Under the Microscope

Thursdays at 4:45 p.m.

KBIA's weekly look at science, technology, and health in Missouri and beyond. Find us on iTunes

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Excited and hungry, three children chant as food is served (“We want potatoes! Potatoes!) and ask what else is for dinner (fish and green beans as it happens). The hubbub continues until Mom cracks down:

“Please! Sit. On your bottom.” The children obey. They continue to buzz as they eat.


Charles Bassett wants you to buy hamburgers made from his Missouri cows. That’s why the Missouri rancher wants to pay an extra dollar into an industry-created fund every time he sells one of his cattle.

Charles Bassett wants you to buy hamburgers made from his Missouri cows. That’s why the Missouri rancher wants to pay an extra dollar into an industry-created fund every time he sells one of his cattle.

Cannabis is beginning to look a lot like a commodity crop.

After spending decades in darkened basements and secreted away on small parcels of land, marijuana growers are commercializing once-illegal plant varieties: industrial hemp, recreational marijuana and medical cannabis.

As more states legalize the growth of certain types of cannabis, those in the industry are turning to traditional farmers for help in an effort to transform the plant from black market scourge to the next big American cash crop.

Carla used to get dialysis a couple of times a week at the public hospital in Indianapolis, Eskenazi Hospital. She would sit in a chair for hours as a machine took blood out of her arm, cleaned it, and pumped it back into her body.

Then one day in 2014, she was turned away.  

She says even though her lungs were full of fluid, her doctors told her that her condition wasn’t urgent enough to treat that day. “I explained to the doctors that I couldn’t breathe and they told me it wasn’t true, that I had to wait three more days,” she recalls.

The normally dry northern region of Argentina has a problem of biblical proportions.

Farmers there are struggling with a massive outbreak of locusts. Dark clouds of the green-brown bugs cast shadows when they fly overhead and when they land, they cover the ground.

“It is really, really, amazing when you see the locusts because you see millions of them together,” said Juan Pablo Karnatz, who raises cattle in Santiago del Estero, about 600 miles northwest of Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. “When you think they can be more millions flying around, it could be a disaster.”

Giving away drug paraphernalia seemed counterintuitive to Maupin at first, but she’s learned that it’s essential in fighting the spread of disease among drug users.

“I would much rather talk them into going to rehab as opposed to doing all this,” she says.

But Maupin was spurred to start the exchange last year after Scott County, another rural Indiana county with rampant drug abuse, got hit with an HIV outbreak. The number of cases there has since topped 180, and most were attributed to injection drug abuse.

Tucked away in a University of Missouri research building, a family of pigs is kept upright and mostly happy by a handful of researchers. Two new litters recently joined the assembly of pudgy, snorting, pink piglets.

While they look like an ordinary collection of pigs one might find in hog barns all over the country, these animals are special. They’re genetically engineered and they are part of a new crop of GE animals with technology that could be coming soon to the food on your dinner plate.

Restoring prairie on the Great Plains

Feb 4, 2016

  From the air, the Midwest looks like a patchwork of cropland and pastures. But before the land was turned over to plows and center pivots, most of it was a sea of grass. 

Native grasslands were first plowed by pioneers homesteading on the plains. More land was converted to crops as tractors and machinery arrived on the farm and conversion of land intensified. 


More and more companies, especially in the media, are trying to find new ways to attract millennials. And one former University of Missouri student is going directly to the source with her new journalism tech start-up, run by and for millennials.

Jonathan Steffens / Flickr

MU Professor James Mann recently completed research that sheds more light on what we know about football injuries.  The data was collected from the 2011 Missouri Tigers football team and reveals a new correlation between academic stress and football injuries.

Mike Tobias / Harvest Public Media

The population of monarch butterflies has declined so dramatically in recent years that the iconic insect is being considered for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list. In Nebraska and across the other areas of the Midwest, a stop on the monarch migration route, efforts are underway to determine the scope of the decline.


The circuit science workshop in Columbia is one of Daniel Boone Regional Library’s most popular regular events for kids. The workshop allows elementary school-aged children to play with Snap Circuits, a hands-on learning kit that helps illustrate how electricity works. On a recent fall afternoon, kids and their parents gathered at the library to make musical motion detectors, sound-activated switches and more.

“Programming like this is more free-form, so they can be very creative,” said Katie Long, a public service associate with the library’s children’s team. “There’s less structure and rules that they have to follow.”

Samantha Kummerer / KBIA

From Friday night football games to Saturday volleyball matches, a new figure is taking a spot on the sidelines.

According to a 2015 study by the Korey Stringer Institute, 70 percent of public secondary schools nationwide have access to an athletic trainer. That total is up from 1994 when only 35 percent of high schools reported having access to an athletic trainer.

