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KQED’s award-winning team of science reporters explores climate change, water, energy, toxics, biomedicine, digital health, astronomy and other topics that shape our lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a trusted news source, KQED Science tackles tough questions facing humanity in our time with thoughtful and engaging storytelling.
 
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It was a year ago that we suddenly all found ourselves working from home and obsessively washing our hands as the novel coronavirus started to spread in the U.S. and the Bay Area. A lot has changed since then: how we live, work, parent, plan and communicate. The coronavirus is hardly “novel” anymore. It has altered all of our lives. KQED science re…
 
Marine scientists have observed a massive decline of California’s underwater kelp forests in recent years. Studies have linked the die-off to a host of factors including an ocean heat wave, a deadly sea star virus, and an influx of voracious kelp-eating sea urchins. Kelp’s long flat leaves and bulbous stems provide habitat for marine mammals, fish …
 
A nation-leading workplace safety rule specifically designed to combat the risks of an airborne virus should have been protecting hundreds of thousands of California workers from COVID-19. The Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard took effect 12 years ago — and it anticipated a pandemic. But one year into the pandemic, workers say enforcement is …
 
Federal wildlife officials announced this week that monarch butterflies qualify to be protected as an endangered species. But, the iconic insect won’t be receiving that status under the Endangered Species Act due to a backlog of other species in line for protection. In California, where monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains mostly flock for the wint…
 
President-elect Joe Biden has said that the environment and climate change will be top priorities of his administration. On Jan. 20, Biden will not only take the helm of a country shaken by climate-driven disasters like wildfires and hurricanes, but also inherit the consequences of the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulations. T…
 
Amid a record-breaking fire year, a new report out Thursday says the state lacks a grasp on the true costs of wildfires. The report is from the California Council on Science and Technology, an independent nonprofit organization established to offer state leaders objective advice from scientists and research institutions. Ahead of the CCST’s public …
 
We’re in the middle of the worst public health crisis in a century, one in which adherence to public health guidelines makes all the difference between an out-of-control pestilence and a serious but containable emergency. California, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, slowed what looked to be its inexorable spread with an extraordinary y…
 
The fire refugees kept calling, all of them elderly, all of them newly homeless after Paradise burned in 2018. Some 70 miles to the south in Grass Valley, Katrina Hardin answered those calls. Hardin managed a senior apartment complex — none were available, so she begged her friends to open up their spare rooms. The demographics of the victims haunt…
 
Doctors say the antiviral drug remdesivir is one of the few treatments that benefits patients hospitalized with COVID-19. But the drug, made by Gilead Sciences, can cost more than $3,000 for the full course of treatment, and some hospitals — including several in the Bay Area — say it’s in short supply. Foster City-based Gilead is currently the only…
 
Stepping onto the 55-acre grounds of the San Francisco Botanical Garden feels a bit like entering the chocolate room at Willy Wonka’s factory, if that storybook setting were bursting with real plants instead of ones made of candy. Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, just blocks away from bustling city life (though not as bustling during these…
 
Black, Latino and indigenous people are severely under-represented as learners and teachers of science, technology, engineering and math in academia. The lack of diversity has been documented for decades with little or no improvement. Minority youths experience bias, discrimination and harassment, contributing to persistent power imbalances. As the…
 
At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Margo Henderson ordered a lot of takeout pizza and quesadillas. But she worried that the greasy comfort foods she indulged in at the pandemic’s outset had nudged her down a slippery slope. For most of her 29 years, Henderson has grappled with an eating disorder that caused a deep aversion, even disgust, f…
 
Wildfire season is not going to wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to subside. After a winter of lackluster rainfall, Northern California is facing a worse-than-average outlook. Preparing for these inevitable fires is extra important right now. First responders and emergency managers this year will not only have to cope with the already difficult task …
 
As California cities and counties begin a gradual loosening of restrictions on daily life, researchers around the state and nation are ramping up efforts to track the coronavirus’ evolution. Monitoring changes in its genetic code will help contain the virus on two fronts: pointing toward areas for therapeutic drugs or vaccines to target and aiding …
 
From the start of this pandemic, science news has unfolded at a dizzying pace and crushing volume. Scientific research, which usually creeps along in the background until publication day and then pops up to say something worthy, is suddenly making breathtaking international news every few days. The speed of science research has gone into overdrive …
 
