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

Credit Woods Hole Research Center

Freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation. On Living Lab, Heather Goldstone talks with Dr. Leandro Castello with the Woods Hole Research Center about a new study showing that Amazon waters are being increasingly degraded by deforestation, pollution, construction of dams and waterways, and over-harvesting of plant and animal species.

Snow weighs down tree branches in Falmouth.
Alecia J. O. Lebeda

After a weekend that brought hurricane-force winds (over 90 mph on Nantucket!) and more than a foot of snow to most of the Cape and Islands, rain may seem like no big deal. Or it may seem like the straw that broke the camel's back. Either way, that's what's in the forecast for this afternoon.

NStar spokesperson says the rain will complicate efforts to restore power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses in southeastern Massachusetts.

Erosion underway at Cold Storage Beach in Dennis on Saturday, February 9th.
Greg Berman / Woods Hole Sea Grant

The Nor'easter that slammed New England this weekend packed hurricane-force winds and dumped as much as three feet of snow in some places. In addition to knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses around southeastern Massachusetts, the storm reworked coastlines around the region. Twenty to thirty foot waves and a four foot storm surge piled on top of astronomically high tides to produce widespread coastal flooding and erosion.

Nathalie Miebach's woven sculptures interpret oceanographic data.
Courtesy of Nathalie Miebach

Back in June, I spoke with Whitney Bernstein and Michael McMahon about their nascent artist-scientist collaborative, Synergy. The project has now reached fruition; eight artist-scientist teams have produced science-inspired works of art that will be shown at Boston's Museum of Science starting February 16th.

The exhibit spans media from music to abstract video, from sculpture to painting. Each work of art is as unique as the artist-scientist team that came together to create it.

Two common dolphins rescued and released in Wellfleet, MA, in 2012.
IFAW

There's nothing pretty or happy about marine mammal strandings, but they can be useful. Katie Moore should know; she's manager of marine mammal rescue and response for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and she's responded to hundreds of strandings.

Cape Cod is one of three major hotspots for marine mammal strandings worldwide. (The others are in Australia and New Zealand.) Each winter, dozens - sometimes hundreds - of dolphins and small whales wash up on the shores of Cape Cod Bay, particularly in Wellfleet. 2012 was a record-breaking year, with 217 common dolphins stranding in four-month period.

Fred Benenson / Wikimedia Commons

The suicide of computer prodigy and internet activist Aaron Swartz on January 11th has prompted a groundswell of support for the open access movement - the push to make academic publications available online, free of charge and without copyright restrictions.

Swartz helped invent RSS feeds - the technology that allows website updates and internet search results to be automatically delivered to users - and co-founded the social news site Reddit. He was also a staunch advocate of open access, which he viewed as a social justice issue. His Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto began:

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.

Swartz went on to exhort those with access to academic publications to share that content however they could:

Author Bill Sargent takes the long view in his new book "Beach Wars: 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach."

In March of 2012, crews began demolishing five homes on Chatham's North Beach Island. The action was ordered by the owner of the cottages, Cape Cod National Seashore, but came after months of strenuous protest by leaseholders and numerous observers who argued that the buildings were more than just summer homes - they were part of Chatham's cultural heritage.

That's a notion that Bill Sargent challenges in his latest book, Beach Wars: 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach.

A bowl glazed with sediments from Fukushima, Japan registers no more than background radiation and provides an entrez for learning about radiation in the environment.
Courtesy of Joan Lederman

The seafloor is a treasure trove of information for scientists hoping to glean a better understanding of ocean processes, both past and present. The color and texture of the mud, as well as the organisms that inhabit it, all hold clues. But what happens to sediment samples when scientists are done with them?

Here in Woods Hole, these cast-offs of oceanographic exploration are getting a second life at The Soft Earth Pottery studio, where artist Joan Lederman uses them to glaze her ceramics.

