Elsa Partan

Producer for Living Lab

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.

Ways to Connect

Vanderbilt University researcher Shane King tries out the treadmill he helped design. It trips people for science.
Courtesy Vanderbilt University

Imagine being tripped over and over again, knowing that it would keep happening, but never knowing when. Nightmarish, right?

That’s exactly what some people volunteered to do in order to help make prosthetic legs better.  

Krzysztof Niewolny / unsplash

Last November, the New York Times magazine made an ominous declaration: The Insect Apocalypse is Here. The story warned that insects, globally, could face extinction this century. And that would have far-reaching ramifications for other life on Earth, including us. But that’s not the end of the story.

divotomezove / pixabay.com

“We don't know the magnitude, we don't know the rate. We don't exactly know where insects are declining, and what lineages. So, there's a lot of questions left. But we do know they are in decline. And we probably know enough now that we can act and start making some important conservation decisions.” – David Wagner

This galaxy is one of 10 used in Fermi's dark matter search. Dark matter has been elusive.
NASA. ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2

Dark matter is thought to make up a little over a quarter of the universe. That’s six times more than all the matter ever observed. And, yet, dark matter is called that because it’s a mystery. 

Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

By Eve Zuckoff

The teen brain has long been an enigma to parents, but in recent years it's also become a hot topic for brain researchers. One thing they’ve learned is that teens aren't just inexperienced adults.  

The teen brain is still developing, and the result is a unique set of both strengths and potential weaknesses for teens and their parents to work with.

Punctuation - seen here with a calf in Cape Cod Bay in 2016 - was one of six North Atlantic right whales killed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this month.
Center for Coastal Studies image taken under NOAA permit #14603-1.

Five North Atlantic right whales have been found dead in the past week – six this month. With just over four hundred individuals remaining, and calving rates low, that’s a death toll the critically endangered population can’t afford.

“Panicking seems appropriate, yes,” said Peter Corkeron, who leads the large whale research program at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

“With 24 candidates, there are 620 billion trillion possible rankings. When there are many candidates, there are many more ways for people to disagree than to agree.”     -Alexander Strang

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.
NAIAD/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The FDA has halted trials of fecal transplants after one recipient has died and another is ill. Both were being treated for an intestinal infection called C. difficile and received transplants from an ostensibly healthy donor who turned out to be carrying an antibiotic resistant strain of E. coli. The incident highlights the risks inherent in a procedure that has rapidly gained favor for treating a host of health problems.

Deepfake techniques have brought us Elon Musk's face on a baby. Experts are concerned about more sinister uses.
The Fakening, YouTube, https://tinyurl.com/y5t58fvc

Doctored photos and videos are nothing new. But “deepfake” videos generated by artificial intelligence are causing a new wave of concern.

Microbes determine whether salt marshes trap carbon or release it.
jenneva72 / Pixabay

By Becca Cox

A group of nearly three dozen scientists from around the world have issued a warning to humanity: pay attention to microbes. They may be microscopic, but they play critical roles in the Earth’s climate systems and we ignore them at our own peril.

Jean Beaufort / publicdomainpictures.net

By Becca Cox

Summer vacation. Those two words conjure up images of long sunny days at the beach or by the pool, and that means sunscreen. But which sunscreen to choose? There are a lot of options and a lot of conflicting information about which ones are best for both you and the environment.

Ocean microbes are responsible for half of the carbon removed from the atmosphere.
Gordon T. Taylor, Stony Brook University / NOAA Corps Collection, Public Domain

"We live in a microbial world. Microbes run this planet. Microbes have been around for billions of years before plants and animals evolved. All of the major biogeochemical functions on this planet came about because of microbes, and continue to be run by microbes. So when you talk about something like climate, the major biological influence of climate - aside from anthropomorphic changes, of course - have always been microbes." -David Mark Welch

Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander / NASA

Apollo astronauts brought home nearly 850 pounds of rocks and soil from the moon. Those samples forced scientists to throw out much of what they thought they knew about the moon, and the collection continues to be a staple of lunar research.

erocsid / flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

An average of 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. That’s according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Earlier this year, a different report concluded that Americans are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car accident.