The Science of Sustainability

Liza Gross

Liza Gross

Liza Gross, a freelance science writer and senior editor at the biomedical journal PLOS Biology, channeled an early love of wildlife into a lifelong exploration of the numerous ways diverse species, including humans, interact in the natural world. She writes mostly about wildlife, conservation, and environmental health. Her stories reflect a deep curiosity about natural and social interactions and often highlight evolutionary relationships that remind humans of their place in, and responsibility to conserve, nature. Her article "Don't Jump!" published in Slate, won an ASJA award in the op-ed category. She's a visiting scholar at NYU, a 2013 recipient of NYU Reporting Award funding and a Dennis Hunt health journalism fellow.

Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.

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Liza Gross's Latest Posts

Top Cats: How Pumas and Other Apex Predators' Populations Affect The Big Biodiversity Picture

Top Cats: How Pumas and Other Apex Predators' Populations Affect The Big Biodiversity Picture

Apex predators exert far-reaching effects on ecosystems that surface just decades after their disappearance. Santa Cruz researchers hope to understand how human activities and development affect how pumas use the landscape to help mitigate conflicts and plan for the species' long-term survival.

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Fire Safety without Harm

Fire Safety without Harm

Last week, scientists and regulators from more than 20 countries gathered in San Francisco to discuss the latest research on flame retardants. The conference lasted four days, but the theme of the meeting was clear from just a few talks: Do we need toxic chemicals to achieve fire safety?

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Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley: Documenting the Poisoning of America’s Wetland

Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley: Documenting the Poisoning of America’s Wetland

In the new exhibition on display at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center, "Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach's Cancer Alley," the Berkeley photographer takes a hard look at the environmental consequences of our dependence on petroleum.

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Yes, Your Cell Phone Conversation Does Drive People Mad

Yes, Your Cell Phone Conversation Does Drive People Mad

It's well known that talking on your cell phone compromises your ability to perform simple tasks like walking and driving. Now it turns out cell phones impact cognition in bystanders as well: listening to another person talk on their cell phone isn't just incredibly annoying, it also interferes with your memory and concentration.

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Arsenic and Old Wells

Arsenic and Old Wells

Six years after the EPA's new arsenic rule for drinking water went into effect, poor communities in the San Joaquin Valley—who can’t afford the costs of complying with the stricter standard—face the highest risk of exposure to unsafe arsenic levels.

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Book Review: Animal Wise – The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures

Book Review: Animal Wise – The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures

An appreciation of the rich inner lives of nonhuman animals dates back at least to Aristotle and gained support from Charles Darwin, who saw any differences between humans and other animals as a matter of degree, not kind. Still, the notion that humans stand above and apart from our fellow creatures dies hard. In her new book, "Animal Wise," science journalist Virginia Morell takes us on a tour of labs and field sites around the world to show us that many of the traits once thought uniquely human appear in even our most distant evolutionary relatives.

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Coyote Killings: A Complex Debate of Conservation and Cruelty

Coyote Killings: A Complex Debate of Conservation and Cruelty

Coyotes, reviled for preying on sheep and goats, are the most targeted predator in the U.S. This week, hunters in the tiny Modoc County town of Adin will compete in a contest to kill the most coyotes to protect their livestock–even though research shows that killing coyotes results in higher reproductive rates.

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Fear and Loathing in Wolf Country

Fear and Loathing in Wolf Country

After federal wildlife officials removed endangered species protections on wolves in the Rocky Mountains, hunters quickly killed them by the hundreds. If California's lone wolf leaves the state, he could meet a similar fate.

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Exploratorium’s Science with Spirit Transcends Place

Exploratorium’s Science with Spirit Transcends Place

A record number of visitors mobbed San Francisco's Exploratorium on its last day at the Palace of Fine Arts. The mood was bittersweet–not just visitors but a good part of the staff grew up at this place. But for the Exploratorium, the magic of science is where you make it.

