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.

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Environment
10:01 pm
Sun November 20, 2011

Boston's Leaky Gas Lines May Be Tough On The Trees

Nathan Phillips looks at methane data plotted on a map of Boston streets on Nov. 17. Data from a mobile methane "sniffer" and a GPS show a real-time display of the gas levels in Google Earth. The orange spike in the center of the screen, on St. Paul Street, indicates methane levels about two or three times above normal levels, Phillips says.
Robin Lubbock WBUR

A scientist in Boston has been driving around the city measuring leaks in the gas mains. He's found a lot, and he wants the public to know where they are.

Gas leaks aren't uncommon, and gas companies spend a lot of time tracking them down and repairing them. But the scientific team says they're surprised at how many they've found, and what those leaks are doing to the health of the city's trees.

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The Salt
9:09 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Curbing Cooking Smoke That Kills More People Than Malaria

Environmental hazards sicken or kill millions of people — soot or smog in the air, for example, or pollutants in drinking water. But the most dangerous stuff happens where the food is made — in peoples' kitchens.

That's according to the World Health Organization, which says that the smoke and gases from cooking fires in the world's poorest countries contribute to nearly two million deaths a year — that's more than malaria.

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Humans
10:01 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

In African Cave, An Early Human Paint Shop

This abalone shell was found with ocher and a grinding stone. The iron oxide was used as a pigment to paint bodies and walls, as well as to thicken glue.

Science/AAAS

Apparently one of the earliest human instincts was to paint things, including bodies and cave walls. That's the conclusion from scientists who have discovered something remarkable in a South African cave — a tool kit for making paint. It looks to be the oldest evidence of paint-making.

Over in southern Africa 100,000 years ago, Homo sapiens was pretty new on the scene. A favorite hangout was a cave named Blombos near the Southern ocean.

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Environment
5:10 pm
Sun October 9, 2011

To Save Wildlife, Namibia's Farmers Take Control

Spooked by a noise, giraffes in northwest Namibia interrupt lunch to look around.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 7:02 pm

It's dawn and 40 degrees out. The air tastes of dust. Elias Neftali is behind the wheel of a truck, driving us through a long valley encircled by red-rock mountains. As a farmhand in the northwest desert of Namibia, Neftali used to shoot wild animals trying to eat his livestock.

Now he protects wild animals. And that can be scary.

"Oh my god, yep," he says. He tells me about a night he was sleeping in a bungalow out in the bush with some other wildlife guards.

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Research News
3:17 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Using Twitter To Tap Into The Mood Of The Planet

iSockphoto.com

Right now, armies of marketers, pollsters and social scientists are trying to figure out what Americans are thinking about — issues like global warming or Lady Gaga's latest outfit. And surveys are only so good: It's hard to get a big enough sample to be sure of the results. That's particularly vexing for social scientists who want a high standard of accuracy.

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The Salt
3:16 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Scent Of Rotten Fruit Signals Sex, At Least For Fruit Flies

Waitin' on a lady
digicla Flickr

If you're into sexual chemistry, set an aging banana peel or apple core out on your kitchen counter, pull up a chair, and wait — for the fruit flies.

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The Salt
12:34 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Zebra And Cattle Make Good Lunch Partners, Researchers Say

Cattle and zebra share a meal in a pasture in Kenya.
Ryan Lee Sensenig Science

Originally published on Fri September 23, 2011 4:11 pm

Those of us who eat beef can thank cattle for turning grass into something tastier. But grass is not always easy to come by, especially in Africa. And without grass, where's the beef?

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Humans
11:19 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Quays Focus 'Weeping Glass' On The Mutter Museum

The Quay Brothers, filming Through The Weeping Glass at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. The Quays started filming without a script or a storyline.
Edward Waisnis Behind the Scenes with the Quay Brothers

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:23 am

The notion of "beauty" can mean many different things to artists. For the Brothers Quay — identical-twin filmmakers — it often means dimly lit black and white images of animated dolls, screws, cogs — any manner of inanimate object brought to life. They're so good at it that fellow filmmaker Terry Gilliam called the Quays' Street of Crocodiles one of the best animated films of all time.

