Heather Goldstone

Science Editor and Host of Living Lab

Heather Goldstone is science editor at WCAI and host of Living Lab on The Point, a weekly show exploring how science gets done and makes its way into our daily lives. Goldstone holds a Ph.D. in ocean science from M.I.T. and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and spent a decade as researcher before leaving the lab to pursue journalism. She has reported extensively on Woods Hole’s unique scientific community and key environmental issues on Cape Cod. Her stories have appeared in outlets ranging from Cape Cod Times and Commercial Fishery News to NPR and PBS News Hour. Most recently, Goldstone hosted Climatide.org, an NPR-sponsored blog exploring present-day impacts of climate change on coastal life.

Ways to Connect

May brought record tornado activity, with more than 300 tornadoes in the second half of the month.
TheAustinMan / TheAustinMan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Record rainfall in California. Record flooding in the mid-West. Record tornado activity in the central and southeastern U.S. And, while federal forecasters are calling for a near-normal level of hurricane activity this summer, the first named storm formed almost two weeks before the official start of hurricane season. In fact, extreme and record-setting weather seems to be the norm this year.

Cranberry extracts can make bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics, and prevent them from developing resistance.
Liz West/Flickr http://bit.ly/2JPBmle / CC BY 2.0

"The molecules themselves - the ones from cranberry or the ones from maple - they're not actually killing the bacteria. And that's a really interesting part of the of the research. They're not actually killing the bacteria, so they don't necessarily make the bacteria develop resistance. They're actually just somehow making these bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics." - Nathalie Tufenkji

This week on Living Lab Radio:

The first March for Science on April 22, 2017 drew about a million people to marches worldwide. This year, there wasn't a march at all.
Molly Adams, https://tinyurl.com/yyg6ux5f

The first March for Science drew hundreds of thousands of scientists and science enthusiasts to events around the world. Some estimates put the total number of participants worldwide at one million.

Jakob Owens / unsplash

Coral reefs around the world face a host of threats from human activities – from destructive fishing practices, to pollution, and of course, climate change. Reefs in the Caribbean have been in decline. Close to half of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef died during a two-year heat wave starting in 2016. And scientists have said that the vast majority of reefs could be gone by 2050.

A study finds that perceptions changed over the course of a few months.
Robin Higgins, Pixabay, https://tinyurl.com/y2bhrrab

In the fall of 2017, actor Alyssa Milano responded to accusations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein by tweeting.

“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote.

Atomic Clock FOCS-1 (Switzerland). The primary frequency standard device, FOCS-1, one of the most accurate devices for measuring time in the world. It stands in a laboratory of the Swiss Federal Office of Metrology METAS in Bern.
METAS, https://tinyurl.com/y627lkc5

So, it happened. And you probably didn’t notice. But the long-awaited, new definition of the kilogram went into effect this past week.

The metal cylinder that has defined the kilo for over a century has now been replaced with a mathematical equation based on a number known as the Planck constant.

It was the last physical artefact defining any unit of measurement in the international system, so its replacement marks an important point in efforts to define those units in ways that are permanent and immutable – based on constants of nature, rather than somebody’s foot or a hunk of metal. But it’s certainly not the end of the effort.

Now they’re taking on the second with renewed vigor. You know, the base unit of time in the International System of Units. That second. 

On Living Lab Radio this week:

  • Scientists are working on a new definition of the second.
  • A study started as the MeToo movement ramped up, suggests that women sharing their stories may have helped alleviate the stigma of reporting sexual harassment on the job. 
  • Hundreds of thousands turned out for the March for Science in 2017. Those numbers have dwindled, but the impact hasn’t been lost.
  • Ocean warming is devastating coral reefs around the world. But some reefs can take the heat, and they may represent the future of corals.

Daniel Cojanu

Imagine losing an arm or leg and thinking “No problem! It will grow back.” Now, imagine finding a bump on your big toe one day, only to have it grow into a complete clone of you that buds off and walks away. Laughable, right?

But that’s exactly what earthworms and their aquatic cousins can do. Duygu Özpolat, a fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, wants to know how, and why not all animals can do the same.

 Özpolat hasn’t always worked with worms. She started with chicken embryos.

Craig Cochrane, https://tinyurl.com/y4kd2lqj

Nine out of 10 elementary schools in Europe offer children the opportunity to learn multiple languages, but only a quarter of American elementary schools offer instruction in a language other than English. And enrollment in language classes at the secondary and college levels have been falling in recent years.

But Americans may not be as language depauperate as we think. We’ve just been holding the bar too high.

We’re moving into peak Lyme disease season. The number of reported cases peaks each year in June and July. And the incidence of Lyme disease seems to be on the rise. Reports of Lyme disease in the U.S. have tripled since the late 1990s.

David Mulder / Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” the word of the year, and many have since embraced the idea that we are living in a post-truth era.

Courtesy of Duygu Özpolat

“If you cut them into small pieces, each of those pieces will become a whole new worm, instead of dying. And, in addition to that, they also can make clones of themselves. So, imagine one day you see a little bump on your feet, and then that gradually grows into a whole new you and buds off. This is the kind of things they do.” - Duygu Özpolat

This week on Living Lab Radio:

Image via www.vpnsrus.com / CC BY 2.0

The Internet and artificial intelligence are changing the way we live. That’s not a surprise. We fret about how distracted we've become, or about whether robots will take our jobs. Those are real concerns. But the impact of computing technology could be even bigger and deeper – forcing us to reckon with our place in the world and our ability to understand it.

You can make fish and chips using spiny dogfish, a common catch in our waters.
Matthias Meckel, https://tinyurl.com/y6monys9

Dozens of species of fish and shellfish are caught in New England’s waters. But only a handful show up in most seafood retailers. You can probably list them: cod, haddock, scallops, clams, lobster.

Now, it’s not just anecdotal. A citizen science initiative has found that five species dominate at New England seafood counters and that some of the species that are most common out in the ocean are the rarest in our markets.

Leona Chemnick, Marlys Houck, and Dr. Oliver Ryder in The Frozen Zoo - a collection of cell and tissue samples at San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research.
Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global

Headlines trumpeted the dire news: a new U.N. report says human beings have put one million species at risk of extinction within decades. They point the finger at five major culprits – habitat destruction, exploitation, invasive species, pollution, and climate change.

Researchers at San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research are fighting back with what they call The Frozen Zoo. It’s a collection of frozen cell and tissue samples that might be used to bolster failing populations of endangered species.