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.

Pages

2:19am

Thu August 9, 2012
Environment

Building For Birds: Architects Aim For Safer Skies

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 12:07 pm

Architect Guy Maxwell holds a printout of his proposed design for the new Bridge Building at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
John W. Poole NPR

Second of a two-part series. Read Part 1.

Modern architecture's love affair with tall glass buildings takes a toll. Every year, millions of birds crash into glass windows in North America.

These collisions may seem like an intractable problem. But in New York City, an architect is trying to find a solution.

Read more

2:15am

Wed August 8, 2012
Environment

A Clear And Present Danger: How Glass Kills Birds

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 11:05 am

Experts say glass buildings kill millions of birds every year. Scientists at Powdermill Avian Research Center are studying ways to help prevent this. Here, a volunteer tags a black hooded warbler in Rector, Pa., in May.
Maggie Starbard NPR

First of a two-part series. Read Part 2.

Modern architecture loves glass. Glass makes interiors brighter and adds sparkle to cityscapes. But glass also kills millions of birds every year when they collide with windows. Biologists say as more glass buildings go up, more birds are dying.

Read more

5:17pm

Mon August 6, 2012
Environment

Are Recent Heat Waves A Result Of Climate Change?

Originally published on Mon August 6, 2012 5:51 pm

Cattle use a tree for shade as temperatures rose above 100 degrees in a pasture July 28, 2011, near Canadian, Texas.
Scott Olson Getty Images

The last couple of years have certainly felt unusually hot in many parts of the U.S., but are they really all that unusual?

Many people wonder whether a warming climate is turning up the temperature or whether it's all just part of the normal variation in the weather. Among scientists, there's a growing view that these latest heat waves are indeed a result of climate change.

Read more

2:20am

Fri July 13, 2012
Humans

In Ancient Ore. Dump, Clues To The First Americans?

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 9:16 am

Displayed in the hand of University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis Jenkins are three bases for western stemmed projectiles from the Paisley Caves in Oregon. The bases date to some 13,000 years ago.
Jim Barlow Science/AAAS

Some of the most interesting discoveries in archaeology come from sifting through ancient garbage dumps. Scientists working in Oregon have found one that has yielded what they say are the oldest human remains in the Americas and a puzzle about the earliest American tools.

Early Americans used Oregon's Paisley Caves for, among other things, a toilet. Little did they know that scientists would be picking through what they left behind.

Read more

10:23am

Mon June 18, 2012
The Salt

Desert Plant's Potent Chemical Cocktail Makes Mice Go 'Ptooey'

Spiny mice eat the fruit of the mignonette bush but spit out the seeds
Michal Samuni-Blank Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Next time you're in the Negev Desert and you come across a sweet mignonette bush, stop and listen. You might hear a tiny "Ptooey" from somewhere underneath.

Read more

3:07am

Fri June 15, 2012
Humans

Famous Cave Paintings Might Not Be From Humans

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 8:33 am

The Panel of Hands in the Cave of El Castillo in Spain. New dating methods suggest the paintings could have been drawn by Neanderthals, not humans, as previously thought.
Pedro Saura AAAS/Science

The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture.

But now a novel method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Not that they're fakes — only that it might not have been modern humans who made them.

The first European cave paintings are thought to have been made over 30,000 years ago. Most depict animals and hunters. Some of the eeriest are stencils of human hands, apparently made by blowing a spray of pigment over a hand held up to a wall.

Read more

4:12am

Wed June 13, 2012
Energy

Ruling Could Help Break The Nuclear-Waste Logjam

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 11:43 am

About 70,000 tons of used nuclear fuel sits mostly at power plants across the country. Much is kept underwater in spent fuel pools, but utility companies have been moving the fuel into concrete and steel casks like these in Richland, Wash. Energy Northwest CEO Vic Parrish (center) tours the facility with Reps. Doc Hastings (left) and Jay Inslee.
Shannon Dininny AP

The federal government promised almost 30 years ago to find a place to bury nuclear waste from power plants. It hasn't. So the waste is piling up at power plants around the country.

Now a federal court says the government must prove that this temporary solution is truly safe. The decision could help break the nuclear-waste logjam.

Read more

2:10pm

Fri June 8, 2012
Science

Is Japanese Dock A Noah's Ark Or A Trojan Horse?

Originally published on Fri June 8, 2012 5:59 pm

Among the creatures that survived the trans-Pacific trek aboard the Japanese dock was this sea star, which was found inside the float.
Jessica Miller flickr

A bizarre event has drawn scientists to a beach in Oregon — a floating concrete dock from Japan has washed ashore. It had been ripped from its moorings by last year's tsunami and floated across the Pacific.

The dock is encrusted with mussels, barnacles and other marine life from Asia. Scientists are amazed these organisms survived the 14-month voyage, but they're also worried some of these organisms could become pests in U.S. waters.

