Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Energy Academy Looks to Turn Interest In Science Into Careers



 (NET RADIO) - It's a loud place. But much cleaner than you might expect for a coal plant. This Nebraska City station, just south of the community, is ten stories of pipes, boilers and a huge air ventilation system. Large enough, it seems, that a small car could fit inside the air ducts. As operations superintendent of the Omaha Public Power District facility, Roger Grable already knows the place well.

"The facility is very complex," he said, "and it can take days, actually, to do this full tour if we really wanted to."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Environmental Effects of Pipeline Up For Debate


(NET Radio) Much of the debate over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline has centered on the environment. Opponents fear if the pipeline leaks, it could pollute Nebraska's water supply. Advocates of the pipeline say precautions will be taken to make it safe.

Those differences are reflected, in more nuanced terms, in the views of two University of Nebraska-Lincoln professors whose respect for each other still leaves them on opposite sides of the fence regarding the pipeline.




Friday, October 14, 2011

3D Technology Revealing Vision Issues



LINCOLN, NE (NET Radio) - Video produced in three dimensions is intended to give the viewer a sense of depth and space that two dimensional video doesn't. State of art technology is putting 3D in front of eyes in more places than ever before. Movies, video games and television can be watched in 3D. Much of it now doesn't require the special 3D glasses of previous generations for the experience. As 3D becomes more common place, optometrists around the state say it could be impacting vision health.

3D has been around for more than 50 years, but when the animated movie Avatar was released about two years ago, it was produced with the latest cameras intended to revolutionize the movie-watching experience. For Omaha optometrist Dr. Corey Langford, it brought two new patients.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Coal at the Crossroads: As Renewables Boom, California Struggles to Quit Coal




SAN FRANCISCO (NET Radio) - Editor’s Note: This Signature Story was reported by QUEST Northern California and is the second in a four-part series, “Coal at the Crossroads” exploring coal in the U.S. This series is produced in collaboration with QUEST Northern California (KQED San Francisco) and its partner public broadcasting stations. For more QUEST Nebraska stories visit netnebraska.org/quest.

Massive coal-fired power plants aren't something you'll find within California's borders. To find the source of the state's coal power, you have to go to places like northern New Mexico, where the San Juan Generating Station is located.

"We currently have unit four offline, but units one, two and three are operating at full load," said Pat Themig, Vice President of Generation for PNM, the New Mexico utility that runs the plant.

"If you see the line where the stack is, everything going behind that is scrubber," he said, pointing past a towering smokestack.

Those scrubbers remove pollutants from the air emissions. But PNM has struggled to meet air quality standards and last month, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the plant to install new pollution control equipment. Those costs are generally passed on to the power plant owners, which, in this case, are utilities in Arizona, New Mexico and California. The San Juan Generating Station supplies power to several California cities and the Southern California Public Power Authority.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coal at the Crossroads: Mercury Rises on Coal Costs



LINCOLN, NE (NET Radio)
Editor’s Note: This Signature Story was reported by QUEST Northern California and is the second in a four-part series, “Coal at the Crossroads” exploring coal in the U.S. This series is produced in collaboration with QUEST Northern California (KQED San Francisco) and its partner public broadcasting stations. For more QUEST Nebraska stories visit netnebraska.org/quest.

Bluestem Lake near Lincoln, Nebraska is five miles north of a coal-fired power plant. It is also one of 85 bodies of water in the state under a consumption advisory because of fish found to have elevated levels of mercury in their tissues. Half of the airborne mercury pollution in the U.S. comes from coal-fired power plants. After years of study and debate, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to announce new limits on mercury from coal plants in November. Ken Winston of the Nebraska Sierra Club believes the agency is doing the right thing.

"When you burn coal, mercury goes up into the atmosphere," Winston said. "It comes down in the form of rain. Fish eat it. People eat the fish. It can be very damaging and have a long term negative impact on the development of children. So it's something we need to get out of the environment as much as possible."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Move Over, Cows: 4-H Takes On Robotics



DES MOINES, IOWA (NET Radio) - 4-H kids still raise livestock and compete for blue ribbons at state fairs.

