Christopher Joyce

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Joyce seeks out stories in some of the world's most inaccessible places. He has reported from remote villages in the Amazon and Central American rainforests, Tibetan outposts in the mountains of western China, and the bottom of an abandoned copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Over the course of his career, Joyce has written stories about volcanoes, hurricanes, human evolution, tagging giant blue-fin tuna, climate change, wars in Kosovo and Iraq and the artificial insemination of an African elephant.

For several years, Joyce was an editor and correspondent for NPR's Radio Expeditions, a documentary program on natural history and disappearing cultures produced in collaboration with the National Geographic Society that was heard frequently on Morning Edition.

Joyce came to NPR in 1993 as a part-time editor while finishing a book about tropical rainforests and, as he says, "I just fell in love with radio." For two years, Joyce worked on NPR's national desk and was responsible for NPR's Western coverage. But his interest in science and technology soon launched him into parallel work on NPR's science desk.

In addition, Joyce has written two non-fiction books on scientific topics for the popular market: Witnesses from the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell (with co-author Eric Stover); and Earthly Goods: Medicine-Hunting in the Rainforest.

Before coming to NPR, Joyce worked for ten years as the U.S. correspondent and editor for the British weekly magazine New Scientist.

Joyce's stories on forensic investigations into the massacres in Kosovo and Bosnia were part of NPR's war coverage that won a 1999 Overseas Press Club award. He was part of the Radio Expeditions reporting and editing team that won the 2001 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University journalism award and the 2001 Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Joyce won the 2001 American Association for the Advancement of Science excellence in journalism award.

Few inventions in modern history have been as successful as plastic. It's in vehicles and building materials and most of our electronic devices. We wrap stuff in it and even wear it.

Now a research team has tallied up how much plastic has been produced and where much of it has gone. Turns out, it's literally almost everywhere.

Here's a puzzle: a giraffe has much longer legs than a cheetah, but it runs only about half as fast.

It seems long legs don't make you the fastest in the land. Yale University biologist Walter Jetz says theoretically, they should. Animals with longer limbs and lots of muscle should be able to cover ground — or water or air — the fastest.

Rule number one in nature: Find a way NOT to get eaten.

You can run or fight or hide--or you can look like something that tastes horrible. It appears that a type of jumping spider takes that to the extreme — it's learned to MOVE like something nasty.

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Climate scientists agree that this century is getting much warmer and that such warming will likely bring economic pain to the U.S., but economists aren't sure how much. Now, a team of scientists and economists, writing in the upcoming issue of the journal Science, says it can at least tell which parts of the country are likely to suffer the most.

One of nature's most efficient life-support systems is the egg. Eggs evolved over 300 million years ago as vertebrate animals adapted to living on land. And since then, they've taken on numerous shapes, especially among birds.

Biologists have long wondered why there are so many shapes, and what determines each one. Hummingbirds, for example, have eggs like Tic Tacs. Birds called murres produce eggs shaped like big teardrops. Some eggs are more like pingpong balls.

Now, an international team of scientists believes it has solved the mystery of the eggs.

A team of European and Moroccan scientists has found the fossil remains of five individuals who they believe are the most ancient modern humans (Homo sapiens) ever found.

In a remote area of Morocco called Jebel Irhoud, in what was once a cave, the team found a skull, bones and teeth of five individuals who lived about 315,000 years ago. The scientists also found fairly sophisticated stone tools and charcoal, indicating the use of fire by this group.

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For 51 years, a small federal program has been paying scientists to keep American waterways healthy. It's called Sea Grant — part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — and President Donald Trump"s proposed budget for next year would eliminate it.

There are thousands of parks, refuges and wilderness areas in the U.S. that are kept in something close to their natural state. But one form of pollution isn't respecting those boundaries: man-made noise.

New research based on recordings from 492 protected natural areas reveals that they're awash in noise pollution.

Coal has long had a grip on American politics. That's why politicians worry about its fate. They tout the fossil fuel's contribution to the U.S. economy, but lately they've also been trying to find a way to clean up coal's image.

Researchers in Southern California say they've uncovered evidence that humans lived there 130,000 years ago.

If it's true, it would be the oldest sign of humans in the Americas ever — predating the best evidence up to now by about 115,000 years. And the claim has scientists wondering whether to believe it.