2jaysjoju / Flickr

Research shows that the Earth’s warming climate can have a massive impact on many parts of the ecosystem, from the ocean down to the tiny bee. Recently, bees have been dying in increasing numbers due to environmental changes.

Some sub-species, however, seem to be putting up a better fight than others.

Sarah Kellogg / KBIA

  It’s a clear Wednesday night, and visitors on top of the University of Missouri’s Physics Building are playing the waiting game. A solar flare is about to appear in the night sky and everyone’s heads are craned upwards. Suddenly, a satellite moves across the sky, becoming brighter and causing spectators to cheer. Although there isn’t always a satellite passing by, visitors can take advantage of the Laws Observatory’s rooftop view and telescope every Wednesday night from 8 to 10 p.m.

Logan Layden / Harvest Public Media

Generations of tilling and planting on the same land have left the nation’s soil in poor shape. And if farmers don’t change the way they grow crops, feeding the future won’t be easy.

As farmer Jordan Shearer from Slapout, Okla., puts it, “we’re creating a desert environment by plowing the damn ground."


Missouri Department of Conservation

Researchers from the University of Missouri are working with the Missouri Department of Conservation on a five-year study of white-tailed deer in the state. The study's goal is to find the survival differences of deer living in north east counties compared to south central counties.

The team of researchers are tracking the movements of deer using GPS collars in Nodaway, Gentry, Andrew, DeKalb, Wright, Texas, Douglas and Howell counties. Once the study is over, the Department of Conservation will use the data to reevaluate deer population management through strategies like hunting.

KBIA's Michaela Tucker spoke with Jon McRoberts, the project coordinator and wildlife researcher at the University of Missouri, about the progress of the study as it approaches the end of its first year.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers and agriculture officials are gearing up for another round of bird flu this fall, an outbreak they fear could be worse than the devastating spring crisis that hit turkeys and egg-laying hens in the Midwest, wiped out entire farms and sent egg prices sky-high.

The potential target of the highly pathogenic avian flu this fall could be broilers, or meat chickens, as the outbreaks have been triggered and carried by wild birds, which will be flying south in great numbers this fall through several U.S. flyways.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

One Saturday afternoon at a backyard cookout, St. Louis architect Dan Rosenberg enjoyed a cheeseburger – a food he’d enjoyed many times before.

That night, a couple hours after he went to sleep, he woke up with a searing pain in his stomach.

“Let’s be clear here,” Rosenberg says, “this was like a nine on the ten-scale.”

OpenFile Vancouver / Flickr

A year ago Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed HB 2040 into law, allowing law enforcement officers and certified firefighters to carry and administer naloxone, the opiate overdose antidote.

Naloxone, or Narcan as it’s sometimes called, instantly reverses an overdose. And while the law has been in an effect for over a year, Missouri law enforcement agencies have not begun to use the drug.

Emily Guerin / Inside Energy

Ethanol is one of the most important industries in the Midwest, and it’s an industry about to change. The U.S. EPA says that by June 1 it will propose new targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, which dictates the amount of ethanol the oil industry has to blend into our gasoline.


Provided by the University of Missouri Extension

McDonald County, Missouri, is home to many immigrant groups that have moved into the county in the last twenty years. These groups include Hispanic, Somali, Burmese, Sudanese and numerous others. And while these groups do not overlap culturally, they do share one thing - language acts as a barrier to access when it comes to their health.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Pippa Hull sits on her mother’s lap across the kitchen table in their Parkville home. She is an outgoing and talkative seven-year-old girl, who just happens to have a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Pippa’s mother, Megan, said this form of epilepsy is characterized by its lack of response to treatments.

Hull said they have tried different medications, they have had a VNS or Vagus Nerve Stimulation device implanted in Pippa’s chest, and they have even tried a special diet to try and reduce the number of seizures Pippa experiences.

Drone above a field
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

On this week's edition of Under the Microscope, we'll be taking a look at the new drone flight regulations proposed by  The Federal Aviation Administration. While the rules may limit some commercial potential for drones to be used in package delivery and pipeline inspection, many other industries are finding the new technology to be extremely lucrative, especially agricultural ones.  Harvest Public Media's Luke Runyon explores how the potential guidelines could "usher in a new era of farm machinery."

Conservation agents finish up overseeding a plot at the Prairie Fork Conservation Area outside of Williamsburg, Missouri.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Landscape diversity in Missouri has changed since its settlement in the 18th century. Where there was once prairies, forests and savannahs, in many cases there are now towns, cities and farms.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is working to remedy this problem by restoring prairies to “pre-settlement standards.” These standards include no non-native plant species and plants from within a 50 mile radius of the prairie.

CraneStation / Flickr

  On this week's Under the Microscope, scientists have noticed a change in the atmosphere.