Living Lab on The Point

Mondays at 9am and 7pm

Living Lab on The Point is a forum for the stories behind science headlines — the people who do the research, the unexpected ways that science gets done, and how the results make their way into our everyday lives.

Do you have a story or photo to share? Send it to livinglabradio@capeandislands.org. Or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Host and producer Dr. Heather Goldstone.
Credit Maura Longueil

Living Lab on The Point is Produced by Heather Goldstone and Elsa Partan. The Executive Producer is Mindy Todd.

Major support for the Living Lab is provided by The Kendeda Fund: furthering the values that contrubute to a healthy planet. Additional support is provided by Lee McGraw and the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation.

Vaughan Turekian is Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State.
state.gov/e/stas

President Trump may not have a science advisor right now, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson does. His name is Vaughan Turekian, and he was appointed to the post in 2015. It's not a very old job; it was created by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright in 2000. It's also not a very common job; only seven foreign ministers in the world have a science advisor.

John Holdren, science advisor and director of OSTP under President Obama.
Elsa Partan / WCAI

President Donald Trump has yet to name a science advisor, a position that dates back to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. It wouldn't be the first time that a president has decided he's better off without one. 

President Nixon wasn’t happy with the advice he was getting from his Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  He fired his science advisor and he dissolved the office of science and technology. But in 1976, Congress decided the executive branch really needed such an office and so it restored it by law.

John Severns / Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Here's something you don't see everyday: two thirds of a legislative body not only supporting a bill, but actually co-sponsoring it. One hundred thirty-four Massachusetts state Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of legislation intended to help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

A DC8 packed with atmospheric sensors and samplers is making four laps around the globe.
Craig LeMoult / WGBH

One of the first science policy ideas put out by Trump transition team back in November was a proposal to move all earth science out from under the umbrella of NASA and perhaps give it to another agency, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That transfer hasn’t come to pass – at least not yet – and earth science is still carrying on. In fact, right now, scientists from Harvard University, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and – yes – NASA and NOAA are flying around the world trying to get a better handle on what’s going on in our atmosphere.

The Death of Evidence rally in July, 2012, included a mock funeral for scientific programs and practices that had been lost under the Harper administration.
Richard Webster / http://deathofevidence.ca/

President Trump’s early executive actions and rhetoric about climate change and vaccines have a lot of American scientists on edge right now – worried about funding cuts, gag orders, and travel and immigration restrictions. To our north, Canadian scientists might as well be saying “been there, done that.” Between 2006 and 2015, Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, slashed science funding, dissolved jobs and projects, and severely limited public communication.

Those backing up government climate data estimate they need five petabytes - five million gigabytes - of storage.
Peter Brantley/flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

Universities, research centers, and science-related professional organizations have been vocal in opposition to the travel and immigration restrictions imposed by President Trump last weekend. They’ve also expressed concern about early White House directives that barred public communication by employees of the USDA and EPA. Others within the science community didn’t wait for President Trump to take office before acting.

Over the past two weeks, President Trump's executive actions have crowded just about everything else out of the news. But, despite widespread anxiety about the new administration's attitude toward science, research is still chugging along. And, last week, we got a great glimpse of true scientific skepticism at work.

A honeybee with full pollen baskets on the hind legs.
Joan Muller / WBNERR

It’s estimated that somewhere between a quarter and a third of the food we eat requires the help of pollinators, like honeybees. Unfortunately, beekeepers have been reporting dire declines in bee populations in recent years, and several species of bees have been added to the Endangered Species List in recent months.

There is a whole host of likely culprits, including habitat loss and pesticides. But bee researcher and advocate Noah Wilson-Rich points the finger squarely at one event in the year 1987.

Salt Marshes Help Keep Us Above Water

Jan 23, 2017
A salt marsh on Plum Island, Mass.
S. Bond

We’ve learned recently from scientists at Umass Amherst that New England will probably experience more warming than the rest of the planet in the near future.

Sailing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Jan 23, 2017
Erica Cirino sailed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and even ate fish she caught there.
Henrik Beha Pedersen

It's been clear for decades that pieces of plastic garbage are swirling around on the surface of the ocean. But new experiments are showing that plastic may be getting down deeper than we thought.

Erica Cirino is a science writer based in New York who sailed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch late last year with the Danish group Plastic Change. The 23-day trip was the last leg of a much longer journey that took the group to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and around the Galapagos.

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