No one knows exactly how this coming fire season will shake out, but experts and fire officials agree the COVID-19 pandemic will make an already hard job much tougher. Fire agencies and emergency managers are now planning how they’ll fight wildfires, issue evacuation orders, set up shelters and handle power shutoffs in the face of the massive chall…
 
Sassy Outwater-Wright has battled cancer her entire life. She lost her sight to the disease. (Miriam Cooper) When COVID-19 started rapidly spreading, hospitals throughout the country canceled elective surgeries to free up hospital beds and conserve protective equipment like masks and gowns. Surgery departments canceled everything from cosmetic proc…
 
Flattening the curve on a graph of the number of COVID-19 cases over time is the goal of the extreme social distancing measures undertaken in California. (Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris) Experts are telling us that staying home is the one way to “flatten the curve” of the number of COVID-19 cases and prevent an overload of hospitalizations. But whe…
 
If you’ve never really learned about the night sky, now is a great time do it. Parents can teach their children about the stars, and anyone can get out of the house and stargaze, keeping plenty of appropriate physical distance. So, on a clear evening, stop streaming movies, step outside, and look up! Here’s your guide to how and what to see. Keep i…
 
As outbreaks of the new coronavirus dominate the headlines, an army of disease researchers and public health officials have mobilized to track down infections and limit the extent of the spread. To talk about the work of these disease detectives, KQED’s Brian Watt spoke with Solano County Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas. Matyas’ answers have been ed…
 
When Army Sergeant Jonathan Lubecky returned to the U.S. from Iraq more than a decade ago, simple activities, like family trips to theme parks or the county fair, overwhelmed him. He recalls “panic attacks, intrusive thoughts. I’d get auditory and olfactory flashbacks.” Along with an “intense fear that bad things were about to happen.” He’d spent s…
 
The spherical shape of Earth is what we like to call around here “settled science.” But nowadays, pit even a 2,500-year-old truism against the evangelism of Internet algorithms, and you got yourself an actual “debate,” no matter how inane. The Apollo 17 crew caught this breathtaking view of Earth as they were traveling to the moon on Dec. 7, 1972. …
 
At the dinner table, Madeleine Dean, surrounded by noisy, Irish relatives, used to feel very alone. “Holiday meals had become a really stressful experience and nobody knew that,” she says. Dean, now a filmmaker, kept her eating disorder a secret for years. From a very young age she struggled with anorexia nervosa. Anticipating holiday meals, she st…
 
Unlike most kids, Alex Bevans scrutinizes the ingredient list before he eats anything. In the candy aisle of a grocery store in Carson City, Nevada, the 14-year-old scowls as he reads the label on a bag of lollipops, “Get this,” Alex said. “It has Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.” His mom, Rebecca, reached for the ba…
 
David Bevacqua never had trouble insuring a home in California, but he was in for a rude surprise after recently buying a house in Bass Lake, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. “None of the insurance companies would quote me,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on.” Bevacqua is not alone. As more and more destructive wildfires have whipped through…
 
California’s climate change efforts can be spotted all over the Bay Area in the growing number of electric cars and solar panels. But now, California is enlisting people from a more conservative part of the state — even if they don’t think climate change is much of a concern. California’s farmers are receiving millions of dollars to pull carbon out…
 
Update May 14: A little more than three months after this story first appeared, the State of California and more than a half-dozen fishing and conservation groups sued to stop Westlands Water District from working to advance the Shasta Dam expansion project. Original post: The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to enlarge California’s bi…
 
On November 6, Californians will weigh in on whether they want to continue changing their clocks twice a year. Proposition 7 on the statewide ballot would lay the groundwork for year-round Daylight Saving Time in the state. Lots of people hate switching between Standard and Daylight time, especially in March when we “spring forward” and lose an hou…
 
Floyd Ware has survived a widow-maker heart attack, layoffs in the tech industry and living a few doors down from the Grateful Dead. But now he worries that heat—in San Francisco, of all places—is going to kill him. “I don’t want to exaggerate, but at times it seems all-encompassing, you can’t get away from it,” he says. ‘I really do think that gov…
 
Reporter Molly Peterson conducted a 5-month investigation into heat in California, in partnership with KQED Science. In a series of stories, we will examine who’s vulnerable and why, and what it will take to protect people who are vulnerable to heat illness and death at home or on the job. Last year, as a Labor Day heat wave descended, Claudia Hern…
 
