Hello, I'm a science and environmental journalist. I like to write about research in wild places and environmental and health issues that hit close to home.
My writing has appeared in Audubon, Popular Science, Tonic, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, and elsewhere. I've been a guest on the podcast The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week and my film projects have been selected for the New York Wild Film Festival, Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, People Preserving Place festival and the Environmental Film Festival at Yale.
I graduated from New York University with a master's in journalism where I reported on leeches, hermits, and dragon boat racers. Before that, I taught and learned from young people in northern Wisconsin and along the coast of Maine. And once, I spent a summer chasing mountain goats for the Forest Service.
Get in touch: alexakrupp [at] gmail [dot] com
Leeches were once a popular medical treatment for everything from headaches to hemorrhages. Now a subculture of true believers is reclaiming this ancient practice.
The Beaufort Sea along Alaska's north coast is bitter cold, packed with marine life, and underlain with millions of gallons of oil. Since the 1980s, oil companies have targeted a shallow area five miles from shore-between Prudhoe Bay, once North America's most productive oil field, and the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest wildlife refuge in the country-to build an oil and gas production facility, the first in Alaska's federal waters.
Dogs can get one of the more bizarre cancers in the world. The disease spreads from dog to dog, but it's not triggered by a virus, the way Human papillomavirus can prompt cervical cancer in people. Instead, the tumors spread between dogs by the transfer of cancerous cells themselves.
Lobstering will start up in Cape Cod Bay next week once migrating right whales swim out of the plankton-rich waters. From February until early May, the state prohibits fishermen from setting traps in the bay to protect the feasting whales. But while the fishery was still closed this season, a handful of lobstermen kept busy on the water.
The Gowanus Canal is one of the most polluted waterways in the country. For almost two decades, a community of canoers has paddled its waters, advocating for their cleanup. Now, changes in the neighborhood may improve the water quality, but change its character.
Harwich residents brought doughnuts out for Eversouce Energy workers on Tuesday morning as the crew put up a nest platform for a pair of ospreys on Route 28. The birds arrived in the area at the end of March for nesting season but when they went to settle into their old haunt on top of a telephone pole, the nest was gone.
The U.S. is shooting for the moon, again. In March, Vice President Mike Pence said he wants to see a NASA lunar mission in the next five years. While experts debate the reality of this goal, the astronauts who already visited the moon nearly 50 years ago as part of the Apollo missions have spent time reflecting on how the experience changed them.
A strange whirring noise caught the attention of teachers at Puman Middle School in China's Hunan province last year. For months, the sound hummed throughout the night and over the school's holiday breaks. The internet slowed. The building's electricity bill doubled.
What's the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you'll have an even weirder answer if you listen to PopSci's newest podcast. The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week hits iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, PocketCasts, and basically everywhere else you listen to podcasts every Wednesday morning.
News & Explainers
Just after lunchtime one day in March, the power failed at a Department of Motor Vehicles office in eastern North Carolina when a nearby utility pole caught fire. In May, up the coast on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, sixth grade students sat in the dark as they prepared to take a standardized exam on an overcast morning.
Jerry Berrier wanted desperately to go birding. He'd been listening to birds, recording them, and learning to identify them by sound for decades. Wherever he went-family vacations, car trips, walks down the city streets-he would hoist a microphone into the air to grab a snippet.
Death can come in many forms, avocados included. If we can stomach enough of them, many of our daily foods are lethal. Down 30-plus glasses of water in a few hours, for instance, and you'll do yourself in. (One major cause of MDMA-related deaths: water intoxication caused in part by drug-induced extreme thirst.)
Just over a year ago, Congress passed a tax bill that included a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. The bill required that the first lease sales, when oil and gas companies can lay claim to develop parcels of land, occur within four years-and the Trump administration is moving fast to make drilling in the refuge a reality.
At a restaurant in Pithauli, Nepal, there's only one offering: raw beef. The meal isn't for people-it's for endangered vultures. While the birds feast, tourists in a nearby blind can watch up to eight species pick apart the flesh.
Three years ago, when Debi Shearwater spied a hayfield peppered with hundreds of nesting Tricolored Blackbirds from her car, she immediately panicked. She was on one of her usual spring drives, wending her way through the sprawling ranches along California's central coast, on the lookout for the birds' dense colonies-and this one was in a particularly precarious position.
Every year, intrepid shorebirds endure long, taxing journeys to the Arctic to raise their chicks. Tens of millions of birds comprising dozens of species, like Bar-tailed Godwits, Pacific Golden Plovers, and White-rumped Sandpipers, zig-zag many thousands of miles across oceans, highways, farms, and mudflats to reach the far north, where predators and diseases are few and insects abound.
