Under the Microscope

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

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Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced $3.9 million in funding toward developing a vaccine for a disease crushing hog farms.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

For a long time, Texas was the center of cattle country. But drought is re-shaping the beef map and raising the price of steak. Ranchers are moving their herds from California to Colorado and from Texas to Nebraska by the thousands. They’re seeking refuge from dry weather and, as Harvest Public Media’s Grant Gerlock reports, cattle producers in the Midwest are making the most of it.

tractor on farmland
(tpsdav/pixabay)

Coming up we’ll take a look and how big data and agriculture are finding themselves intertwined with questions about privacy.

KBIA

Honeybee colonies have been dying off at alarming rates in recent years. In the Midwest, some people wonder if planting row after row of corn and soybeans may be part of the problem. Researchers in Iowa are trying to find out. Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports on one factor that may contribute to the grim situation for pollinators in the corn belt.

Nearly 130,000 homes were permitted to be built in Missouri last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  KBIA’s Morgan Dzakowic reports one unique house under construction in Columbia stands out among its neighbors.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Farmers can expect more challenges, thanks to climate change. That’s according to a recent report released by the White House.

Iowa State University professor Gene Takle co-authored the chapter on agriculture in the 2014 National Climate Assessment. He says expected changes in humidity, precipitation and temperature may produce more extreme weather events.

“We need to be thinking forward as to the kinds of adaptation strategies that we need to adopt while at the same time we are looking for measures to mitigate the underlying cause of climate change,” Takle says.

Staff / Missouri Department of Conservation

The White House released a new climate change report Tuesday. It predicts threats to agriculture including severe weather, more pests and greater demands for water and energy. Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports.

Jacob McCleland / Harvest Public Media

    

Water experts in the Midwest are worried about Asian carp. They say the invasive fish are taking over U.S. waterways -- the Mississippi River and its tributaries like the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, where they out compete native fish.

But as Jacob McCleland reports for Harvest Public Media, river watchers at their wits end have found new hope. And it lies on dinner tables in China.

Monarch butterflies are in trouble. The latest estimates show their numbers have dropped dramatically at their wintering grounds in Mexico.

Marissane Lewis-Stump / KBIA

When we think of plants, intelligence is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. But maybe plants are more than a decorative feature to our dining room table.

KBIA’s Marissanne Lewis-Thompson checked in with a monthly science conversation series in Columbia. This month’s topic: the secret lives of plants.

Véronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

 

For years in most states, Medicaid eligibility had been limited to disabled adults, seniors needing long-term care and very low-income parents with their children.

Then along came the Affordable Care Act. It was designed to grow health insurance coverage across the board. One of its tenets was to expand Medicaid coverage beyond the extremely poor and disabled to include all adults earning up to 138 percent of federal poverty levels.

But in 2012, the Supreme Court gave states the chance to opt out Medicaid expansion.

Illinois is one of 25 states that went ahead with expanding the program. Neighboring Missouri did not.

We looked into the impacts of those differing decisions. Here’s what we found out.

Bridgit Bowden / KBIA

The University of Missouri invited Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, to speak to students and local Columbia residents earlier last week.  The lecture was hosted by the MU Truman School of Public Affairs as the Monroe-Paine annual lecture event.  Friedman’s lecture focused on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and the future possibility of a single payer healthcare system.

Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

For nearly a year now, hog farmers have been battling a virus. It’s deadly to newly born piglets and farmers are scrambling to protect their herds. With fewer pigs comes less pork. Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Most climate models paint a bleak picture for the Great Plains a century from now. Scientists say it’ll be warmer, and the air will be more rich with carbon dioxide. To what degree is still unclear. But even small fluctuations in climate throw farmland ecosystems out of whack. A new study shows certain invasive plant species will not only be able to withstand climate change, but thrive. Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon has more.

Shibu Jose is the director of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri Columbia.

Jesse Moss, The Overnighters

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Festival.  Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes

The fracking boom in much of the U.S. has opened up a new path for people searching for work, of course, but also for redemption and reinvention.  In the film “The Overnighters,” filmmaker Jesse Moss travels to Williston, N.D., to tell the story of Lutheran Pastor Jay Reinke and the workers he houses in his church and home. Reinke invites newcomers to sleep in extra rooms at the church and to sleep in their cars in the parking lot while they look for jobs and more permanent housing. Some of the men even live in the pastor’s home with his family.

