Eli Chen | KBIA

Eli Chen

Eli Chen is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. She comes to St. Louis after covering the eroding Delaware coast, bat-friendly wind turbine technology, mouse love songs and various science stories for Delaware Public Media/WDDE-FM. Before that, she corralled robots and citizen scientists for the World Science Festival in New York City and spent a brief stint booking guests for Science Friday’s live events in 2013. Eli grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where a mixture of teen angst, a love for Ray Bradbury novels and the growing awareness about climate change propelled her to become the science storyteller she is today. When not working, Eli enjoys a solid bike ride, collects classic disco, watches standup comedy and is often found cuddling other people’s dogs. She has a bachelor’s in environmental sustainability and creative writing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has a master’s degree in journalism, with a focus on science reporting, from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

Students at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla are building a portable water filter that can help people who lack access to clean water. 

The graduate engineering students are using paper and nano-size silica particles to filter toxins produced by harmful growths of algae. They plan to demonstrate their project at the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Student Design Competition in June at a technology conference. 

Water-filtering technologies that exist on the market are often complicated and inaccessible to remote, rural communities that need them the most, said Sutapa Barua, a Missouri S&T chemical engineering professor who advises the students. 

The St. Louis County Council may soon approve restrictions on building in the flood-prone areas of unincorporated parts of the county to prevent damage from future floods. 

The St. Louis area has experienced three record floods in the past five years, causing severe damage to communities along the Meramec, Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The county council is considering a bill that would lower the amount of water development can displace from one foot to one inch.

A team of engineering students at St. Louis University this week will be listening for signals from a six-pound, tissue-box-size satellite in outer space. 

About 45 undergraduate students have spent nearly three years building the Argus-2 satellite. The International Space Station will deploy it and eight other satellites Wednesday as a part of a NASA science education program

The satellite will capture images of Earth and demonstrate how well memory storage devices perform in space, said Jeffrey Kelley, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering at SLU.

Bayer AG announced today that its researchers have discovered a molecule that it could use to develop new herbicide products. 

The biotech company is conducting field tests of the compound, which it hasn’t yet named. It’s been 30 years since scientists have developed an herbicide molecule, largely due to a lengthy regulatory process and the widespread use of Monsanto’s Roundup, which contains the molecule glyphosate.

Missouri agriculture officials are struggling to address a backlog of complaints from farmers who allege that dicamba-based herbicide drift from another farm has damaged their crops. 

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has about 600 pending pesticide investigations. Some of them date back to 2016, the year that Bayer-owned Monsanto began selling its dicamba-tolerant soybeans. 

State legislators are considering a budget request the state agriculture agency made last week to hire more staff to help address complaints.

Kasey Fowler-Finn wants people to hear how climate change could alter the lives of a sap-feeding insect that’s smaller than a fingernail. 

The St. Louis University biologist studies how rising temperatures could affect the mating calls of treehoppers. Fowler-Finn and Virginia-based sound artist Stephen Vitiello used that research to produce an exhibit, called “Too Hot To Sing,” that opens today at the SLU Museum of Art

The St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed a plan to help eight municipalities and three counties along the Meramec River better prepare for floods. 

Agency officials recently released a report recommending numerous strategies that include buying out properties and restoring wetlands in the flood plain for areas that have a high risk of being flooded. Communities along the river have dealt with three record floods since 2015. 

Municipal and county governments will decide in March whether to adopt the corps’ plan. Doing so would help them better inform residents about flood plain development, said Hal Graef, a St. Louis corps program manager. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to build a nonprofit organization in St. Louis to advance technologies that would help small farms in developing countries. 

The nonprofit, to be named Gates Ag One, will focus on more rapidly developing seeds and technologies that could help farmers in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa raise yields. 

The foundation also aims to help growers adapt to more frequent droughts, floods and other extreme weather events brought on by climate change.

A St. Louis circuit court judge has postponed a trial for a lawsuit that alleges the Monsanto weed killer Roundup caused people to develop cancer. 

Opening statements in the case were scheduled for Friday. But Judge Elizabeth Hogan continued the case indefinitely to give attorneys for Monsanto and four plaintiffs time to work on a settlement, according to a statement from Bayer.