Read more

11:10am

Mon May 14, 2012
The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers

With Gas Boom, Pennsylvania Fears New Toxic Legacy

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:55 am

NPR

In Pennsylvania, there's an industrial revolution going on. Battalions of drilling rigs are boring into the earth to extract natural gas from an underground layer of shale called the Marcellus formation.

And as the wells multiply all along the western end of the state, people worry they may be facing another toxic legacy.

The first one came from coal mining. All over the state, you can see bright orange rivers and streams. The aquatic life was killed by acidic runoff from abandoned mines.

Read more

5:23am

Sun May 13, 2012
Humans

Mayan Artwork Uncovered In A Guatemalan Forest

Originally published on Tue May 15, 2012 4:27 pm

Conservator Angelyn Bass cleans and stabilizes the surface of a wall of a Mayan house that dates to the ninth century. The figure of a man who may have been the town scribe appears on the wall to her left.
Tyrone Turner Copyright 2012 National Geographic

Archaeologists working in one of the most impenetrable rain forests in Guatemala have stumbled on a remarkable discovery: a room full of wall paintings and numerical calculations.

The buried room apparently was a workshop used by scribes or astronomers working for a Mayan king. The paintings depict the king and members of his court. The numbers mark important periods in the Mayan calendar.

Read more

1:38am

Mon May 7, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

'Wired To Run': Runner's High May Have Been Evolutionary Advantage

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 8:45 am

Researchers say our brains are probably wired from an evolutionary sense to encourage running and high aerobic activities. Above, a man runs past the Sydney Harbour Bridge on April 22.
Ryan Pierse Getty Images

Endurance athletes sometimes say they're "addicted" to exercise. In fact, scientists have shown that rhythmic, continuous exercise — aerobic exercise — can in fact produce narcoticlike chemicals in the body.

Now researchers suggest that those chemicals may have helped turn humans, as well as other animals, into long-distance runners.

The man behind the research is University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlen, a runner himself. He does about 25 miles a week.

Read more

5:04am

Sun May 6, 2012
Animals

The Dinosaurs' Nemeses: Giant, Jurassic Fleas

Originally published on Sun May 6, 2012 10:38 am

An illustration of the Chinese Jurassic "pseudo-flea," which lived in the Middle Jurassic in northeastern China.
Wang Cheng Current Biology

Fossil-hunting scientists are coming to grips with a new discovery that could change forever how we think of dinosaurs. What they've found is that dinosaurs may well have been tortured by large, flealike bloodsucking insects.

Yes, it appears that the greatest predators that ever roamed Earth suffered just as we mammals did — and as we still do. Fleas were thought to have evolved along with mammals — they like our soft skins and a diet of warm blood.

Read more

2:14am

Thu April 12, 2012
Energy

Scientists Link Rise In Quakes To Wastewater Wells

Originally published on Fri April 13, 2012 9:22 am

Scientists who watch for earthquakes have discovered a big increase in the number of small quakes in the middle of the country. It's an area that's usually pretty quiet geologically.

The scientists suspect the quakes are caused by wastewater wells. They plan to discuss their findings later this month at a seismology conference, but they've shared the basics with NPR.

Bill Ellsworth, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, says new technology over the past decade has given scientists a much better feel for when the Earth shakes.

Read more

2:39pm

Thu April 5, 2012
Animals

A 'Warm And Fuzzy' Dino? (Yes, But Mind The Teeth)

An artist's impression of a group of Yutyrannus. The 30-foot-long dinosaurs were covered with downy feathers — likely to keep the animals warm.
Dr. Brian Choo Nature

Thirty feet long and weighing in at around 3,000 pounds, Yutyrannus huali goes by the nickname "beautiful feathered tyrant." Yutyrannus earned the name "tyrant" because it casually ripped its prey to pieces. But it was also a snappy dresser: The huge predator was covered in downy feathers.

Read more

2:35am

Thu April 5, 2012
Environment

Shake It Off: Earth's Wobble May Have Ended Ice Age

Originally published on Thu April 5, 2012 8:25 am

A wobbling of the Earth on its axis about 20,000 years ago may have kicked off a beginning to the end of the last ice age. Glaciers in the Arctic and Greenland began to melt, which resulted in a warming of the Earth, a new study says. Above, Greenland's Russell Glacier, seen in 1990.
Veronique Durruty Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

The last big ice age ended about 11,000 years ago, and not a moment too soon — it made a lot more of the world livable, at least for humans.

But exactly what caused the big thaw isn't clear, and new research suggests that a wobble in the Earth kicked off a complicated process that changed the whole planet.

Ice tells the history of the Earth's climate: Air bubbles in ice reveal what the atmosphere was like and what the temperature was. And scientists can read this ice, even if it's been buried for thousands of years.

Read more

Pages