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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5:07am

Thu July 30, 2015
Shots - Health News

Close Listening: How Sound Reveals The Invisible

Originally published on Fri July 31, 2015 12:21 pm

Hanna Barczyk for NPR

Over the years, scientists have mostly interpreted the world through what they can see. But in the past few decades, a culture of listening has blossomed, especially among biologists who seek to understand how animals communicate. This week Morning Edition embarks on a weekly summer series called Close Listening: Decoding Nature Through Sound. We begin with an innovation that transformed medicine by searching sounds for clues to illness and health.

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12:19pm

Tue July 28, 2015
Science

Bones In Church Ruins Likely The Remains Of Early Jamestown's Elite

Originally published on Wed July 29, 2015 7:22 pm

3-D renderings of four skeletons found buried near the altar of an early church in the Jamestown settlement in Virginia.
Smithsonian X 3D

Jamestown, Virginia — the first successful English colony in North America — was a difficult place, to say the least. Most of the colonists who arrived in 1607 died shortly thereafter.

Now archaeologists have discovered the remains of some of the colony's first leaders — Jamestown's elite.

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3:45pm

Tue July 21, 2015
Shots - Health News

2 Gene Studies Suggest First Migrants To Americas A Complex Mix

Originally published on Wed July 22, 2015 2:42 pm

The area around the confluence of the Silverthrone and Klinaklini glaciers in southwestern British Columbia provides a glimpse into how the terrain traveled by Native Americans in Pleistocene times may have appeared.
David J. Meltzer/Science

The first people to set foot in the Americas apparently came from Siberia during the last ice age.

That's the conventional wisdom.

But now there's evidence from two different studies published this week that the first Americans may have migrated from different places at different times — and earlier than people thought.

The human race has walked or paddled or sailed until it covered the globe. Scientists can trace those migrations from the stuff these people left behind: tools, dwellings or burial grounds.

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5:36am

Fri July 17, 2015
Science

Science Confirms 2014 Was Hottest Yet Recorded, On Land And Sea

Originally published on Fri July 17, 2015 10:14 am

Floodwaters from rising sea levels have submerged and killed trees in Bedono village in Demak, Central Java, Indonesia. As oceans warm, they expand and erode the shore. Residents of Java's coastal villages have been hit hard by rising sea levels in recent years.
Ulet Ifansasti Getty Images

For the past quarter-century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been gathering data from more than 400 scientists around the world on climate trends.

The report on 2014 from these international researchers? On average, it was the hottest year ever — in the ocean, as well as on land.

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5:25pm

Mon June 29, 2015
Science

Supreme Court Rules In Industry's Favor. What's EPA's Next Move?

Originally published on Mon June 29, 2015 6:37 pm

A plume of steam billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H. in January 2015.
Jim Cole AP

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency made a mistake when it told electric power plants to reduce mercury emissions. The high court says the EPA should first have considered how much it would cost power plants to do that.

The decision comes too late for most power companies, but it could affect future EPA regulations.

Mercury in the air is a health risk. When you burn coal or oil, you create airborne mercury that can end up in fish we eat and cause serious health problems.

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2:41pm

Thu June 18, 2015
Shots - Health News

DNA Confirms Kennewick Man's Genetic Ties To Native Americans

Originally published on Thu June 18, 2015 9:07 pm

This clay facial reconstruction of Kennewick Man, who died about 8,500 years ago in what's now southeast Washington, was based on forensic scientists' study of the morphological features of his skull.
Brittney Tatchell/Smithsonian Institution

New genetic evidence suggests that Kennewick Man, an 8,500-year-old skeleton found in Washington state, is related to members of a nearby Native American tribe.

The DNA may help resolve a long-running scientific mystery, while at the same time reigniting a debate over who should have custody of the remains.

Kennewick Man was discovered accidentally in the mud flat along the Columbia River in 1996. He's caused a ruckus ever since.

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6:08pm

Mon June 15, 2015
The Salt

Scientists, Fishing Fleet Team Up To Save Cod — By Listening

Originally published on Mon June 15, 2015 7:50 pm

Chris Tremblay, a member of the Passive Acoustics group at NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center, deploys an underwater recording device along the Eastern Seaboard to listen for the mating sounds of Atlantic cod.
Courtesy of Chris Tremblay

In the ocean off of Massachusetts, an unlikely alliance of scientists and fishermen is on a quest. They're looking for mating codfish. The goal is not only to revive a depleted fish population but to save an endangered fishing community as well.