Desirée Narango has knocked on hundreds of doors in the outskirts of Washington, D.C. to make an intimate request of homeowners: permission to count and identify the trees and shrubs in their yards. Luckily for Narango, now an ecologist at the City University of New York, they almost always said yes.
A handful of wobbly Red Knots have stayed in Melissa Dollard's living room nearly every night for the past three weeks. The shorebirds are precariously underweight. Their legs tremble. Some can't stand or hold up their heads on their own. Every hour, Dollard will clean out their mouths to make sure they don't choke on their own spit.
Alfonso Scarpa/Unsplash When John McGeary leads therapy sessions for anxiety at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Providence, Rhode Island, he'll often draw a graph on the board. It will show a diagonal line extending upward to signify increasing levels of anxiety.
There weren't supposed to be any old-growth forests left on Cebu, a lush island in the heart of the Philippines-and with the trees' absence, no Cebu Flowerpeckers, either. For decades, biologists had written off the stocky songbirds as casualties of rampant deforestation after a 1949 survey found no habitat remaining.
Nearly 30 pounds of old crayons from all over the country land on Kim Martonosi's doorstep every day. With the help of her kids, she sorts the worn and broken wax sticks by color, melts the bins of blue-greys and light greens and pinks down to a gooey swirl, and shapes the new creations into stars and earthworms and simple sticks.
Scientists are studying Cuba's pristine reefs as an exploratory trip to see if they could find any great hammerheads and document the reef's condition. They want to go back to tag individual animals and collaborate on research with Cuban scientists.
Snaking beneath roads and strung across oceans, hundreds of thousands of miles of cables and their connections make up the backbone of the internet. Despite its magnitude, this network is increasingly vulnerable to sea levels inching their way higher. Within 15 years, thousands of miles of what should be land-bound cables in the United States could be under water.
When people traversed across the land bridge connecting Siberia to North America, dogs trotted by their sides. Canines and their human companions spread throughout the continent for thousands of years, settling from California to Nova Scotia and down to Peru. These dogs ranged from the size of squat bull-terroirs to as large as hulking malamutes.
A brisk night on Mars is often balmier than a July evening in eastern Antarctica. The coldest place on earth sits atop the Eastern Antarctic Plateau, two miles above the sea. It's not just one spot: across an area the size of Indiana, the chilliest air in the world pools in slight valleys.
Late in the evening, a government-owned catamaran departs from Galveston, Texas nearly every week of the summer. It travels through the night, a hundred miles down the Gulf of Mexico, to reach a series of reefs that rise up from the seafloor. The boat parks beside the coral for several days, abutting the edge of the continental shelf.
When a Chicago man brought his sick dog on a fishing trip to Isle Royale National Park, he set off the outbreak of a virus that would devastate the island's wolves. The disease, canine parvovirus, "went through the population of wolves like wildfire," says Phyllis Green, superintendent of the park, a boreal forest on the western edge of Lake Superior, in Michigan.
An Air Force unit celebrated the start of hurricane season early this year, with a flight over the Yucatán Peninsula at the end of May to penetrate the heart of subtropical storm Alberto. "There aren't many people that fly into hurricanes," says Major Chris Dyke, an Air Force meteorologist.
Nurses, nuclear engineers, computer scientists and biochemists all over the country are bidding for seats in Congress. These candidates share a commitment to bringing evidence-based decision-making to government and a desire for elected officials to better reflect the varied backgrounds and professions of their constituents. (Unlike the average citizen, most senators hold law degrees.)
Moose skeletons are hard to come by on Isle Royale these days. That's not for lack of moose - the island is teeming with them. For nearly half a century, Rolf Peterson has spent each summer coordinating a small army of volunteers to search for moose remains on the remote island in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, part of Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.
Idea Images/Getty Images John Garvin may be the longest-serving emergency room doctor in the country. He can't be sure-he started practicing in Virginia in 1971, before the specialty had residency programs to keep track-but it's fun to speculate. He speaks in clipped sentences, with a high-pitched Southern twang.
Fifteen feet beneath the surface of the Bering Sea, thick kelp ensnared Jochen Halfar as he tried to surface. He was diving in frigid waters off the tip of Alaska's Aleutian Islands to chisel off pieces of a 700-year-old hardened pink plant, called coralline algae, coating the region's ocean floor.
Dreaming of farms on borrowed land.
Kelsey Justis '16, a first-generation student from Daytona Beach, Florida, never imagined he'd go to an elite college. At his inner-city high school, teachers didn't expect most students to graduate, much less land in the Ivy League. Even his mother wasn't eager for him to go to college.