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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2:16pm

Mon November 18, 2013
The Salt

Meat Mummies: How Ancient Egyptians Prepared Feasts For Afterlife

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 10:25 am

Anyone up for meat mummies? Above, a mummified beef rib from the tomb of Tjuiu, an Egyptian noblewoman, and her husband, the powerful courtier Yuya, circa 1386-1349 BC.
Image courtesy of PNAS

Meat mummies.

It's a word pairing that is, I dare say, pretty rare. Who among us has heard those two words together? What, indeed, could a "meat mummy" be?

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1:04am

Fri November 15, 2013
Environment

A Rancher And A Conservationist Forge An Unlikely Alliance

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 7:08 pm

Trout fishing is big business in Montana, bringing in tens of millions of dollars annually.
Tom Murphy Getty Images/National Geographic

Trout fishing is a magnet that draws people from around the world to places like Ovando, Mont. Just ask the owner of Blackfoot Angler and Supplies, Kathy Schoendoerfer.

"Every state in the nation has been through this little shop in Ovando, Montana, population 50," says Schoendoerfer with a mix of pride and perhaps a little fatigue. "And we've also had everybody from Russia, Latvia. We get a lot of Canadians, France, Finland, Brazil, Scotland, Germany, South Africa. We get a lot of business out here. You know, fly-fishing is huge."

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1:07am

Thu November 14, 2013
Science

As Climate Warms American West, Iconic Trout In Jeopardy

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 4:53 am

Native Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout swim in the cool waters of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park, Montana.
Jonny Armstrong USGS

In the mountain streams of the American West, the trout rules. People don't just catch this fish; they honor it. And spend lots of money pursuing it.

But some western trout may be in trouble. Rivers and streams are getting warmer and there's often less water in them. Scientists suspect a changing climate is threatening this iconic fish.

I joined two such scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey as they drove up a mountain road in Montana, in the northern Rockies, a place dense with stands of Douglas fir and aspen trees and braided with mountain streams.

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2:51pm

Mon November 4, 2013
Research News

How'd They Do That? The Story Of A Giant Rock And A Road Of Ice

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 5:42 pm

The Large Stone Carving is the heaviest stone in the Forbidden City in Beijing. It was believed to have weighed more than 300 tons when it was first transported to the site between 1407 and 1420.
DEA/ W. Buss De Agostini/Getty Images

Great works of ancient engineering, like the Pyramids or Stonehenge, inspire awe in every beholder. But some onlookers also get inspired to figure out exactly how these structures were made.

Howard Stone, an engineer from Princeton University, had such a moment in Beijing's Forbidden City — a city-within-a-city of palaces and temples built in the 15th and 16th centuries. A carved, 300-ton slab that formed a ramp to one structure particularly caught Stone's eye. "How in the world did it get here?" he wondered.

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2:49pm

Wed October 30, 2013
Environment

In Sandy's Wake, Flood Zones And Insurance Rates Re-Examined

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 4:00 pm

An emergency responder helps evacuate two people with a boat after their neighborhood in Little Ferry, N.J., was flooded.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

When Sandy blew into East Coast communities a year ago, it was flooding that did the most damage.

That's in part because the average sea level has risen over the past century — about a foot along the mid-Atlantic coast. That made it easier for the storm to push the ocean onto the land.

And scientists say there will be many more Sandy-style storms — that is, torrential rain and wind that create heavy coastal flooding — and they'll be more frequent than in the past. But preparing people for that means changing the way they live, and that's proving politically difficult.

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3:54pm

Thu October 17, 2013
Humans

Fossil Find Points To A Streamlined Human Lineage

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 3:35 pm

Researchers excavated the remains of five creatures who lived 1.8 million years ago, including this adult male skull. The excavation site, in Georgia in the former Soviet Union, was home to a remarkable cache of bones.
Courtesy of Georgian National Museum

Fossils of human ancestors are rare. You could pile all the ones that scientists have found in the back of a pickup truck.

But a remarkable site in Georgia, in the former Soviet Union, has produced a rich group of bones dating back almost 2 million years — and the discovery is shaking the family tree of human evolution.

The fossil hunters found the cache of bones more than a decade ago in a place called Dmanisi, but kept most of the find under wraps.

Now, they've lifted the veil, revealing the fossilized remains of five creatures who lived 1.8 million years ago.

