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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Science
5:06 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Hungry Snakes Trap Guam In Spidery Web

Invasive brown tree snakes have gobbled up most of Guam's native forest birds. Without these avian predators to keep their numbers in check, the island's spider population has exploded.
Isaac Chellman Rice University

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 8:09 pm

The Pacific Island of Guam is experiencing a population explosion — of spiders.

There are more spiders there now than anyone can remember. To get a sense of how weird the situation is, I started out in Maryland. On my front porch, overlooking the Severn River.

At 6:30 in the morning on a cool fall day, I find two spider webs in a matter of five minutes. But if I were on the island of Guam, I might find 70 or 80 spider webs in five minutes.

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Science
4:16 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

What Drove Early Man Across Globe? Climate Change

An artist's re-creation of the first human migration to North America from across the Bering Sea.
DEA Picture Library De Agostini/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 6:39 pm

Anthropologists believe early humans evolved in Africa and then moved out from there in successive waves. However, what drove their migrations has been a matter of conjecture.

One new explanation is climate change.

Anthropologist Anders Erikkson of Cambridge University in England says the first few hardy humans who left Africa might've gone earlier but couldn't. Northeastern Africa — the only route to Asia and beyond — was literally a no man's land.

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Science
3:31 am
Tue September 11, 2012

A Berry So Shiny, It's Irresistible (And Inedible)

The shiny blue berries of the tropical Pollia condensata plant rely on their looks, not nutritional content, to attract birds to spread their seeds.
Silvia Vignolini et al. via PNAS

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 9:57 am

That fake fruit in the wooden bowls that hotels love to decorate their lobbies with never looks quite right. No, apparently it takes nature to make a fake that looks even better than the real thing.

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Around the Nation
5:56 am
Thu August 30, 2012

New Orleans Imposes Dusk-To-Dawn Curfew

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 6:12 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Just to keep us up to date here on Hurricane Isaac, it's become a tropical storm and forecasters expect to downgrade it to a tropical depression by this evening. That is small comfort, though, to people facing the storm's strong winds and heavy rains. States as far north as Ohio could feel Isaac's effects.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
3:37 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Is It Too Late To Defuse The Danger Of Megafires?

Timmons and Springer work in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, which were burned during last year's Wallow Fire. The largest fire in Arizona history, Wallow barreled through a half-million acres of forest.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:47 pm

Fourth in a five-part series

Forests in the Southwest have become a fuel stockpile. A century of U.S. Forest Service policy of quashing all fires has allowed forests to become overgrown, and now a warming climate is making the problem worse.

Scientists are trying to defuse these green time bombs. Is it too late?

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Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
3:18 am
Fri August 24, 2012

In Southwest, Worst-Case Fire Scenario Plays Out

Craig Allen, left, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of ecology from Spain, survey a plateau ravaged during last year's Las Conchas fire in New Mexico. The megafire burned over 150,000 acres of forest.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:48 pm

Third of a five-part series

As the Earth's average temperature creeps upward, climate scientists have predicted record heat waves and droughts. That's what we've seen this summer in the U.S.

The question has become, are we now seeing the real damage climate change can do?

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Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
2:30 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Why Forest-Killing Megafires Are The New Normal

Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of ecology from Spain, sips water in the shade of a burnt tree in New Mexico's Bandelier Wilderness area, adjacent to the Bandelier National Monument. This site was devastated by last year's Las Conchas fire.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Sun August 26, 2012 9:46 am

Second of a five-part series

Fire scientists are calling it "the new normal": a time of fires so big and hot that no one can remember anything like it.

One of the scientists who coined that term is Craig Allen. I drive with him to New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument, where he works for the U.S. Geological Survey. We take a dirt road up into the Jemez Mountains, into a landscape of black poles as far as you can see.

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Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest
6:43 am
Thu August 23, 2012

How The Smokey Bear Effect Led To Raging Wildfires

Adams (left) talks with Swetnam in their laboratory, nestled under the football stadium.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:50 pm

First of a five-part series

The history of fire in the American Southwest is buried in a catacomb of rooms under the bleachers of the football stadium at the University of Arizona.

Here rules professor Thomas Swetnam, tree ring expert. You want to read a tree ring? You go to Tom. He's a big, burly guy with a beard and a true love for trees.