Cod were once so plentiful in New England waters that people used to say you could almost walk across their backs. Cod fueled a huge fishing industry. But now they're scarce, mostly from overfishing.

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3:55am

Fri May 22, 2015
The Salt

Revealed: The Ocean's Tiniest Life At The Bottom Of The Food Chain

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 5:54 pm

Plankton collected in the Pacific Ocean with a 0.1mm mesh net. Seen here is a mix of multicellular organisms — small zooplanktonic animals, larvae and single protists (diatoms, dinoflagellates, radiolarians) — the nearly invisible universe at the bottom of the marine food chain.
Christian Sardet/CNRS/Tara Expeditions

What's at the bottom of the bottom of the food chain? Well, think small ... smaller than you can see.

Tiny life forms in the ocean, too small for the naked eye to see.

There are (and scientists have done the math) trillions of microorganisms in the ocean: plankton, bacteria, krill (they're maybe bigger than "micro," but not by much), viruses, protists and archaea (they're like bacteria, but they aren't bacteria).

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6:28pm

Thu March 26, 2015
Science

Big Shelves Of Antarctic Ice Melting Faster Than Scientists Thought

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 8:01 pm

A 2008 view of the leading edge of the Larsen B ice shelf, extending into the northwest part of the Weddell Sea. Huge, floating ice shelves that line the Antarctic coast help hold back sheets of ice that cover land.
Mariano Caravaca Reuters/Landov

The Antarctic is far away, freezing and buried under a patchwork of ice sheets and glaciers. But a warming climate is altering that mosaic in unpredictable ways — research published Thursday shows that the pace of change in parts of the Antarctic is accelerating.

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3:35am

Thu March 19, 2015
Science

Scientists Catch Up On The Sex Life Of Coral To Help Reefs Survive

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 7:54 am

Staghorn coral planted by scientists in the Florida Keys. Researchers hope to give the same sort of boost to the world's shrinking population of pillar coral, now that they can raise the creatures in a laboratory.
Joe Berg/Way Down Video/Mote

For the first time, biologists have caught a rare type of coral in the act of reproducing, and they were able to collect its sperm and eggs and breed the coral in the laboratory.

The success is part of an effort to stem the decline in many types of coral around the world.

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5:34am

Tue March 17, 2015
World

Four Tropical Cyclones At Once: How Unusual Is That?

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 7:25 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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3:02pm

Wed March 11, 2015
Science

Think Man-Sized Swimming Centipede — And Be Glad It's A Fossil

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 8:31 pm

Reconstruction of the giant filter feeder, scooping up a plankton cloud. Aegirocassis benmoulae was one of the biggest arthropods that ever lived. Family members include today's insects, spiders and lobsters.
Marianne Collins/ArtofFact

If living long and prospering is a measure of success, then the arthropods are life's winners. These are the most common form of life: insects, spiders, crustaceans and centipedes, to name but a few.

And now scientists have their hands on the remains of one of the first ever. It lived 480 million years ago, and it was big and strange.

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3:45am

Thu March 5, 2015
Science

Jaw Fossil In Ethiopia Likely Oldest Ever Found In Human Line

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 12:55 pm

With the help of researcher Sabudo Boraru (right), anthropologist Chris Campisano, of Arizona State University, takes samples from the fossil-filled Ledi-Geraru project area in Ethiopia. The jawbone was found nearby.
Courtesy of J Ramón Arrowsmith

Scientists working in Ethiopia say they've found the earliest known fossil on the ancestral line that led to humans. It's part of a lower jaw with several teeth, and it's about 2.8 million years old. Anthropologists say the fossil fills an important gap in the record of human evolution.

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12:11pm

Fri February 27, 2015
Science

U.S. Biologists Keen To Explore, Help Protect Cuba's Wild Places

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 8:15 pm

Shoal of tropical fish over a coral reef in the Caribbean Sea. From pristine forests to vivid reefs, Cuba "has it all," say ecologists eager to study the island habitats.
iStockphoto

As diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba thaw, the island could see a new wave of tourism — with visitors treated to music and scenery that has been closed to most U.S. residents for more than half a century.

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5:48pm

Mon February 23, 2015
The Salt

Acidifying Waters Are Endangering Your Oysters And Mussels

Crew members pull an oyster dredge in Tangier Sound of the Chesapeake Bay near Deal Island, Md., in 2013. A study found that the Chesapeake Bay shellfishery is a "hot zone" for ocean acidification.
Patrick Semansky AP

Bad news for bivalves comes this week from scientists studying ocean acidification.