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12:16pm

Mon October 14, 2013
Research News

Trapped In A Fossil: Remnants Of A 46-Million-Year-Old Meal

Originally published on Mon October 14, 2013 4:19 pm

A very old squished mosquito found in fossilized rock from Montana. Analysis of the insect's gut revealed telltale chemicals found in blood.
PNAS

Scientists who study why species vanish are increasingly looking for ancient DNA. They find it easily enough in the movies; remember the mosquito blood in Jurassic Park that contained dinosaur DNA from the bug's last bite? But in real life, scientists haven't turned up multi-million-year-old DNA in any useable form.

Fortunately, a team at the Smithsonian Institution has now found something unique in a 46-million-year-old, fossilized mosquito — not DNA, but the chemical remains of the insect's last bloody meal.

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3:00pm

Tue October 8, 2013
Environment

Flood Forensics: Why Colorado's Floods Were So Destructive

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 8:25 am

Flooding brought down a house in Jamestown, Colo., on Sept. 18.
Matthew Staver Landov

Parts of Colorado are still drying out after floods hit the state last month. Eight people died, and damage from the worst flooding in decades is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Scientists are now venturing into the hardest-hit areas to do a sort of "flood forensics" to understand why the floods were so bad.

Geologist Jonathan Godt takes Peak Highway in northern Colorado up into the Rockies. The road there winds past ravines and streams where water is still rushing.

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4:04pm

Fri September 13, 2013
Shots - Health News

After Disasters, DNA Science Is Helpful, But Often Too Pricey

Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 5:32 pm

A Thai medic checks bodies for forensic identity in Phang Nga province in southern of Thailand on Jan. 11, 2005. Thousands of people were killed in Thailand after a massive tsunami struck on Dec. 26, 2004.
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul AFP/Getty Images

Human DNA is the ultimate fingerprint. A single hair can contain enough information to determine someone's identity — a feature that's been invaluable for identifying the unnamed casualties of natural disasters and war. But forensic scientists who use DNA say the technology isn't always available where it's most needed, like in poor countries, or in war zones like Syria.

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1:06am

Fri September 13, 2013
Environment

'Rivers On Rolaids': How Acid Rain Is Changing Waterways

Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 8:47 am

Gwynns Falls runs beneath Interstate 95 at Carroll Park in Baltimore. The chemistry of this river, like many across the country, is changing.
Courtesy of Sujay Kaushal

Something peculiar is happening to rivers and streams in large parts of the United States — the water's chemistry is changing. Scientists have found dozens of waterways that are becoming more alkaline. Alkaline is the opposite of acidic — think baking soda or Rolaids.

Research published in the current issue of Environmental Science and Technology shows this trend to be surprisingly widespread, with possibly harmful consequences.

What's especially odd about the finding is its cause: It seems that acid rain actually has been causing waterways to grow more alkaline.

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3:20pm

Fri September 6, 2013
Environment

Immense Underwater Volcano Is The Biggest On Earth

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 3:20 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In the northwestern Pacific Ocean, scientists have found what they believe to be the biggest volcano on Earth. In fact, to find a volcano of a similar size, you'd have to go to Mars. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, the volcano is, fortunately, dormant, but in its prime, it changed the face of the Earth.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: William Sager says he brings conversations to a halt when he tells people he's a geophysicist. But now, he says he's got a story that gets people's attention.

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1:03am

Fri August 30, 2013
Science

Wise Old Whooping Cranes Keep Captive-Bred Fledglings On Track

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 12:40 pm

This young whooping crane is on its first fall migration, guided by an Operation Migration ultralight aircraft. Each whooper in this population wears an identification band, and many carry tracking devices that record their movements in detail.
Joe Duff Operation Migration USA Inc.

Being a wildlife biologist in the 21st century increasingly means rescuing rare animals from extinction. Among the success stories is the whooping crane. Seventy years ago there were only about 16 birds left on the planet. Now there are about 600.

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1:22am

Fri August 23, 2013
Science

Can A Big Earthquake Trigger Another One?

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 1:58 pm

Kesennuma, in the Tohoku region of Japan, was devastated in a March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. A researcher studying recent mega-quakes says this one, centered some 300 miles from Tokyo, could actually mean an increased risk of a quake hitting Japan's capital, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world.
Suzanne Mooney Barcroft Media/Landov

There's a joke among scientists: Prediction is difficult, especially about the future. For Ross Stein, it wasn't a joke after the Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004. It killed some 275,000 people. "I just felt almost a sense of shame," Stein says, "that this tragedy could have been so immense in a world where we have so much intense research effort."