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Environment
3:15 am
Wed August 8, 2012

A Clear And Present Danger: How Glass Kills Birds

Experts say glass buildings kill millions of birds every year. Scientists at Powdermill Avian Research Center are studying ways to help prevent this. Here, a volunteer tags a black hooded warbler in Rector, Pa., in May.
Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 12:05 pm

First of a two-part series. Read Part 2.

Modern architecture loves glass. Glass makes interiors brighter and adds sparkle to cityscapes. But glass also kills millions of birds every year when they collide with windows. Biologists say as more glass buildings go up, more birds are dying.

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Environment
6:17 pm
Mon August 6, 2012

Are Recent Heat Waves A Result Of Climate Change?

Cattle use a tree for shade as temperatures rose above 100 degrees in a pasture July 28, 2011, near Canadian, Texas.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon August 6, 2012 6:51 pm

The last couple of years have certainly felt unusually hot in many parts of the U.S., but are they really all that unusual?

Many people wonder whether a warming climate is turning up the temperature or whether it's all just part of the normal variation in the weather. Among scientists, there's a growing view that these latest heat waves are indeed a result of climate change.

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Humans
3:20 am
Fri July 13, 2012

In Ancient Ore. Dump, Clues To The First Americans?

Displayed in the hand of University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis Jenkins are three bases for western stemmed projectiles from the Paisley Caves in Oregon. The bases date to some 13,000 years ago.
Jim Barlow Science/AAAS

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 10:16 am

Some of the most interesting discoveries in archaeology come from sifting through ancient garbage dumps. Scientists working in Oregon have found one that has yielded what they say are the oldest human remains in the Americas and a puzzle about the earliest American tools.

Early Americans used Oregon's Paisley Caves for, among other things, a toilet. Little did they know that scientists would be picking through what they left behind.

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Environment
5:46 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Rising Shale Water Complicates Fracking Debate

A water tank truck is seen on the main street in Waynesburg, Pa., on April 13. Scientists say naturally polluted water can rise to the surface of the Marcellus Shale; that finding suggests that frack water could seep out, too.
Mladen Antonov AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 9, 2012 6:47 pm

The nation's boom in natural gas production has come with a cost: The technique used to get much of the gas out of the ground, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has contaminated drinking water. But how often and where this contamination is taking place is a matter of much debate and litigation.

Now, a new study has found natural pathways of contamination — but that doesn't mean the drilling industry is off the hook.

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The Salt
11:23 am
Mon June 18, 2012

Desert Plant's Potent Chemical Cocktail Makes Mice Go 'Ptooey'

Spiny mice eat the fruit of the mignonette bush but spit out the seeds
Michal Samuni-Blank Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Next time you're in the Negev Desert and you come across a sweet mignonette bush, stop and listen. You might hear a tiny "Ptooey" from somewhere underneath.

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Humans
4:07 am
Fri June 15, 2012

Famous Cave Paintings Might Not Be From Humans

The Panel of Hands in the Cave of El Castillo in Spain. New dating methods suggest the paintings could have been drawn by Neanderthals, not humans, as previously thought.
Pedro Saura AAAS/Science

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 9:33 am

The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture.

But now a novel method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Not that they're fakes — only that it might not have been modern humans who made them.

The first European cave paintings are thought to have been made over 30,000 years ago. Most depict animals and hunters. Some of the eeriest are stencils of human hands, apparently made by blowing a spray of pigment over a hand held up to a wall.

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Energy
5:12 am
Wed June 13, 2012

Ruling Could Help Break The Nuclear-Waste Logjam

About 70,000 tons of used nuclear fuel sits mostly at power plants across the country. Much is kept underwater in spent fuel pools, but utility companies have been moving the fuel into concrete and steel casks like these in Richland, Wash. Energy Northwest CEO Vic Parrish (center) tours the facility with Reps. Doc Hastings (left) and Jay Inslee.
Shannon Dininny AP

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 12:43 pm

The federal government promised almost 30 years ago to find a place to bury nuclear waste from power plants. It hasn't. So the waste is piling up at power plants around the country.

Now a federal court says the government must prove that this temporary solution is truly safe. The decision could help break the nuclear-waste logjam.

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