Ocean water in parts of the world is changing. Its chemistry is very slowly becoming more acidic, like lemon juice, and less alkaline, a la baking soda.

The change so far is small — you wouldn't notice if you swam in the ocean or even drank it (not recommended, in any case). But numerous scientific studies show that it could get worse. One reason is that as humans produce more carbon dioxide, a lot is absorbed into the oceans. That makes the water more acidic.

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4:39pm

Thu February 12, 2015
Science

8 Million Tons Of Plastic Clutter Our Seas

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 3:13 pm

A fisherman collects water on a beach littered with trash at an ecological reserve south of Manila in 2013.
Francis R. Malasig EPA/Landov

Plastic is one of those inventions that transformed the world. It's light, durable and you can make lots of things with it.

But it's also transforming Earth's oceans — and not in a good way. A lot of plastic ends up there. Scientists are just now getting a handle on how much plastic has gone to sea.

Up until now, estimates have been very rough. It's hard to measure waste in the oceans; after all, salt water covers 70 percent of the planet.

But another way to figure out what's out there is to measure how much debris is coming off the land.

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5:04am

Thu February 5, 2015
The Salt

Gotcha: Satellites Help Strip Seafood Pirates Of Their Booty

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 10:17 am

Fish on ice in Palau Misa Island, Indonesia. Thanks to satellite data, John Amos of SkyTruth can track fishing activity near the Pacific island nation from his office in West Virginia.
Randy Olson National Geographic/Getty Images

Most of the seafood Americans eat comes from abroad. And a lot of that is caught illegally — by vessels that ignore catch limits, or that fish in areas off-limits to fishing.

No one knows how much of it is illegal, because the oceans are too big to patrol. Or at least, they were. Now environmental groups have harnessed satellite technology to watch pirate fishing vessels from space — and they've already caught some of them.

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3:34am

Thu December 25, 2014
The Two-Way

Unexpected Life Found In The Ocean's Deepest Trench

Originally published on Fri December 26, 2014 5:39 pm

Schmidt Ocean Institute/HADES YouTube

4:02am

Fri December 19, 2014
Science

7 Miles Beneath The Sea's Surface: Who Goes There?

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 10:11 am

The research vessel Falkor in August 2013.
Courtesy of Mark Schrope

A ship full of marine scientists is floating over the deepest part of the world: the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. They're sending down probes to study life in one of the most hostile environments on the planet.

This week the researchers are targeting the two deepest spots in the trench — the Sirena Deep and the Challenger Deep — which each extend down about 7 miles beneath the ocean's surface.

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3:36am

Thu December 18, 2014
Science

Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As World Average

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 7:37 am

A lone polar bear poses on a block of arctic sea ice in Russia's Franz Josef Land.
iStockphoto

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the average rise on the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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5:02pm

Thu December 11, 2014
The Salt

Why The White House Wants To Go After Seafood Pirates

Originally published on Sun December 14, 2014 10:02 pm

A crab pot full of snow crabs, fished out of the Bering Sea.
Josh Thomas Courtesy of WWF

Americans eat more seafood than just about anyone else. Most of it is imported from abroad. And a lot of it — perhaps 25 percent of wild-caught seafood imports, according to fisheries experts — is illegally caught.

The White House is now drafting recommendations on what to do about that. Fisheries experts say they hope the administration will devote more resources to fight seafood piracy.

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5:11am

Tue December 9, 2014
Environment

Scientists Track Down Serious Methane Leaks In Natural Gas Wells

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 12:27 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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3:16am

Thu December 4, 2014
Environment

World Climate Talks In Lima Aim To Move Beyond Kyoto Treaty

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 11:47 am

Country representatives listen to opening remarks at the start of the United Nations' Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in Lima, Peru.
Cris Bouroncle AFP/Getty Images

Every year the United Nations invites environmental experts and diplomats from around the world to negotiate ways to slow global warming. This year's meeting runs this week and next in Lima, Peru.

Some say these conferences are a warming planet's best hope. Some say they're a United Nations jamboree. Most agree that recent sessions have seen mixed success at best. This year, however, negotiators think they have some fresh ideas to entice developed countries and developing ones to work together.