For years, an empty three-story warehouse on the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Whittier Street was just another eyesore in north St. Louis. 

But last summer, workers began to dismantle the 136-year-old building and saved about $250,000 worth of brick, lumber and other materials. The city had selected the former moving and storage warehouse as its first project to deconstruct, or take apart, a building to salvage its components. 

Unlike demolition, deconstruction saves valuable materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. It also doesn’t emit harmful pollutants into the surrounding community and provides more jobs because it requires more workers. 

Engineers at the University of Missouri-Columbia are developing a wearable device that could provide much-needed cooling on extremely hot days. 

The device is a small wired patch made out of a special type of porous plastic that doesn’t require any fans, pumps or electricity to cool the wearer. The technology reflects sunlight away from the body to reduce the person’s exposure to heat.

Jefferson County health officials plan this year to increase testing for lead contamination in residential areas near where companies mined for heavy metals several decades ago. 

The county’s health department will work with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to educate residents about potential lead contamination in their yards. The agencies also are encouraging parents to have their children’s blood tested for lead.

Since last spring, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid nearly $70 million to Missouri residents who filed flood insurance claims.

Payments are likely to keep accumulating, as claims are still being processed and more flooding could occur this year. The National Weather Service predicts that above-average precipitation and abnormally moist ground conditions in the Upper Midwest this winter could increase the chance of major flooding in the St. Louis region in the spring. 

An advisory group's recommendations to Gov. Mike Parson that state and federal agencies largely focus on repairing and strengthening levees will not do enough to protect communities from floods, environmentalists say.

Parson created the Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group last summer after record flooding along the state’s major rivers caused widespread damage to many Missouri communities. The group mostly consists of regulators, levee district representatives and members of agriculture associations.

There are no scientists and conservationists to acknowledge that climate change will worsen floods and promote long-term solutions to prevent flood damage, said Maisah Khan, water policy director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

The Maryland Heights TIF Commission has rejected a controversial plan to build pumps to drain a frequently flooded area near the Missouri River. 

Commission members voted 7-5 Friday against recommending that the Maryland Heights City Council approve the city’s plan to create a $151 million tax increment financing district. City officials proposed using the TIF district to pay for pumps and levees in a 2,409-acre area called the Maryland Park Lake District.

Area landowners supported the plan to build infrastructure to control flooding. Environmentalists opposed it, saying that it will lead to development that will worsen flooding in the St. Louis region.

An advisory group Gov. Mike Parson appointed to study ways to address flooding has released a report that recommends state and federal agencies repair and strengthen levees, especially in rural areas hit severely by prolonged flooding this year. 

Record flooding in 2019 overtopped and breached dozens of levees along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, causing damage to many farms and communities. Some parts of western Missouri experienced flooding for as long as seven months.

Five years ago, archaeologist Anne Austin stood in an ancient Egyptian tomb, staring at strange markings on the neck of a mummified woman. 

She placed a scanning device over the mummy to cast infrared light, an invisible light often used to detect heat. Almost like magic, several tattoos revealed themselves, Austin said. 

Since then, Austin has used infrared photography to study tattoos on seven Egyptian mummies.

On a chilly, gray morning in Forest Park, three St. Louis Zoo scientists switched on 20-inch-long antennas to begin their search for a turtle named Pumpkin. 

Pumpkin is one of nine box turtles in Forest Park that scientists have tagged with tracking devices. Researchers at the St. Louis Zoo and St. Louis University are tracking box turtles in the city’s largest park and in a remote area in southwest St. Louis County to study how they thrive in urban and rural environments.

Palmer and her colleagues at the zoo recently reported in the journal Frontiers that the three-toed box turtles in the park have a higher mortality rate than the ones they tracked in the woods near Washington University’s Tyson Research Center.

An annual winter bird-watching event kicks off this weekend, giving people the chance to learn about birds and collect data for wildlife scientists.

Nature lovers in the St. Louis area will gather in parks and wildlife refuges to partake in the National Audubon Society’s 120th Christmas Bird Count from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. There are 20 gatherings taking place in Missouri and almost 90 in Illinois.

Keeping vacant, flood-prone lands free of development could save taxpayers billions, according to conservation scientists. 

