Category Archives: Biodiversity

Coywolves In Our Backyards

Wolves of the Northeast deep woods have interbred with western coyotes, and the hybrid coywolves now thrive among us I have never seen a wolf or coyote, outside of a zoo. An urban college professor, I have lived for the last 45 years in suburban Saint Louis. A red fox family once graced our subdivision… Read More »

Biodiversity Behind Bars: Are Zoos Justified?

There is something about a child that doesn’t like bars. When I was seven, I knew with a searing certainty that no person, no animal should have to live caged, peering out behind bars at a free world it cannot reach. And I acted on that certainty. I lived at 60 Hopkins Street, Hilton Village,… Read More »

Migrating Songbirds are in Steep Decline in Missouri’s Woodlands

Every year since 1966, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has organized thousands of amateur ornithologists and bird watchers in an annual bird count called the Breeding Bird Survey. In recent years, a shocking trend has emerged. While year-round residents that prosper around humans, like robins, starlings, and blackbirds, have increased their numbers and distribution… Read More »

How the Platypus Sees With Its Eyes Shut

This month a most unusual animal had its genome sequenced by molecular biologists — the platypus. Some of its genes match those of humans, like a cluster of casein genes involved in milk production. This was not unexpected, as both of us are mammals and possess mammary glands. Other genes were very different from ours,… Read More »


Scientists who study ecology view the world as a patchwork quilt of different environments, all bordering on and interacting with one another. Consider for a moment a patch of Missouri forest, the sort of place a deer or turkey might live. Ecologists call the collection of creatures that live in a particular place a community—all… Read More »


Few concepts in biology have stirred more social controversy than race.  Race has a deceptively simple definition, referring to groups of individuals related by ancestry that differ from other groups, but not enough to constitute separate species.  The controversy arises because of the way people have used the concept of race to justify the abuse… Read More »

The killer bees are coming

African bees have invaded the south, and may eventually reach Missouri One of the harshest lessons of environmental biology is that the unexpected does happen. Precisely because science operates at the edge of what we know, nosing ahead to learn more, researchers sometimes stumble over the unexpected. This lesson was brought clearly to mind this… Read More »

Death Stalks the Hunters of the Night Skies

The hallmark of humanity’s new century is uncertainty. Our future is haunted by the threats of global warming, bird flu, and ailments like diabetes that never used to be such a problem. This week we learn that we are not alone in facing an uncertain future. Bats are dying. A plague has killed tens of… Read More »

Is the number of men in a female’s life written in her genes?

Not all scientific questions are boring. As an example of the interesting kind, imagine asking “Why are some animals monogamous, and others not?” That’s the sort of question you would expect a novelist to ask, not a scientist, and perhaps because of this I find it irresistibly interesting. A particularly vivid exploration of this question… Read More »

In saving the environment, one individual can make a big difference

The XVI International Botanical Congress that starts today at the St. Louis convention center spotlights the efforts of scientists all over the world to address a crucial issue: How will the world deal with the challenges that its growing human population will impose in the new millennium? The development of solutions to the world’s environmental… Read More »

Is flipper a senseless killer?

I grew up a child of Disney, as have my children. My childhood was populated by Bambi, Dumbo, and a host of other Disney cartoon animals which embodied to me courage, kindness and warm affection. My children have grown up with the next generation of Disneyfied creatures, crabs that sing under the sea and lions… Read More »