A year ago, on a warm, windy night, Paul Lowenthal got the call; he was needed at work. The Tubbs Fire, on its way to becoming the most destructive blaze in California history, was spreading into Santa Rosa, and Lowenthal, the city’s assistant fire marshal, needed to get people out. “It was exploding at a rate that I would have never imagined,” he …
 
This week corporate and civic leaders from around the world will gather in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. The effort was spearheaded by Gov. Jerry Brown to move the fight against global warming beyond the national commitments made in Paris nearly three years ago. ‘Thirty years ago we predicted it in the models — and now I’m fee…
 
Imagine what a Northern California garden might look like 100 years from now as temperatures keep rising. Where lush grasses, riotously bright California poppies and quaking aspens once stood, picture — what? Cracked earth, tumbleweeds, cactus and giant cockroaches, maybe? A group of artists and scientists at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) have a different v…
 
Worsening wildfires linked to the weather, climate change and forest management policies are causing unprecedented smoke pollution across the West and beyond, creating public health risks and undermining decades of air quality gains. After 30 minutes of gardening, Donna Fisher’s eyes are burning. One is swollen shut. Since retiring to the forested …
 
One thing that stands out in this already-staggering fire season is the repeated accounts of bizarre fire behavior that seem to defy conventional wisdom. Now, scientists are looking for new clues to that behavior. It turns out that the smoke plume from a wildfire tells its own complex story that contains some of those clues, and in California, ther…
 
For a century, California has harnessed its water with concrete, building dams and reservoirs on an epic scale. Now, as the state prepares to hand out $2.7 billion for new water storage projects, it looks as though that era of dam-building might be ending. During the height of the California’s 5-year drought, state voters approved new funding for w…
 
With climate change, wildfires threaten disaster and chaos in more California communities, more often. But experts say it’s possible to avoid catastrophic harm to human and forest health by setting planned burns before human error, lightning or arson choose when fires start. [contextly_sidebar id=”jxcGO35mXk1KJYVaQ7fcALHMXXhgpY5X”]“Putting prescrib…
 
It will most likely be weeks before the County Fire west of Sacramento is completely extinguished. By Friday it had consumed nearly 140 square miles — an area larger than Las Vegas. Firefighters say it was a vicious cycle of weather conditions, terrain and vegetation that made it one of the fastest-growing fires in recent memory. But there was some…
 
On a sunny, crisp day in April, LeRoy Little Bear and a dozen other tribal members from the Blackfeet Nation sang and danced a traditional rite to honor fourteen American bison they brought from Montana to the Oakland Zoo. “Today is a very historic day because we’ve brought down buffalo that were almost extinct,” announced Little Bear from an overl…
 
The season of summer blockbusters is in full swing. From the rollicking space adventure of “Solo,” to the universe-spanning “Avengers: Infinity War,” characters are dodging blasters, collecting stones of power, and falling in love as their world hangs in peril. ‘We’re not trying to be the accuracy police. For us, it’s a lot more about inspiration.’…
 
Proposition 68 is a $4.1 billion bond measure that will clean up dilapidated parks, improve water projects, upgrade flood protection and protect scenic open spaces. What You Need to Know About Proposition 68 About two-thirds of the money would be dedicated to parks and wildlife, and one-third would be allocated to water and flood control projects. …
 
UPDATE: Voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 72 by a roughly 83-17 margin, in a move to promote water conservation in the state. What You Need to Know About Proposition 72 • Exempts rainwater catchment systems from property tax assessments • Applies to systems constructed on or after Jan. 1, 2019 • The rainwater system is included in the valu…
 
Michael Mann, creator of ‘hockey stick’ curve for greenhouse gases, says we now have to double sea rise projections. Sees California as ‘shining beacon’ for how to take action Despite harassment, says ‘You don’t back off from a worthy battle when the stakes are important.’ Even as negotiators wind up another round of climate talks in Germany this w…
 
Twenty-year-old Ryan Karsner is surrounded by rocks. Thousands of them overflow from boxes and cabinets in a cramped storeroom at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif. The rocks range from rust-hued sandstone to smooth grey basalt. Some have been collecting dust in rooms like this for more than 50 years, until now. Ryan’s task is to cata…
 
One day we may tell our kids or grandkids about the first time we ever saw a car drive down the street without a human behind the wheel. Today in California, we are a little closer to that milestone. As of April 2, the DMV can issue permits to test driverless cars on public roads. Unlike previous testing, the new permits will not require cars to ha…
 
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