But in Iowa, at least, robots are moving in.

A 4-H-sponsored robotics challenge at the Iowa State Fair this year drew 13 teams, more than double from last year. Some teams were turned away.

"This is definitely a really quickly growing segment of 4H: robotics and science, engineering and technology in general," said Holly Bignall, who works in Iowa State University Extension's science, engineering and technology division. She runs the robotics competition.

"It appeals to urban youth," Bignall said, "and we're definitely trying to reach more urban youth, that's where most of Iowa youth are."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Researchers Seek Better Approach To Healing Wounds





OMAHA, NE (NET Radio)
- On a warm summer day in Lincoln, an easy game of catch can be a good way to enjoy the day. That's what Leigh Gramke and a friend did recently. A pretty normal thing for Gramke, who's been playing softball most of her life.

"T-ball when I was in kindergarten, first grade, I don't know, a long time ago," she said. "I was good at it."

Good enough that she played one season of college softball. Now, though, playing catch is about the only thing she can do with the sport she loves. It all changed last December.

"I was coming home after a night and just lost control of my car and went into a creek, and the car caught on fire," she said. "A couple just happened to be following me, and saw my lights disappear, and pulled me out of the vehicle and saved my life."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Holy Battered Bats! Double Menace Threatens Farmers' Helpers



COLUMBIA, MO (NET Radio)
- Farmer Shelly Cox and her husband rely on the mainstays of Midwest agriculture: John Deere tractor, genetically modified seeds and rich soil.

They also get extra help from what you might call nature's pest control crew - migrating bats.

"They're huge at insect control," Cox said while walking toward a small wetland where bats cluster during the summer months."How much money do you want to spend on pesticides? Or do you want to be saving money and using what Mother Nature gives us?"

Cox credits the bats that visit her family's 86-acre farm outside Savannah, Mo. as a big reason why they've only used pesticides twice in the last 15 years.
But that could change soon.

Wildlife experts in the heartland are preparing for a serious one-two punch to the bat population: a mysterious fungus spreading from the northeast, and the proliferation of wind power.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Archaeology Dig Seeks Clues To Nebraska's Prehistoric Past



(NET RADIO) - Editor's note: This Signature Story is part of the NET News QUEST Nebraska project, a multimedia series exploring Nebraska science, environment and nature.

Matt Marvin and Steve Sarich are digging and sifting. Marvin is using a shovel to remove dirt from their excavation site, a half centimeter at a time. Sarich is carefully sifting the dirt through a screen. They're standing amidst grass, weeds and dead reeds, fighting flies, ticks and sometimes 100 degree heat in the middle of the drained Hugh Butler Lake, north of McCook. There's no Indiana Jones glamour in this real archeology world.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New EPA Standards Could Impact Omaha

(NET RADIO) - Editor's note: This Signature Story is part of the NET News QUEST Nebraska project, a multimedia series exploring Nebraska science, environment and nature.


It's a common summer scene.

Vehicle traffic in most places, including the Omaha metro area picks up when the temperature rises. Vacations, more daylight and other factors put more people on the road. With or without the traffic, summer heat is sometimes described as stifling. There might be some truth to that. As traffic planner with the
Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA), Sloan Dawson says something happens when mixing heat and traffic emissions.



Friday, July 22, 2011

Sandhills Hidden Water

Join renowned nature photographer Mike Forsberg as he documents diverse waterfowl and wildlife across the Great Plains. In Nebraska's Sandhills, Mike visits with University of Nebraska hydrogeologist Jim Goeke to examine how the hidden waters of the Ogallala Aquifer keep Blue Creek open during the winter months -- a haven for geese and trumpeter swans.

Click here to download the Educator Guide that accompanies this story.