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1:01am

Thu August 22, 2013
Animals

Where The Whale Sharks Go

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 1:17 pm

A whale shark dives near the surface in waters off the coast of Mexico.
Marj Awai Georgia Aquarium

Of all the creatures in the sea, one of the most majestic and mysterious is the whale shark. It's the biggest shark there is, 30 feet or more in length and weighing in at around 10 tons.

Among the mysteries is where this mighty fish migrates and where it gives birth. Now scientists have completed the biggest study ever of whale sharks, and they think they have some answers to those questions.

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1:05am

Fri August 9, 2013
The Salt

Old Hawaiian Menus Tell Story Of Local Fish And Their Demise

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 1:53 pm

Colorful covers of menus from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (left) and the Monarch Room Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
New York Public Library

In the early to mid-1900s, the islands of Hawaii were a far-away, exotic destination. People who managed to get there often kept mementos of that journey including kitschy menus from Hawaiian fine dining restaurants and hotels like like Trader Vic's and Prince Kuhio's.

Now these old menus are serving a purpose beyond colorful relics from the past. Kyle Van Houtan, an ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says he's found a scientific purpose for the menus.

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3:12pm

Tue August 6, 2013
Environment

Earth Scientists Pin Climate Change Squarely On 'Humanity'

Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 6:12 pm

Pedersen Glacier, 1917
Louis H. Pedersen climate.gov/National Snow and Ice Data Center

The weather is one of those topics that is fairly easy for people to agree on. Climate, however, is something else.

Most of the scientists who study the Earth say our climate is changing and humans are part of what's making that happen. But to a lot of nonscientists it's still murky. This week, two of the nation's most venerable scientific institutions tried to explain it better.

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1:03am

Thu August 1, 2013
Animals

Jack Longino, 'The Astonishing Ant Man,' Finds 33 New Species

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 4:01 pm

A side view of the new ant species Eurhopalothrix zipacna. Mounting glue and paper appear beneath the ant, one of 33 new species discovered in Central America by Jack Longino, a biologist at the University of Utah.
John T. Longino University of Utah

While many of us spend our working days staring into an electronic box or dozing at meetings, there are some who prefer to crawl through tropical rain forests. People like "the astonishing ant man."

That's what his students call Jack Longino. Longino started out collecting stamps in his childhood, but that got boring fast. Man-made things just didn't thrill, so Longino decided to "get small."

As in: "If you're shopping for a home entertainment system," he says, "you can't do better than a good dissecting microscope."

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2:56pm

Mon July 29, 2013
Environment

Once Resilient, Trees In The West Now More Vulnerable To Fires

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 12:24 pm

The remains of a tree are seen in front of a boulder in the Dome Wilderness area of New Mexico in August 2012. The Las Conchas Fire torched the land in 2011, burning through more than 150,000 acres of forest.
David Gilkey NPR

On any given day, there's a wildfire burning somewhere in the U.S. — and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Many western forests have evolved with fire, and actually benefit from the occasional wildfire.

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3:08pm

Wed July 24, 2013
The Two-Way

Why The Latest Gulf Leak Is No BP Disaster

Originally published on Wed July 24, 2013 4:06 pm

Fire boats battle a fire at the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in April 2010.
U.S. Coast Guard Getty Images

Teams of workers are mobilizing in the Gulf of Mexico to try to stem a natural gas leak at an offshore drilling rig that exploded and caught fire Tuesday. The rig off the Louisiana coast has been partially destroyed by the out of control blaze, and firefighting boats are on the scene.

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4:30am

Sun July 21, 2013
Environment

Fighting Fire With Fire: Why Some Burns Are Good For Nature

Originally published on Sun July 21, 2013 12:50 pm

An arborist from the Montana Conservation Corps works to clear pine trees from land in Centennial Valley, Mont.
John W. Poole NPR

Wildfires were once essential to the American West. Prairies and forests burned regularly, and those fires not only determined the mix of flora and fauna that made up the ecosystem, but they regenerated the land.

When people replaced wilderness with homes and ranches, they aggressively eliminated fire. But now, scientists are trying to bring fire back to the wilderness, to recreate what nature once did on its own.

One place they're doing this is Centennial Valley, in southwestern Montana.

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