What I Don't Know Yet

A look at my work

In Uncategorized on September 9, 2008 at 12:06 am

Lee Magazine hits stands Friday. I’ll post a link to my article on nationally renowned African-American quilter Mozell Benson. What a fun lady and a wonderful artist, too.

My first article for Louisville Magazine is in the September issue. It covers the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, the most likely source of the next big quake in the Midwest.

Wabash Shakedown

Louisville Magazine

Cracks and fractures embroider the drought-exposed riverbank, as though Zeus slammed his fist to Earth in southern Illinois. The fissures snake up from the water line of the Wabash River, looking to the untutored eye like gaps where erosion accelerated. But they tell a story of ancient cataclysmic events that rumbled into what is now Kentucky with a force not seen here in recorded history. The discovery of these cracks by a U.S. Geological Survey scientist in the mid-1980s changed ideas about a fault system that can resonate all the way to Louisville (and farther) — as evidenced by an April 2008 jostle from a 5.2-magnitude quake and more than 150 aftershocks. The Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, a loosely defined region of quake activity in southern Indiana and Illinois, could be Louisville’s biggest earthquake threat, erupting every decade or two with a magnitude 5 quake and capable of tremors 1,000 times more energetic …READ THE REST OF THE STORY. (Put the word “quake” into the search box. There’s unfortunately no easy way to form a link to this page.)

In recent years, most of my work was as a staff writer for the Toledo Blade.

A fungal disease is killing frogs around the world. I was in Panama in 2006 to record the efforts to rescue that country’s amphibian species before they all disappeared.

The Twilight of the Frogs

The Toledo Blade

EL VALLE DE ANTON, Panama – Kent Bekker of the Toledo Zoo starts his day swinging a makeshift net across damp grass. It’s about 8:30 in the morning, and already, the air is near liquid with humidity.

One doesn’t so much move through the day as swim through it. Nothing dries out. Skin glistens with sweat even when the evening’s mountain breezes make light jackets necessary. Car interiors smell of mildew. An abandoned damp towel sprouts a carpet of mold. A climate that allows a gardener’s dream of lush flowers is the perfect breeding ground for fungi.
It is also the ideal home for a fungus few here have heard of. It’s called chytrid (KIT-rid), or formally Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, and it’s completing a deadly sweep through Central America. It threatens to kill nearly all of Panama’s frogs, as it has in Costa Rica and Mexico before this, and as it is doing on every continent on the planet. It’s why the Toledo Zoo sent Mr. Bekker to Panama. He’s part of a team attempting an unprecedented feat: the rescue of dozens of frog species from extinction.
Mr. Bekker snaps his net through the air as though it were a flag, hoping to dry it out just a bit. It’s a cloth bag, and it sticks to itself. He looks in the plastic cup humming with the insects he’s collected so far. There are not enough to feed all the frogs.

Finding enough frog food, it turns out, is just another crisis, faced like any other critical chore in an unusual project where a mistake could contribute to the extinction of a species.READ THE REST OF THE STORY

When a small group of patients agreed to help researchers determine the safety of a cancer drug, they quickly forgot this was their goal, and instead hoped the monoclonal antibody would cure them of  late stage cancers.  Following these incredible women on their journey gave me a chance to delve into the often misunderstood arena of cancer and its treatment.

Working on a Cure: Cancer on Trial

The Toledo Blade

Pat Krzeminski marches into her doctor’s office at the Medical College of Ohio.
Secretaries and nurses eddy around her, snickering as they get a good look at the back of her head. She summons her physician.
Pat’s hair is punk short. Her eyes are wide, with carefully arched eyebrows, and dark liner.
Dr. James Fanning, angular, bearded, and just a little confused by the unexpected visit, answers the call.
“I did something, and you need to know what I did,” Pat tells him. Then she pivots…. READ THE REST OF THE STORY

While none of us were really even paying attention, our relationship to human reproduction changed entirely. A series I wrote in 2004 attempted to survey the vast changes in baby making and scientific progress.

The Embryonic Revolution:
Harnessing the Power of Creation

The Toledo Blade

Alana Saarinen is an adorable, curious, shy, clever, devilish, affectionate girl. In short, a normal 3-year-old.
She may also be entirely new to biology. She may carry DNA from three people.
The cheerful girl in pigtails was born of her parents’ fifth attempt at in vitro fertilization – the meeting of sperm and egg in a laboratory dish, the “birthplace” of more than 1 million children worldwide in the last 26 years.
But Alana is more than a much-treasured personal victory over infertility – long and painfully fought – for Paul and Sharon Saarinen of West Bloomfield, Mich.
She represents a revolution born of the human embryo.

The revolution’s advance is often silent, crystallized within the private decisions of desperate couples and inventive fertility doctors. At the same time, it is a scientific revolution of unusual public prominence, the subject of presidential electioneering, Congressional debates, dire predictions, and … READ THE REST OF THE STORY.

While habitat loss continues to be the No. 1 threat to species the world over, for primates, the bush meat trade — the sales and consumption of wild animals — is proving a bigger threat. I traveled to Africa in 2000 to tell the story of people trying to save infant gorillas rescued from the trade.

Orphans of the Slaughter

The Toledo Blade

MPASSA, Gabon – The toddler wakes with a start and a scream.
His is a panicked, curdling cry, and Linda Percy has no choice but to hold the infant and wait for the moment to pass. The youngster tries to bury himself in her chest. His arms grasping, his legs pushing, he drives his head into her with desperate force. He’s unconscious in terror.
Every night. Night after night. Every few hours. It’s always the same: the same panicked cry, the same rooting for comfort, the same 18-month-old that will not be consoled.
Could it be memory, Linda wonders as she scoops up a bottle she hopes he’ll accept. This can’t be hunger. More often than not he refuses the milk she prepared for him.
She can’t prove it, but she’s convinced the small gorilla holds a nightmare.
Tormenting him is the memory of the slaughter of his family, the days of starvation that followed, the rope that wore infected ruts into his hips.
Ivindo remembers, Linda believes. She holds the sick youngster tighter and waits for exhaustion to quiet him.
In the tradition of the adventure stories that first revealed Africa to westerners, the continent is gripped by a new tale of man against beast. But this is one never imagined by the big game hunters and swashbuckling explorers who saw themselves conquering an untamable wilderness
In this battle, gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, and scores of other species are the ones fighting for survival as traditional hunting practices are perverted into a growing commerce known as the bushmeat trade.….READ THE REST OF THE STORY.

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