In a study published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability, the Nature Conservancy, University of Bristol and other institutions found that every $1 spent acquiring undeveloped properties in the 100-year floodplain — which have a 1% chance of flooding in any given year — returns $5 that would be spent on emergency services, flood insurance claims and other flood damage costs if those properties became developed.

Updated at 1:09 p.m. with comments from environmentalists A Missouri environmental advocacy group is suing the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that it has failed to prevent farm runoff from polluting Missouri’s lakes. 

The EPA last December approved a plan the Missouri Department of Natural Resources developed to monitor nutrient pollution in the state’s lakes. Excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that largely come from farm runoff can threaten aquatic wildlife and public health. 

Space explorers could someday use the moon to mine for elements needed to make rocket fuel on the moon, making it a launchpad to other worlds. 

But first, scientists need to study the moon’s ice deposits. A team of astrophysicists at Washington University has received a $7 million agreement with NASA to study the origins of lunar ice, ammonia and methane over the next five years.

The Maryland Heights Tax Increment Financing Commission could soon approve a plan to use tax money to build pumps and levees in a frequently flooded area near the Missouri River. 

City officials and the urban planning group PGAV Planners propose to redevelop the Maryland Park Lake District. That’s a 2,215-acre agricultural area near Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park that is protected by the Howard Bend levees. 

Predominantly black neighborhoods in the St. Louis region where poor people live have a much higher exposure to carcinogenic air pollution than white middle-class neighborhoods, according to a study from Washington University. 

Researchers analyzed the Environmental Protection Agency’s data on risk of cancer from air pollutants, like ozone, among census tracts in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In the journal Environmental Research, scientists reported that the risk was five times higher for census tracts that had mostly black residents and high levels of poverty than for areas with white middle-class residents.

St. Louis officials released a plan late Monday to generate 100% of the city’s energy from wind and solar power by 2035. 

Environmental lawyers and advocates who worked on the report recommended making buildings more energy efficient, increasing solar panel installation and purchasing wind energy. 

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, who sponsored the board’s 2017 clean energy resolution, said achieving the resolution’s goal would benefit the economy.

Franklin County is considering zoning changes that would allow large livestock operations to be built in areas where they haven’t been permitted before. 

The proposed revisions to the county’s zoning map have many residents worried that the changes could make it easier for corporations to build concentrated animal feeding operations. Such industrial livestock farms produce large amounts of animal waste, which can pollute the air and water for nearby residents.

Did you see the bright flash last night? Many home security cameras in the St. Louis area sure did

The annual Taurid meteor shower, known to burn more brightly than other meteor events, hit its peak on Monday night. Area residents blasted social media with doorbell camera videos and firsthand accounts about the noise it made.

The American Meteor Society received more than 120 reports about the sighting, from Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and other Midwestern and Western states. 

Before a group of young adults embarked on a tour of toxic waste sites in St. Louis, artist Allana Ross asked if anyone wanted a respirator. 

Twice a year since 2017, Ross dresses up as a park ranger and invites people to follow her on a “Toxic Mounds Tour” to locations in St. Louis County that have been contaminated by toxic waste. 

Some stops along the tour are sites where federal officials are cleaning up radioactive waste, like Coldwater Creek in Hazelwood. Others, like the Weldon Spring site in St. Charles, which contains nuclear waste, were converted into parks. 

After six years of building demolitions and excavations, workers have finished cleaning up the Carter Carburetor Superfund site in north St. Louis. 

The site, the former location of an oil and diesel carburetor manufacturing plant, closed in 1984. Nearly a decade later, the Environmental Protection Agency included it in the federal Superfund program, which investigates and cleans up hazardous waste sites. It left behind high levels of heavy metals and toxic chemicals, like PCBs, that are known to cause cancer.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is building a three-mile sewer line underneath the city of Ladue to address overflow problems in the area.

The $62.5 million project, which began in September, is being constructed along Deer Creek in St. Louis County. The work will help the utility comply with a $4.7 billion consent decree from a 2012 Clean Water Act lawsuit

Workers are building a 2.6-mile trunk sewer to help prevent sewer overflows when it rains, said Rebecca Losli, a program manager for MSD. 

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