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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The Salt
3:55 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Revealed: The Ocean's Tiniest Life At The Bottom Of The Food Chain

Plankton collected in the Pacific Ocean with a 0.1mm mesh net. Seen here is a mix of multicellular organisms β€” small zooplanktonic animals, larvae and single protists (diatoms, dinoflagellates, radiolarians) β€” the nearly invisible universe at the bottom of the marine food chain.
Christian Sardet/CNRS/Tara Expeditions

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 5:54 pm

What's at the bottom of the bottom of the food chain? Well, think small ... smaller than you can see.

Tiny life forms in the ocean, too small for the naked eye to see.

There are (and scientists have done the math) trillions of microorganisms in the ocean: plankton, bacteria, krill (they're maybe bigger than "micro," but not by much), viruses, protists and archaea (they're like bacteria, but they aren't bacteria).

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Science
5:32 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Big Shelves Of Antarctic Ice Melting Faster Than Scientists Thought

A 2008 view of the leading edge of the Larsen B ice shelf, extending into the northwest part of the Weddell Sea. Huge, floating ice shelves that line the Antarctic coast help hold back sheets of ice that cover land.
Mariano Caravaca Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 8:01 pm

The Antarctic is far away, freezing and buried under a patchwork of ice sheets and glaciers. But a warming climate is altering that mosaic in unpredictable ways β€” research published Thursday shows that the pace of change in parts of the Antarctic is accelerating.

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Science
3:35 am
Thu March 19, 2015

Scientists Catch Up On The Sex Life Of Coral To Help Reefs Survive

Staghorn coral planted by scientists in the Florida Keys. Researchers hope to give the same sort of boost to the world's shrinking population of pillar coral, now that they can raise the creatures in a laboratory.
Joe Berg/Way Down Video/Mote

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 7:54 am

For the first time, biologists have caught a rare type of coral in the act of reproducing, and they were able to collect its sperm and eggs and breed the coral in the laboratory.

The success is part of an effort to stem the decline in many types of coral around the world.

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World
5:34 am
Tue March 17, 2015

Four Tropical Cyclones At Once: How Unusual Is That?

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 7:25 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Science
3:02 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

Think Man-Sized Swimming Centipede β€” And Be Glad It's A Fossil

Reconstruction of the giant filter feeder, scooping up a plankton cloud. Aegirocassis benmoulae was one of the biggest arthropods that ever lived. Family members include today's insects, spiders and lobsters.
Marianne Collins/ArtofFact

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 8:31 pm

If living long and prospering is a measure of success, then the arthropods are life's winners. These are the most common form of life: insects, spiders, crustaceans and centipedes, to name but a few.

And now scientists have their hands on the remains of one of the first ever. It lived 480 million years ago, and it was big and strange.

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Science
3:45 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Jaw Fossil In Ethiopia Likely Oldest Ever Found In Human Line

With the help of researcher Sabudo Boraru (right), anthropologist Chris Campisano, of Arizona State University, takes samples from the fossil-filled Ledi-Geraru project area in Ethiopia. The jawbone was found nearby.
Courtesy of J RamΓ³n Arrowsmith

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 12:55 pm

Scientists working in Ethiopia say they've found the earliest known fossil on the ancestral line that led to humans. It's part of a lower jaw with several teeth, and it's about 2.8 million years old. Anthropologists say the fossil fills an important gap in the record of human evolution.

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Science
12:11 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

U.S. Biologists Keen To Explore, Help Protect Cuba's Wild Places

Shoal of tropical fish over a coral reef in the Caribbean Sea. From pristine forests to vivid reefs, Cuba "has it all," say ecologists eager to study the island habitats.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 8:15 pm

As diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba thaw, the island could see a new wave of tourism β€” with visitors treated to music and scenery that has been closed to most U.S. residents for more than half a century.

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The Salt
5:48 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Acidifying Waters Are Endangering Your Oysters And Mussels

Crew members pull an oyster dredge in Tangier Sound of the Chesapeake Bay near Deal Island, Md., in 2013. A study found that the Chesapeake Bay shellfishery is a "hot zone" for ocean acidification.
Patrick Semansky AP

Bad news for bivalves comes this week from scientists studying ocean acidification.

Ocean water in parts of the world is changing. Its chemistry is very slowly becoming more acidic, like lemon juice, and less alkaline, a la baking soda.

The change so far is small β€” you wouldn't notice if you swam in the ocean or even drank it (not recommended, in any case). But numerous scientific studies show that it could get worse. One reason is that as humans produce more carbon dioxide, a lot is absorbed into the oceans. That makes the water more acidic.

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Science
4:39 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

8 Million Tons Of Plastic Clutter Our Seas

A fisherman collects water on a beach littered with trash at an ecological reserve south of Manila in 2013.
Francis R. Malasig EPA/Landov

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 3:13 pm

Plastic is one of those inventions that transformed the world. It's light, durable and you can make lots of things with it.