With 2012 drawing to a close, we’ve taken a look back at some of the big moments in science this year. Joining me on this walk down memory lane were Susan Avery, president and director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Eric Davidson, president and senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center; and Gary Borisy, outgoing president and director of the Marine Biological Laboratory.

  1. Discovery of the Higgs Boson has garnered the title of Breakthrough of the Year from Science Magazine. Although fundamental to physicists’ understanding of how the universe functions, Higgs Boson is undeniably esoteric – difficult for most of us to cozy up to. That’s why I so enjoyed Cape Cod Times columnist Sean Gonsalves very personal take on the discovery.
  2. Humans return to deepest spot on Earth. Mars rovers are all well and good but there’s plenty left to explore here on Earth, and this year marked an historic return to the deepest spot on Earth. In March, James Cameron became the third person ever – and the first in over fifty years – to dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Physicist, philosopher and historian Dr. Thomas Kuhn, 1922-1996.
Public domain image

Could Thomas Kuhn’s ideas about the scientific process be behind the divided public opinions we see today on issues like climate change and evolution? The physicist-turned-philosopher would probably turn over in his grave to think so. And, to be fair, no single idea can be held entirely responsible for the current situation. But, 50 years ago, Thomas Kuhn radically changed the way both scientists and the public view science.

An aptly named fishing boat in New Bedford Harbor.
animaltourism.com / flickr

There’s nothing new about tension between New England’s fishermen and the scientists and regulators who oversee their industry. But the situation has reached fever pitch in the past two years, in large part due to a federally mandated deadline to end overfishing and the introduction of a new management scheme, known as catch shares, in which a total catch limit is set and the catch is divvied up among eligible fishermen.

WCAI's new look
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

2012 was an exciting year here at 3 Water Street. As the year draws to a close, we're looking back at some of the most memorable moments. From favorite commentaries to new shows, and even a new building, here are our picks for the Top 12 of 2012. 

  1. WCAI gets a facelift - WCAI is proud to call the historic Davis House in Woods Hole home. But this old house was in desperate need of some updating, both inside and out. Over the past year, we've restored the original wood clapboard siding, added a front porch, and made the first two floors of the building handicap-accessible. It's been a long process, but we're prouder than ever. You're always welcome to stop by and see the results for yourself. Otherwise, you can WATCH THE SLIDESHOW >>

An unnamed mushroom found in South Carolina and posted on mushroomobserver.org.
Patrick R. Smith / Encyclopedia of Life

I feel like I'm becoming a broken record. Each week, my guests wow me with just how little we know about their chosen field. Today, it was the diversity of life on Earth. Earlier this year, Encyclopedia of Life (EOL.org) passed the one million page mark. While that's impressive, it's nowhere close to the project's goal of one page for every species on Earth. In fact, Nathan Wilson, technical director for EOL.org and a curator on the site, says we don't even have a good handle on how many species there are on Earth.

You can train a dog, but what about its owner?
Carlos Smith / Flickr

You don't expect your dog to speak English or use a toilet. So you make accommodations. But Melissa Berryman, author of People Training for Good Dogs, says there are a lot of common misconceptions that lead to unreasonable expectations of human behavior from dogs. The results can be frustrating or even dangerous, and that's why Berryman recommends training for dog owners, as well as their pets.

At least ninety percent of household dust contains chemicals that pose a health risk.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Dust is unsightly, a sign of poor housekeeping, perhaps. But toxic? Unfortunately, yes.

In 2003, researchers from Massachusetts-based Silent Spring Institute sampled dust from 120 homes on Cape Cod looking for hormone-like chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. They followed that up with a study of 50 homes in California. In both cases, they found what they were looking for.

One of the chemicals they found in high levels was a banned flame retardant called PBDE. So they went back, again, to look for other flame retardants in those California homes. And, again, they found what they were looking for in abundance. One class of flame retardants, known as chlorinated Tris compounds, made up as much as 0.1% of dust. That's a lot for a single chemical.

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