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Conquering Fungophobia

Conquering Fungophobia

Late fall rains signal the start of mushroom season, which can last until spring in the Bay Area. Though only experts should forage and eat wild mushrooms (following park rules about harvesting), anyone can appreciate the rich diversity of these ephemeral fruits of the forest.

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Can Earth Survive Without Scientist-Citizens?

Can Earth Survive Without Scientist-Citizens?

Last summer, a group of top scientists warned that our penchant for growth and consumption may be pushing earth toward an irreversible tipping point. The days when scientists could share their results with just their colleagues are over, says NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. It's time for scientists to help solve our "wicked problems."

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Flame Retardants, Redux: From Toxic Couches to Buildings

Flame Retardants, Redux: From Toxic Couches to Buildings

Last June, Gov. Jerry Brown directed state agencies to change California's flammability standard to ensure fire safety without dousing furniture and other foam products with toxic chemicals. Now activists are focusing on an even bigger market for flame retardants: foam insulation in buildings.

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Trophy Hunting: For the Love of Blood and Money

Trophy Hunting: For the Love of Blood and Money

Trophy hunters routinely pay thousands of dollars for the chance to kill big game like caribou, moose, black bear and especially grizzly bear. Trophy hunting narratives boast a love of nature. But some sociologists find a different story.

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Playing Whack-a-Mole with Flame Retardants

Playing Whack-a-Mole with Flame Retardants

Countless consumer products sold in California contain a flame retardant flagged as a possible carcinogen nearly 35 years ago. As of this week, finally, they must carry a warning that the chemical causes cancer. But is it enough when manufacturers simply replace one toxic chemical with another?

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Vaccine Waivers, Informed Consent and Public Health

Vaccine Waivers, Informed Consent and Public Health

Starting in 2014, California will require parents to see a health practitioner to learn the risks and benefits of vaccination before opting out of the state's immunization requirements. Public health officials hope that when parents learn the difference between science-based evidence and the uninformed myths so prevalent online and in the mainstream media, they'll decide to protect their children from the real risks of infectious disease, rather than worry about unfounded theoretical risks.

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Think Pink? I’d Rather Raise a Stink

Think Pink? I’d Rather Raise a Stink

Every October, high-profile outlets from Ace Hardware to the NFL sell pink products to raise awareness and money for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Critics of "pinkwashing" urge consumers to ask just how much of that money goes to support breast cancer programs–and challenge us to move beyond awareness to action.

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Culture Clash: Of Cats, Birds and Conservation

Culture Clash: Of Cats, Birds and Conservation

Feral cats threaten native wildlife, from reptiles to birds, and often lead a miserable life. By better understanding the concerns of cat colony caretakers, wildlife biologists hope to find enough common ground to benefit both cats and wildlife.

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Braking for Beetles: When Recreation and Conservation Converge

Braking for Beetles: When Recreation and Conservation Converge

The endangered Ohlone tiger beetle, found only in Santa Cruz County, depends on disturbed landscapes to hunt and breed. Migrating woolly mammoths and more recently grazing elk helped maintain that habitat. Recreational trails might prove a good replacement–as long as mountain bikers follow rules to reduce beetle casualties.

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In Defense of Science: An Interview with NCSE’s Eugenie Scott

In Defense of Science: An Interview with NCSE’s Eugenie Scott

Eugenie Scott, longtime director of Oakland's National Center for Science Education, has won numerous awards for helping the public understand science and defending evolution, especially against threats to replace it with “creation science” in public schools. She shares her thoughts on the challenges of communicating science in a climate of denial.

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Doubt and Denialism: Vaccine Myths Persist in the Face of Science

Doubt and Denialism: Vaccine Myths Persist in the Face of Science

Many people continue to doubt the evidence for climate change, evolution, and vaccine safety, even though the scientific consensus on these issues is rock solid. Among the most troubling evidence-resistant theories is the long-debunked yet persistent myth that vaccines cause autism—a completely unfounded belief–leading to general doubts about vaccine safety, with dangerous public health consequences.

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