Algae for Fuel

With growing pressure on the world's gas supply, University of Nebraska biologist George Oyler is working with researchers in California and New Mexico on a fuel alternative -- algae for fuel. Microscopic algae is grown in labs, then cultivated like a farm crop in ponds in New Mexico to turn the oil within aquatic algae into "green crude" -- which can be refined just like crude oil into gas for cars, trucks, and planes.

Saving the Tiger Beetle

Did you know that Nebraska has one of the rarest endangered species? It's called the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle. Only 200-500 beetles remain in a salt creek in Lincoln. Now, the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo is teaming up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nebraska Game and Parks, and the Lincoln Children's Zoo to rescue, breed, and release a new beetle population to Save the Tiger Beetle.

Click here to download the Educator Guide that accompanies this story.


Click "Read more" to see how close the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle's habitat is to Nebraska's capital.

Pig Poop Power

Farm animals are generating power in rural Dodge, Nebraska. Hog farmer Danny Kluthe is using the poop from his 7,500 pigs to convert hog waste into methane that creates electricity for Kluthe's home... and nearly 40 other homes. Kluthe's success is due to a device called a methane digester.

Click here to download the Educator Guide that accompanies this story.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

QUEST Nebraska Premieres

Watch the first episode of NET's new science media project QUEST Nebraska.

This program visits a unique eco-system in the Nebraska Sandhills with wildlife photographer Michael Forsberg; a Nebraska farm where pig manure produces methane gas that generates electricity; scientists in Nebraska and other states who turn algaue into highly valued petroleum; and examines how Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo is helping save endangered Salt Creek Tiger Beetles.


Salt Creek Tiger Beetle Recovery Project

(NET RADIO) - Editor's note: This Signature Story is part of the NET News QUEST Nebraska project, a multimedia series exploring Nebraska science, environment and nature.


Click here for the Educator Guide that accompanies this story.

It has the feel of a round-up on the ranch. Armed with a butterfly net and keen pairs of eyes, a group of scientists from federal and state agencies and the Omaha and Lincoln zoos are on the hunt for one of the world's most endangered species.

"Get him?" one asks.

"No, I got a fly," another responds.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bioplastics

(NET RADIO) - Editor's note: This Signature Story is part of the NET News QUEST Nebraska project, a multimedia series exploring Nebraska science, environment and nature.


Click here to download the Educator Guide that accompanies this story.

Recently, companies like
Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Heinz ketchup have determined that plastic made from plants, not oil, makes sense both for the environment and for business. The growing demand has meant a boom in the bioplastic industry and could mean changes to the plastic bottle as we know it. Grant Gerlock looked into that for this NET News Signature Story and for Quest, a series on science and the environment, and found Nebraska is at the front of the pack on bioplastic.

In a cornfield west of Lincoln, Nebraska, dark green stalks rise chest-high from the soil and wind around the hill in perfect rows. Sunlight flashes on the leaves as they scrape against each other in a gust of wind. The field will produce thousands of bushels of corn to be used in products ranging from cattle feed and corn syrup to ethanol and even plastic.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Healthy Farms Index

(NET Radio) -

On a bright spring morning in eastern Butler County, John Quinn and the college students working with him for the summer are walking farm ground counting birds.

"We use two ways of finding nests," he said. "We do a lot of systematic searching, just up and down the fence rows; we have a pretty narrow habitat, they're not going to be out in the fields. We also use adult behavior so if we see them flying in with sticks, we hear really loud calls, vocalizations as we get close, you know, hissing or clucking, we know that there's a good chance that there's a nest in that area. Sometimes it's a hit-or-miss - you can walk by a nest three times and not pick it up, but you happen to look in the right spot, you get lucky.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Methane Digester

 (NET RADIO) - About half of Nebraska's farms include livestock and that industry accounts for about half of farm income. But with livestock comes potential environmental and natural resource issues like climate and water that require attention and regulation. Perry Stoner reports a unique hog operation in the state that's found a way to turn waste into an energy source.

Click here for the Educator Guide that accompanies this story.