There's an unplanned experiment going on in the northern Rocky Mountains. What's happening is that spring is arriving earlier, and it's generally warmer and drier than usual. And that's messing with some of the fish that live there.

The fish is the iconic cutthroat trout. It's a native North American fish that thrives in cold, small streams. Explorer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame was among the first European-Americans to catch this spangly, spotted fish. He used deer spleen as bait.

President Trump wants America to use more "clean coal" to make electricity. He hasn't elaborated on what kind of coal that might be.

A rain forest sings with the sounds of insects, birds, maybe a howler monkey or two. But scientists are discovering that some forest dwellers also communicate in ways humans usually can't hear — via ultrasound.

A team from Dartmouth College has recorded these signals in treetops on a pristine Panamanian island called Barro Colorado, and slowed them down to make sense of them.

Sea ice in the Arctic has been melting at a record-breaking pace. Scientists blame a warming climate for most of that, but researchers have now teased out a natural cycle for how Arctic sea ice melts year-to-year.

Based on that cycle, they conclude that 30 percent to 50 percent of the melting is due to natural causes, while human-caused warming is responsible for the rest.

Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: "intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires."

An "atmospheric river" is a colorful term for a sinuous plume of moisture that travels up from the tropics — a single plume can carry more water than the Mississippi River at its mouth. But new research shows that atmospheric rivers are also among the most damaging weather systems around.

The atmospheric rivers that soaked California this winter did some good — they ended an epic drought in the state.

The Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific is the deepest part of the world's oceans. You might think a place that remote would be untouched by human activity.

But the Mariana Trench is polluted.

At its deepest — about 7 miles down — the water in the trench is near freezing. The pressure would crush a human like a bug. Scientists have only recently explored it.

This week, President Trump's transition team put new restrictions on government scientists' freedom to communicate. The restrictions are being characterized as temporary, and some have already been lifted.

There's more methane gas in the atmosphere than there used to be, by every scientific measure. The Obama administration has been trying to stem the increase of this powerful greenhouse gas, but the incoming Trump administration appears bent on keeping the government's hands off methane.

Almost a million elephants roamed Africa 25 years ago. Assessments of their population now vary but suggest there are fewer than half that many. The main reason for the decline is ivory. Despite a 1989 ban on ivory trade, poachers continue to kill elephants for their tusks.

Now China, the destination for most of that ivory, has announced it will shut down its domestic ivory market.

Scientists released this year's so-called Arctic Report Card on Tuesday, and it is a dismal one.

Researchers say the Arctic continues to warm up at rates they call "astonishing." They presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco.

Thousands of Earth scientists are in San Francisco this week to talk about climate change, volcanoes and earthquakes.

And another tectonic topic: President-elect Donald Trump.

As president, Trump will oversee a huge government scientific enterprise. Agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA have satellites collecting valuable data on the climate. Other agencies employ scientists studying that data, or modeling future climate shifts.

A single tornado can cause a lot of damage. But even worse are tornado outbreaks. Just this week, a cluster of at least 18 tornadoes struck the Southeast over two days.

Scientists are seeing bigger clusters in recent years, and they're struggling to figure out what's happening.

President-elect Donald Trump says environmental regulations are stifling the U.S. economy. He has vowed to roll back some of those rules, and he's also taken aim at the international climate agreement signed in Paris last year.

Now, environmentalists are getting ready to fight back. Some are soliciting donations by invoking an inevitable legal battle. And environmental attorneys are preparing their defense.

Imagine you're passing a fast-food restaurant and you smell hamburger on the grill. You're hungry, so you pull in and eat one ... and the foam box it comes in.

That's apparently what's happening with some oceanic birds. And now scientists think they know why.

The fact that sea animals and birds eat floating plastic has long puzzled biologists. Their best guess was that it looks like food. But the new evidence suggests that for a lot of birds, plastic actually smells like food.

During his campaign, Donald Trump called climate change a hoax. And he vowed to abandon the Paris climate agreement signed last year by President Obama and almost 200 countries.

It probably wouldn't be hard for Trump to dump the climate deal.

It's been a brutal forest fire season in California. But there's actually a greater threat to California's trees — the state's record-setting drought. The lack of water has killed at least 60 million trees in the past four years.

Scientists are struggling to understand which trees are most vulnerable to drought and how to keep the survivors alive. To that end, they're sending human climbers and flying drones into the treetops, in a novel biological experiment.

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