But it's also transforming Earth's oceans β€” and not in a good way. A lot of plastic ends up there. Scientists are just now getting a handle on how much plastic has gone to sea.

Up until now, estimates have been very rough. It's hard to measure waste in the oceans; after all, salt water covers 70 percent of the planet.

But another way to figure out what's out there is to measure how much debris is coming off the land.

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The Salt
5:04 am
Thu February 5, 2015

Gotcha: Satellites Help Strip Seafood Pirates Of Their Booty

Fish on ice in Palau Misa Island, Indonesia. Thanks to satellite data, John Amos of SkyTruth can track fishing activity near the Pacific island nation from his office in West Virginia.
Randy Olson National Geographic/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 10:17 am

Most of the seafood Americans eat comes from abroad. And a lot of that is caught illegally β€” by vessels that ignore catch limits, or that fish in areas off-limits to fishing.

No one knows how much of it is illegal, because the oceans are too big to patrol. Or at least, they were. Now environmental groups have harnessed satellite technology to watch pirate fishing vessels from space β€” and they've already caught some of them.

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The Two-Way
3:34 am
Thu December 25, 2014

Unexpected Life Found In The Ocean's Deepest Trench

Schmidt Ocean Institute/HADES YouTube

Originally published on Fri December 26, 2014 5:39 pm

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Science
4:02 am
Fri December 19, 2014

7 Miles Beneath The Sea's Surface: Who Goes There?

The research vessel Falkor in August 2013.
Courtesy of Mark Schrope

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 10:11 am

A ship full of marine scientists is floating over the deepest part of the world: the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. They're sending down probes to study life in one of the most hostile environments on the planet.

This week the researchers are targeting the two deepest spots in the trench β€” the Sirena Deep and the Challenger Deep β€” which each extend down about 7 miles beneath the ocean's surface.

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Science
3:36 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As World Average

A lone polar bear poses on a block of arctic sea ice in Russia's Franz Josef Land.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 7:37 am

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the average rise on the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card β€” a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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The Salt
5:06 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Why The White House Wants To Go After Seafood Pirates

A crab pot full of snow crabs, fished out of the Bering Sea.
Josh Thomas Courtesy of WWF

Originally published on Sun December 14, 2014 10:02 pm

Americans eat more seafood than just about anyone else. Most of it is imported from abroad. And a lot of it β€” perhaps 25 percent of wild-caught seafood imports, according to fisheries experts β€” is illegally caught.

The White House is now drafting recommendations on what to do about that. Fisheries experts say they hope the administration will devote more resources to fight seafood piracy.

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Environment
5:11 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Scientists Track Down Serious Methane Leaks In Natural Gas Wells

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 12:27 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Environment
3:16 am
Thu December 4, 2014

World Climate Talks In Lima Aim To Move Beyond Kyoto Treaty

Country representatives listen to opening remarks at the start of the United Nations' Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in Lima, Peru.
Cris Bouroncle AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 11:47 am

Every year the United Nations invites environmental experts and diplomats from around the world to negotiate ways to slow global warming. This year's meeting runs this week and next in Lima, Peru.

Some say these conferences are a warming planet's best hope. Some say they're a United Nations jamboree. Most agree that recent sessions have seen mixed success at best. This year, however, negotiators think they have some fresh ideas to entice developed countries and developing ones to work together.

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Science
3:23 am
Thu November 6, 2014

America's T. Rex Gets A Makeover

The Smithsonian's Jon Blundell scans the fossilized foot bone β€” the metatarsal β€” of the Wankel T. rex to help create a digital 3-D image of the long-dead dinosaur.
Nikki Kahn The Washington Post

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 11:15 am

The Wankel T. rex, named for the Montana rancher who found its bones, is destined to be the giant centerpiece for the new dinosaur hall at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. β€” the first nearly complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex the Smithsonian Institution has ever had. But when it arrived at the museum last April, the skeleton was in pieces β€” in a couple of dozen packing crates.

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Science
4:32 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Bigger Than A T. Rex, With A Duck's Bill, Huge Arms And A Hump

Reconstruction of Deinocheirus mirificus.
Yuong-Nam Lee/Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 8:24 pm

Scientists announced Tuesday they've solved the mystery of the Mongolian ostrich dinosaur.

The mystery began in 1965, when fossil hunters found a pair of 6-foot-long, heavily clawed arm bones in Mongolia's Gobi desert. Nobody had seen anything like them before. Now, scientists say, they've got the rest of the beast ... and dinosaur textbooks may need to be rewritten.

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Science
6:13 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Climate Change Worsens Coastal Flooding From High Tides

Cindy Minnix waits for a bus in a flooded street on Oct. 18, 2012, in Miami Beach. A changing climate is making floods related to high tides more frequent, scientists say.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 9:58 am

A wave of high tides is expected to hit much of the East Coast this week. These special tides β€” king tides β€” occur a few times a year when the moon's orbit brings it close to the Earth.

