Heather Goldstone

Science Editor and Host of Living Lab

Heather Goldstone is science editor at WCAI and host of Living Lab on The Point, a weekly show exploring how science gets done and makes its way into our daily lives. Goldstone holds a Ph.D. in ocean science from M.I.T. and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and spent a decade as researcher before leaving the lab to pursue journalism. She has reported extensively on Woods Hole’s unique scientific community and key environmental issues on Cape Cod. Her stories have appeared in outlets ranging from Cape Cod Times and Commercial Fishery News to NPR and PBS News Hour. Most recently, Goldstone hosted Climatide.org, an NPR-sponsored blog exploring present-day impacts of climate change on coastal life.

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At least ninety percent of household dust contains chemicals that pose a health risk.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Dust is unsightly, a sign of poor housekeeping, perhaps. But toxic? Unfortunately, yes.

In 2003, researchers from Massachusetts-based Silent Spring Institute sampled dust from 120 homes on Cape Cod looking for hormone-like chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. They followed that up with a study of 50 homes in California. In both cases, they found what they were looking for.

One of the chemicals they found in high levels was a banned flame retardant called PBDE. So they went back, again, to look for other flame retardants in those California homes. And, again, they found what they were looking for in abundance. One class of flame retardants, known as chlorinated Tris compounds, made up as much as 0.1% of dust. That's a lot for a single chemical.

An eruption of an underwater volcano in the Mariana Arc, 2006.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, so it’s no surprise that three quarters of volcanic activity happens on the sea floor. Understanding those volcanoes has ramifications for everything from climate science to the evolution of life. But studying volcanoes covered, in some cases, by miles of water is no mean feat. So it’s also no surprise that there are still plenty of discoveries yet to be made and questions remaining to be answered.

Factory-farmed beef has one of the highest carbon footprints of any food.
Rick Harrison / Flickr

While conversations about climate change typically focus on cars or power plants, the food we eat is a major factor that often flies under the radar. Food - it's production, processing, and transport - accounts for nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The irony is that putting a dent in that portion of our carbon footprint could be fairly simple. If everyone in the U.S. avoided meat and dairy one day a week for a year, it would be the carbon-cutting equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road. On the other hand, since transportation actually accounts for just 2% of food-related emissions, eating locally may not be the climate panacea some have made out.

Artist Cornelia Kavanagh visited WHOI biologist Gareth Lawson’s lab in November 2011 to show him some of the pteropod sculptures on which she was working.
Tom Kleindinst / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Audio Pending...

You've no doubt heard of the butterfly effect. Well, Gareth Lawson of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has his own version: the sea butterfly effect.

Ari Daniel Shapiro interviews renowned ecologist E. O. Wilson.
Tracy Barbaro / Encyclopedia of Life

Ari Daniel Shapiro is a scientist-turned-radio producer. He earned a PhD from the MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Biological Oceanography. Rather than continue his research on killer whale behavior, though, he became a radio producer.

A 2.5 foot storm surge brought modest coastal flooding at high tide in Woods Hole as Hurricane Sandy approached the Jersey Shore Monday morning.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Hurricane Sandy. It’s been called Frankenstorm and it’s causing flashbacks to the Perfect Storm of 1991, when a Halloween Nor’Easter absorbed Hurricane Grace and caused millions of dollars in damage. Hurricane Sandy is an enormous category one hurricane – more than one thousand miles in diameter - due to hit the eastern seaboard later today. The Cape, Islands and South Coast are bracing for the worst but hoping for a glancing blow.

Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth's surface. Those vast waters provide food, enable global shipping and drive the global climate. They could also provide much of the world's electricity needs. Waves, tides, even differences in salinity and temperature, are all potential sources of energy. The trick is harnessing that power.

The money available for science research — and how it can be used — is often determined by politics.
UCNISS / Flickr

While it may not be the issue that decides elections, funding for scientific research is a fundamentally political beast. Take, for example, President George W. Bush's 2004 manned space exploration initiative - an overhaul of NASA's priorities aimed at putting American men and women back on the moon and, eventually, on Mars. Or there's Sarah Palin's somewhat notorious comments during the 2008 presidential campaign mocking biomedical research using fruit flies and calling it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Cover art for Ocean Sunlight
Molly Bang

Plants and photosynthetic bacteria sustain much of life on Earth. They form the base of food chains both on land and in the ocean, and they produce the oxygen we breathe. Indeed, when the first photosynthetic algae arose some 3 billion years ago, they fundamentally changed our planet — breathing oxygen into the atmosphere and paving the way for life as we know it today.

Ben Linhoff hauled 800 pounds of gear in ten 2-mile trips from his field camp to a river crossing at the end of the nearest road.
Courtesy of Ben Linhoff

I've read my fair share of science books and field blogs and talked to more than a few scientists. In most cases, I hear their stories and think "Cool! I want to do that!" In a few other cases, I think "That's hardcore, but I could probably handle it." As I read Ben Linhoff's Following the Ice blog this summer (and re-read it last night), all I could think is "That guy is crazy. I never want to camp next to a glacier in Greenland for three months." I'll moderate that a bit now that I've met Ben. He isn't crazy. But I still never want to camp next to a glacier in Greenland for 3 straight months. I'm certainly glad Ben is willing to, though, because his research is important.

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