Living Lab Radio

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Living Lab Radio 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.

Host and producer Dr. Heather Goldstone.
Credit Maura Longueil

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Living Lab Radio is produced by Heather Goldstone and Elsa Partan. The executive producer is Mindy Todd.

Secretary Tillerson Signs the Scientific Cooperation Agreement at the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, AK.
U.S. Air Force / Public Domain

The Arctic Council held their tenth annual ministerial meeting last week and adopted a science cooperation agreement that puts climate change front and center. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed that agreement, but also told council members that the U.S. will not rush and will “work to make the right decision for the United States” when it comes to climate policies.

Neurobiologist Hired at Art Museum

May 15, 2017
The Peabody Essex Museum has hired neurobiologist Tedi Asher to help enhance exhibits
Peabody Essex Museum,

Scientists are constantly learning more about how our brains process information, including how we perceive art.

Now, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is breaking new ground by hiring a neurobiologist to help them enhance their exhibits.

The Harvard-trained neurobiologist, Tedi Asher, says the museum has already tried out many experimental changes that make sense to her, such as incorporating dance, music, special lighting and even smells to the exhibits.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the Repbublic of Kiribati gives some ocean watchers reason for optimism
Sea Education Association /

What if saving the oceans is a matter of changing our mindset?

That’s the question nagging at Jeff Wescott, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole.

“One thing that really interests me is how the ocean compels us to think about the future,” Wescott told Living Lab Radio. “It’s sort of a medium for thinking about where we are going as a species.”

Juvenile sugar kelp on an Ocean Approved farm in the Gulf of Maine.
Brittney Honisch / Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

We tend to think of spring as planting time, but kelp farmers in the Gulf of Maine are in the midst of their annual harvest right now. Growers and ocean researchers say kelp could be a huge win-win-win – improving the local environment, boosting other fisheries, and all while providing a saleable food source.

Ten  years ago, there were no kelp farms in the northeast. Now, there are more than a dozen. So, what gives?

A layer of wood chips may be a low-cost way to improve nitrogen removal by septic systems.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

According to the EPA, more than 26 million households in the U.S. rely on septic systems to treat their wastewater. That’s more than one in five. Septic systems are most prevalent in New England, but they’re also pretty common in the southeast and northwest. And there's a reason for that: they’re a relatively low cost option for small communities.

Researchers are naming landmarks on Mars after their favorite places in the state of Maine.
NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI) / Public Domain

There’s a lot of news out there to sift through. Science news is no exception. Here are five stories from the past month that are worth a quick read (or listen):

Science fiction has always been a way to explore what our future might look like. As often as not, those imaginings are pretty dark - full of social and technological catastrophes. Hulu's new adaptation of A Handmaid's Tale has sparked renewed interest in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 clasic, with some calling it relevant, even timely.

Brave New World

Many underwater vehicles developed at WHOI have been spun off as for-profit companies.
Elsa Partan

Later this week, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will accept one of three 2017 Vision Awards given by Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the state’s largest employer association.  

With about a thousand employees, WHOI is one of the largest employers on Cape Cod. But Mark Abbott, the Oceanographic’s president and director, says WHOI’s contributions go beyond the direct employment at the institution. 

In 1987, AZT was the first drug approved for use in treating HIV/AIDS.
Wellcome Images /

It’s been thirty years since the first drug was approved to treat HIV/AIDS. That was AZT, in 1987. Since then, anti-retroviral drugs have been helping people live longer, healthier lives after their diagnosis. But just how much has treatment changed?

There's still no cure, and Philip Chan, a physician and HIV researcher at Brown University, says prevention remains a challenge. If current diagnosis rates continue, 1 in 6 gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

About two dozen researchers from Woods Hole, MA, traveled to the flagship march in Washington, D.C.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Thousands of people turned out for the first ever March for Science this past weekend. It was actually more like six hundred marches in cities and towns around the globe. This unprecedented public show of support for science was largely prompted by what many view as the anti-science stances of the Trump administration. But the attempt to organize the science community has also revealed deep divides over the role of science in government, and persistent problems when it comes to diversity and inclusion.