Particle Fever

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Festival.  Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes.

On March 14, 2013, experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland tentatively confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, sometimes referred to as the “God particle.” Its discovery was the culmination of nearly 30 years of work. The film "Particle Fever" captures the tension and drama in a group of dedicated scientists on the brink of a once in a lifetime discovery.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Many people struggle to protect their data online, whether it’s what to share on Facebook or how to react to targeted google ads. Farmers are worried about some of the same issues. 

They’re using precision information from their fields to prescribe exact doses of everything from seeds to water to fertilizer. That farm data could help drive new levels of productivity. But as Harvest Public Media’s Grant Gerlock reports, farmers also have to decide just how much they want to share.

Amy mayer / Harvest Public Media

This week, we'll track a virus that's spreading through hog farms, and hear a flock of migrating trumpeter swans.

Carol Ward / University of Missouri

Our hand, the one we use to scroll down this page, is a feature that helps distinguishes us as a species. Carol Ward, professor at the MU Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, puts it this way:

“What we can do with our hands, the way we manipulate objects and use tools and technology, shape all of who we are as a species and how we adapt to the world.”

execution gurney
California Department of Corrections / Wikimedia Commons

Missouri has put two people to death since last November, with another execution scheduled for late January. St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon's Chris McDaniel and Véronique LaCapra have been looking into the state's secretive and controversial lethal injection process. They've discovered the state may be ignoring its own laws in carrying out the death penalty.

 

Null Value / Flickr

There’s a certain allure to crime scene forensics. What else could explain the immense popularity of the CSI television franchise.

Harum Helmy / KBIA

Consumers who want to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act have until Monday to enroll in a plan that would start on Jan. 1. But HealthCare.gov still has kinks that frustrate many consumers and navigators. KBIA’s Harum Helmy followed one Columbia resident’s journey with the website. 

Randall Hyman

This week, we’ll hear from a Missouri-based photojournalist about his experience documenting climate change in the Norwegian Arctic, and learn how new technology is being used in Columbia's public schools.

students in classroom
Brad Flickinger / Flickr

Grants for laptops and iPads in recent years have put more technology in the hands of Columbia Public Schools students .

Randall Hyman

Randall Hyman is a St. Louis-based photojournalist and writer. For more than three decades, he has traveled the globe covering cultural and environmental issues.

David Stonner / Missouri Department of Conservation

A report released on Friday by the Missouri auditor's office says the state continued to overspend on its elk restoration project, even after a 2011 audit found it was way over budget.

The current audit found the Missouri Department of Conservation spent close to $3.4 million to bring 129 elk into the state. Only an estimated 115 elk have survived.

But conservation department Deputy Director Tom Ripperger says those figures are misleading.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers and scientists have long understood that what lives beneath the soil affects how crops grow. Often, they work to fight plant diseases—warding off infectious viruses and damaging fungi, for example. But now some microbiologists are focused on how to harness the good things microbes can do, with the goal of increasing farmers’ yields and diminishing their dependence on chemical inputs.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This week, we'll hear how scientists are using microbes to increase crop yields, and learn about a new wetland in Columbia.

Marcus Mo / Flickr

The 2013 edition of the Missouri Hunger Atlas is a 145-page-strong document and, according to one of its main creators, has more than you'd ever want to know about the extent of food insecurity in the Show-Me State. Missouri is in the top ten of states with highest number of food-insecure residents in the nation.

Moberly school promotes healthy living through running

Nov 21, 2013
Eli Sagor / Flickr

The students at Gratz-Brown Elementary School in Moberly get excited every Tuesday and Thursday when the final school bell rings. This is not because school is over for the day, but because Running Club is about to start. The Running Club was started by Principal Della Bell and is in its second year. 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we'll hear about a program that funds pork research, and hear about the opening of a new Ronald McDonald house.

Every time a hog is sold, farmers contribute to the National Pork Check-off. The program each year raises tens of millions of dollars that goes to the National Pork Board, which is charged with improving the $20 billion dollar industry. Some of that money funds scientific research. But as Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, though all producers contribute, they aren't all satisfied with the research.

Durrie Bouscaren for Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we'll hear about efforts to construct wind turbines across the Midwest, and learn why Columbia's "Big Tree" is getting some much needed TLC.

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