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3:23am

Thu November 6, 2014
Science

America's T. Rex Gets A Makeover

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 11:15 am

The Smithsonian's Jon Blundell scans the fossilized foot bone — the metatarsal — of the Wankel T. rex to help create a digital 3-D image of the long-dead dinosaur.
Nikki Kahn The Washington Post

The Wankel T. rex, named for the Montana rancher who found its bones, is destined to be the giant centerpiece for the new dinosaur hall at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. — the first nearly complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex the Smithsonian Institution has ever had. But when it arrived at the museum last April, the skeleton was in pieces — in a couple of dozen packing crates.

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4:32pm

Wed October 22, 2014
Science

Bigger Than A T. Rex, With A Duck's Bill, Huge Arms And A Hump

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 8:24 pm

Reconstruction of Deinocheirus mirificus.
Yuong-Nam Lee/Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources

Scientists announced Tuesday they've solved the mystery of the Mongolian ostrich dinosaur.

The mystery began in 1965, when fossil hunters found a pair of 6-foot-long, heavily clawed arm bones in Mongolia's Gobi desert. Nobody had seen anything like them before. Now, scientists say, they've got the rest of the beast ... and dinosaur textbooks may need to be rewritten.

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6:13pm

Wed October 8, 2014
Science

Climate Change Worsens Coastal Flooding From High Tides

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 9:58 am

Cindy Minnix waits for a bus in a flooded street on Oct. 18, 2012, in Miami Beach. A changing climate is making floods related to high tides more frequent, scientists say.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

A wave of high tides is expected to hit much of the East Coast this week. These special tides — king tides — occur a few times a year when the moon's orbit brings it close to the Earth.

But scientists say that lately, even normal tides throughout the year are pushing water higher up onto land. And that's causing headaches for people who live along coastlines.

As Bob Dylan might have put it, the tides, they are a changin'.

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3:59am

Thu October 2, 2014
Science

Soil Doctors Hit Pay Dirt In Manhattan's Central Park

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 9:14 am

The Bronx may be up and the Battery down, but Central Park is where an amazing wealth of different sorts of microbes play.
iStockphoto

Manhattan's Central Park is surrounded by one of the densest cities on the planet. It's green enough, yet hardly the first place most people would think of as biologically rich.

But a team of scientists got a big surprise when they recently started digging there.

They were 10 soil ecologists — aka dirt doctors. Kelly Ramirez from Colorado State University was among them. "We met on the steps of the natural history museum at 7 a.m. with our collection gear, coolers and sunblock," she recalls.

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6:14pm

Wed October 1, 2014
Science

When Can A Big Storm Or Drought Be Blamed On Climate Change?

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 8:52 pm

Melbourne visitors and residents took to the waters of Australia's St. Kilda Beach in January 2013 to escape a fierce heat wave.
Scott Barbour Getty Images

Nowadays, when there's a killer heat wave or serious drought somewhere, people wonder: Is this climate change at work? It's a question scientists have struggled with for years. And now there's a new field of research that's providing some answers. It's called "attribution science" — a set of principles that allow scientists to determine when it's a change in climate that's altering weather events ... and when it isn't.

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7:31pm

Thu September 11, 2014
Science

Crocodile Meets Godzilla — A Swimming Dino Bigger Than T. Rex

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 9:00 am

Workers at the National Geographic Museum in Washington grind the rough edges off a life-size replica of a spinosaurus skeleton.
Mike Hettwer National Geographic

There once was a place on Earth so overrun with giant, meat-eating predators that even a Tyrannosaurus rex would have been nervous. One predator there was even bigger than T. rex, and scientists now say it's apparently the only aquatic dinosaur ever found.

The swimming monster is called Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. It was 50 feet long — longer than a school bus, and 9 feet longer than the biggest T. rex.

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4:58pm

Tue September 9, 2014
Science

U.S. Gets Middling Marks On 2014 'State Of Birds' Report Card

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 11:30 am

"The State of the Birds" 2014 report found that red knots (above) and other shorebirds are among the most threatened groups in the U.S. More than half of U.S. shorebird species are on the report's Watch List — species that are currently endangered or at risk.
Gerrit Vyn The Smithsonian Institution

All is not well with the nation's birds. The most comprehensive study ever of birds in America is out today, and it says many populations are in steep decline, even as others are doing well.

The report, called "The State of the Birds," comes from the federal government, universities and conservation groups — 23 organizations that have spent years examining bird populations, as well as habitats where the various species live.

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