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Animals
10:01 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

Bone To Pick: First T. Rex Skeleton, Complete At Last

When the T. rex skeleton was first put on display, it was presented standing vertically, in this Godzilla-like pose, as seen at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History around 1950. Recent studies show the dinosaur actually kept its body horizontal. Watch the videos here to see how T. rex walked.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The back rooms of museums are like your grandparents' attic, only the stuff is more exotic — things like fossilized jellyfish, dinosaur eggs, or mummified princes.

And if you look carefully, you'll find objects that once changed science but are now largely forgotten. You might call them Lost Treasures of Science. This is a story of one of those objects — a special bone that's part of a special skeleton.

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Humans
1:53 pm
Thu September 8, 2011

'Mosaic' Fossil Could Be Bridge From Apes To Humans

The fossil of Australopithecus sediba could be the long-sought transition between ape-like ancestors and the first humans. "It shows a small brain, but a brain that's beginning to reorganize in some ways that resemble our brain," says anthropologist Lee Berger.
Brett Eloff via Lee Berger University of Witwatersrand

A pair of fossils from a South African cave have scientists both excited and puzzled. Scientists say the fossils — an adult female and a juvenile — could be the long-sought transition between ape-like ancestors and the first humans.

The bones belong to creatures related to the famous Lucy fossil found in Ethiopia in the 1970s, but their owners lived more recently, just two million years ago.

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Science
10:01 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

An Ice Age Beast Evolved To Beat The Cold

An artist's reconstruction of the Tibetan woolly rhino. Woolly rhinos used their flattened horns to sweep snow off of vegetation, a critical adaptation to survive frigid conditions.
Image by Julie Naylor

The Tibetan Plateau is the world's highest place. It's four times the size of France and home to most of the world's highest mountains.

As you might expect, it's cold there. And it may be that the deep chill of the Tibetan Plateau played a role in the evolution of some of the world's most charismatic animals.

That's the belief of a scientist who discovered the skull of a woolly rhino on the Tibetan Plateau.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:01 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Cell Phones Could Help Doctors Stay Ahead Of An Epidemic

Two women check their cell phones as they hawk their wares on a bridge over the Artibonite river, whose waters are believed to be the source of Haiti's 2010 cholera outbreak.
NICHOLAS KAMM AFP/Getty Images

The year 2010 was a very bad one for Haiti. It started with an earthquake that killed over 300,000 people, mostly in the crowded capital of Port-au-Prince. After that, cholera originating in a U.N. camp broke out in a northern province and eventually spread to the city.

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Energy
1:23 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Restarting Libya's Valuable Oil Exports Won't Be Easy

A Libyan rebel stands guard at the entrance to the Zawiya oil refinery, about 30 miles west of Tripoli, on Aug. 19. Libyan rebels taken complete control of the key oil refinery. Before the conflict, Libya supplied 2 percent of the world's oil, but restarting oil field operations won't be a simple task.
Filippo Monteforte AFP/Getty Images

The light at the end of the tunnel for Libyans isn't just an end to the Moammar Gadhafi regime — it's also "light sweet crude."

Oil provides most of Libya's income. But the revolution there has strangled exports for months and starved the country of revenue and also temporarily bumped up world oil prices. So there's a lot of interest inside Libya and internationally in getting the country's oil wells up and running again.

The question is, when?

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Energy
2:59 am
Tue August 2, 2011

Worries Over Water As Natural Gas Fracking Expands

Workers move a section of well casing into place at a natural gas drilling rig near Burlington, Pa. The industry is expected to drill as many as 10,000 new wells in the next few years.
Ralph Wilson AP

Originally published on Thu June 28, 2012 12:24 pm

Drive through northern Pennsylvania and you'll see barns, cows, silos and drilling rigs perched on big, concrete pads.

Pennsylvania is at the center of a natural gas boom. New technology is pushing gas out of huge shale deposits underground. That's created jobs and wealth, but it may be damaging drinking water. That's because when you "frack," as hydraulic fracturing is called, you pump millions of gallons of fluids underground. That cracks the shale a mile deep and drives natural gas up to the surface — gas that otherwise could never be tapped.

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