateway Arch will go dark for two weeks beginning Monday.

The decision is part of a biannual effort to avoid disrupting bird migrations along the Mississippi Flyway — a critical route used by more than 300 North American bird species. Light pollution from upward-facing spotlights can disorient birds that migrate at night and cause them to collide with buildings.

Updated Sept. 13 at 3:50 p.m., to include information from Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Four years after protests rocked Ferguson, a nonprofit is expanding youth services in the area.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis broke ground on a teen center in Ferguson, Thursday morning. The $12.4-million facility will be located on West Florissant Avenue, less than half a mile from the spot where Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in August 2014.

Local businesses are stepping up to lend a hand to LouFest vendors after the event was canceled unexpectedly this week.

Festival organizers called off the event early Wednesday morning, citing “financial hurdles” and a rainy weekend forecast. Vendors and musicians, many of whom had paid hefty registration fees, were left wondering if they would be able to recoup their costs.

After Mary Walsh and Beverly Nance were married in 2009, they thought their right to live together as a couple was secure.

Now the two women are at the center of a landmark legal case against a St. Louis County retirement community. The same-sex couple was denied housing at Friendship Village in 2016 on the basis of a “Cohabitation Policy” that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, “as marriage is understood in the Bible.”

When Erika Wolf was young, she loved riding her bike.

But when she was 11, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa — a rare genetic disorder that causes a person to lose their vision over time.

Wolf is now blind, but she hasn’t stopped cycling. This is her second year riding a tandem bike in “Ride to Unite,” an annual event that pairs champion cyclists racing in the Gateway Cup with riders who have disabilities. The goal, say organizers, is to help make cycling a more inclusive sport.


The Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge will be closed for a year, beginning Monday.

Both directions of the bridge over the Mississippi River, connecting St. Louis and East St. Louis,  will be shut down as a part of a construction project led by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The $24.3 million project includes the demolition and replacement of a smaller, nearby bridge that spans I-55 and I-64.

Missouri’s incarceration rate for women is among the highest in the country. 

The majority of these women have children, yet little research has examined the effects of incarceration on mothers specifically.

An invasive beetle is spreading rapidly across the state.

This week, the Missouri Department of Conservation reported the emerald ash borer appeared in 11 more counties in 2018, bringing the total number of affected counties in the state to 53. The larvae of the metallic green beetle burrow under the bark of ash trees and kill them within a few years.

Recovering your sense of smell doesn’t happen overnight.

Since March, St. Louis Public Radio has been following a research study at Washington University designed to understand whether you can train the brain how to smell again. Using a technique known as “smell training,” researchers hope to reverse permanent smell loss.


Doctors have long known that women in the U.S. have a higher risk of dying from heart attacks than men.

The reasons driving this gender gap in survival, however, have perplexed researchers. A study led in part by Washington University suggests the gender of the attending doctor may play a role. Women were more likely to survive a heart attack when treated by a female doctor than a male doctor.

First Daughter Ivanka Trump made a public appearance in the Metro East Wednesday morning to highlight the importance of preparing young people for technical careers.

Trump, who serves as an advisor to the president, participated in a roundtable discussion on workforce development at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey. The discussion focused primarily on apprenticeships and training opportunities for jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree, such as welding or plumbing.

When Mike McClain pictured retirement, he thought of deserts and canyons.

The 66-year-old had planned to leave the workforce this year and spend more time outdoors, hiking and camping. That was before he was laid off from his job in telecommunications in 2009.

Washington University will host a free public symposium on gun violence prevention this week.

The second annual Larry Lewis Health Policy Symposium will bring together experts specializing in gun violence research from a public health and policy perspective. Organizers say the goal is to reduce gun violence in St. Louis, a city with one of the highest rates of gun-related deaths in the country.

Julia Berndt kneels on the forest floor and picks up a crushed eggshell from an experimental bird nest.

The Webster Groves High School senior has spent nearly three months working at Washington University’s Tyson Research Center near Eureka. The summer program pairs St. Louis-area students with scientists who help them design their own independent-research projects.

