Groomed to Death

Grooming beaches to rid them of the tons of trash that careless humans leave behind is a necessary evil — but one that compromises habitat for sand fleas who subsist on kelp, which also feeds flies, which feed shorebirds like plovers and killdeer, and so on and so on. By making beaches too clean, we’re destroying miles upon miles of natural seaside habitat that compromises an entire ecosystem.

Source: Hakai Magazine
Published: Aug 31, 2018
Length: 13 minutes (3,397 words)

The Rock That Fell to Earth

How a meteorite hunter’s obsession took him from the mountains of Colorado to the Bundy Ranch to declaring his own sovereign homestead, and eventually landed him in jail.

Source: The Verge
Published: Jun 25, 2018
Length: 33 minutes (8,300 words)

Inside the Mind of Thru-Hiking’s Most Devious Con Man

A profile of thru-hiking scam artist Jeff Caldwell, a wolf in a puffy Marmot coat who started his life of crime by stealing from his friends. Later, using an outdoorsy trail persona, lies, and rugged good looks, he preyed on lonely single women and the elderly, conning them not only out of money, but also of their belief in the basic goodness of humanity.

Source: Outside
Published: Oct 17, 2017
Length: 16 minutes (4,246 words)

Going Underground: Inside the World of the Mole-Catchers

Great Britain is home to approximately 31 million moles, and the competing Guild of British Molecatchers and Association of Professional Mole Catchers are out to get them — and each other.

Source: The Guardian
Published: Mar 8, 2017
Length: 17 minutes (4,469 words)

The Bicycle Problem That Nearly Broke Mathematics

For much of their existence, bicycles have largely remained unchanged. One group of engineers is exploring how it might be possible to build a better bike.

Source: Nature
Published: Jul 20, 2016
Length: 12 minutes (3,065 words)

The Long, Strange Saga of the 180,000-Carat Emerald

The history of one of the world’s largest emeralds, rife with conmen, thieves and international intrigue.

Published: Mar 6, 2015
Length: 14 minutes (3,600 words)

The Spy Who Loved Frogs

A young scientist retraces the work of Edward Taylor, a prolific herpetologist (a zoologist who studies reptiles and amphibians) who also led a double life as a spy:

“Taylor was called to duty again in 1944, when he was 54 and war raged in the Pacific. According to records in the US National Archives, he joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to train agents in Sri Lanka — then a British territory that provided ready access to Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and other areas that the Japanese had infiltrated. Scientific work, an OSS officer explained to one of Taylor’s superiors, was ‘excellent cover.’

“Taylor taught jungle survival at Camp Y, a steamy settlement on the coast. With a penetrating stare and a lantern jaw, he seemed more imposing than his 1.8 metres. In his spare time, he occasionally dodged gunfire to nab specimens, which he studied for two monographs published after the war. ‘Have just described five new forms of blind snakes from the island,’ he wrote to S. Dillon Ripley, a young ornithologist who served with him and would later lead the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. In a later letter, he offered ‘some 500 species’ of mollusc shells to the Smithsonian.”

Source: Nature
Published: Sep 11, 2013
Length: 12 minutes (3,211 words)

Ghosts of the Rio Grande

Hundreds of immigrant corpses are found along the U.S.-Mexico border every year. Most are buried without being identified, but groups are emerging to work on identifying the remains of missing migrants:

“Compared to Arizona, which identifies most of its unknown remains, Texas lets the corpses pile up. Autopsies are rarely conducted, DNA samples are not taken, and bodies are buried in poorly marked graves. Shortly after medical examiner Corinne Stern started working in Laredo, she found a 12-year-old skull from an unknown Hispanic man sitting on a shelf in the evidence room of the sheriff’s office. It was devoid of any information about where it came from or how it ended up there. Mercedes Doretti of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, which is working to identify the remains of missing migrants, calls the region from Houston to San Antonio and south to McAllen the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ for bodies.”

Published: Jun 11, 2013
Length: 25 minutes (6,265 words)