Berndt is studying how controlled fires — also known as prescribed burns — affect the predators that eat bird eggs.

Natalia Cantu attaches electrodes to a cockroach leg and taps its spiky hairs with a paintbrush.

The neurons in the leg fire rapidly in response, appearing as sharp peaks and valleys on her smartphone.

Cantu, who teaches ninth-grade biology in Edinburg, Texas, is in her second year of Washington University’s Master of Science in Biology for Science Teachers program. As part of the program, high school teachers from across the country do hands-on lab work to improve their own knowledge of science, in the hopes that they can help spark an interest in their students.

Decriminalizing marijuana doesn’t necessarily lead to an increase in adolescent use, according to research from Washington University.

Marijuana possession is still illegal under decriminalization, but it is treated as a civil offense.

A group of St. Louis businesses and nonprofits are joining together Saturday to host the third annual African Community Health Fair.

The event, which promotes self-care and wellness for African-Americans, will offer a range of free health tests, including blood pressure, cholesterol, vision and podiatry screenings. Organizers say the fair provides a vital service, particularly for those who don’t have regular access to health care.

Terry Austin eyes his opponent across the chessboard, then deftly captures his knight.

A few moves later, opponent Ed Rataj admits defeat.

The two play in the communal living area at Biddle House, a shelter for people who are homless near downtown St. Louis. Austin is a resident. The Biddle House chess club began in 2016, the same year the shelter opened. Twice a week, shelter residents gather to play chess with volunteers from the community.

Soybean growers in the Midwest are caught in the middle of an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

China retaliated against the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese products Friday by imposing $34 billion in tariffs on hundreds of American goods, including soybeans. Analysts say the added expense of China’s 25-percent tariff on U.S. soybeans will effectively block the product from entering the Chinese market.

For breast cancer patients, race and geography can mean the difference between surviving and succumbing.

Washington University researchers have identified distinct hot spots in the U.S. where women are more likely to die from breast cancer. For African-American women and Latinas, these hot spots are predominantly clustered in specific regions across the southern U.S.

A new, tiny resident will now greet visitors to the St. Louis Zoo Primate House.

Princess Buttercup, a female mongoose lemur, is the first of her species to be born and reared successfully at the zoo. The critically endangered lemur species, which is found only on Madagascar, is the focus of a national cooperative breeding program intended to build a healthy population in captivity.

Shane Creasy stands on the edge of a lake and casts a plastic beaker full of thick white herbicide into the water.

The herbicide slowly fans out across the surface of the lake, as Creasy, a fisheries technician with the Missouri Department of Conservation, peels off his protective gloves. The target, an invasive aquatic plant known as hydrilla, is a tenacious adversary that takes years to eradicate.


St. Louis will host two Pride festivals this weekend as part of a yearly celebration of LGBTQ+ culture and history.

Pride traces its roots back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, when police raided a gay club in New York City, sparking widespread protests.  As in past years, two Pride celebrations will take place in St. Louis; a large, two-day event downtown and a community-driven festival in Tower Grove Park. 

When Martha Wade spells a word, it sounds like a song.

Her daughter, Sharon Wade, sits with her on a plush couch and tries to come up with new words to stump the 86-year-old. As her mother’s full-time caregiver, Wade looks for activities to challenge her physically and mentally.

Sharon Wade’s situation is not unusual. Unlike previous generations, an increasing number of older Americans are choosing to continue living in their own homes, rather than moving to nursing facilities. Meanwhile, the high cost of in-home care means that the burden of caring for elderly adults often falls on family members.


Eileen Graessle leaned in close to a patch of milkweed, as she tried to capture a photo of a honeybee in motion.

It was a difficult task, but one that Graessle relished as a volunteer for the BeeBlitz citizen science project on Saturday in Forest Park. The annual event aims to help researchers determine which species are present in the city and how their populations are changing.

“It helps to study the way that they move,” said Graessle, an amateur beekeeper who lives in Ballwin. “I also take multiple shots and then usually some of those come out exciting and defined.”

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