But scientists say that lately, even normal tides throughout the year are pushing water higher up onto land. And that's causing headaches for people who live along coastlines.

As Bob Dylan might have put it, the tides, they are a changin'.

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Science
3:59 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Soil Doctors Hit Pay Dirt In Manhattan's Central Park

The Bronx may be up and the Battery down, but Central Park is where an amazing wealth of different sorts of microbes play.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 9:14 am

Manhattan's Central Park is surrounded by one of the densest cities on the planet. It's green enough, yet hardly the first place most people would think of as biologically rich.

But a team of scientists got a big surprise when they recently started digging there.

They were 10 soil ecologists β€” aka dirt doctors. Kelly Ramirez from Colorado State University was among them. "We met on the steps of the natural history museum at 7 a.m. with our collection gear, coolers and sunblock," she recalls.

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Science
5:07 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

When Can A Big Storm Or Drought Be Blamed On Climate Change?

Melbourne visitors and residents took to the waters of Australia's St. Kilda Beach in January 2013 to escape a fierce heat wave.
Scott Barbour Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 8:52 pm

Nowadays, when there's a killer heat wave or serious drought somewhere, people wonder: Is this climate change at work? It's a question scientists have struggled with for years. And now there's a new field of research that's providing some answers. It's called "attribution science" β€” a set of principles that allow scientists to determine when it's a change in climate that's altering weather events ... and when it isn't.

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Science
7:37 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Crocodile Meets Godzilla β€” A Swimming Dino Bigger Than T. Rex

Workers at the National Geographic Museum in Washington grind the rough edges off a life-size replica of a spinosaurus skeleton.
Mike Hettwer National Geographic

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 8:54 pm

There once was a place on Earth so overrun with giant, meat-eating predators that even a Tyrannosaurus rex would have been nervous. One predator there was even bigger than T. rex, and scientists now say it's apparently the only aquatic dinosaur ever found.

The swimming monster is called Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. It was 50 feet long β€” longer than a school bus, and 9 feet longer than the biggest T. rex.

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Science
5:13 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

U.S. Gets Middling Marks On 2014 'State Of Birds' Report Card

"The State of the Birds" 2014 report found that red knots (above) and other shorebirds are among the most threatened groups in the U.S. More than half of U.S. shorebird species are on the report's Watch List β€” species that are currently endangered or at risk.
Gerrit Vyn The Smithsonian Institution

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 11:30 am

All is not well with the nation's birds. The most comprehensive study ever of birds in America is out today, and it says many populations are in steep decline, even as others are doing well.

The report, called "The State of the Birds," comes from the federal government, universities and conservation groups β€” 23 organizations that have spent years examining bird populations, as well as habitats where the various species live.

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Science
3:46 am
Thu August 28, 2014

An Icy Solution To The Mystery Of The Slithering Stones

The cavity in this rock will carry the GPS instrument package and its battery pack across the desert.
Richard Norris

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 9:46 am

A century ago, miners working in California's Death Valley reported seeing boulders on the desert floor with long trails behind them β€” as if the stones had been pushed across the sand. But despite 60 years of trying, no one ever saw what moved them.

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Science
4:09 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

There's A Big Leak In America's Water Tower

Joe Giersch, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, studies stoneflies that live only in the melt from glaciers and snowpack in the northern Rockies.
Clint Muhlfeld USGS

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 7:29 pm

The northern arm of the Rocky Mountains is sometimes called "the crown of the continent," and its jewels are glaciers and snowfields that irrigate large parts of North America during spring thaw.

But the region is getting warmer, even faster than the rest of the world. Scientists now say warming is scrambling the complex relationship between water and nature and could threaten some species with extinction as well as bring hardship to ranchers and farmers already suffering from prolonged drought.

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Science
1:11 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Elephant Slaughter, African Slavery And America's Pianos

Louis E. Pratt, master ivory cutter for Pratt, Read & Co., shows off eight ivory tusks, April 1, 1955.
Courtesy of Deep River Historical Society

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 7:35 am

The illegal trade in ivory from African elephants has tripled in the past 15 years, to the extent that biologists fear for the creatures' future existence.

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Environment
5:37 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Underwater Meadows Might Serve As Antacid For Acid Seas

UC Santa Barbara's Jay Lunden and Andrew Brinkman, a summer intern for NOAA, prepare to deploy an instrument that measures temperature and salinity throughout the water column, and collects water samples.
Umihiko Hoshijima UCSB

Originally published on Mon August 11, 2014 8:14 am

The world's oceans are changing β€” chemically changing. As people put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the oceans absorb more of it, and that's making the water more acidic.

The effects are subtle in most places, but scientists say that if this continues, it could be a disaster for marine life.

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Science
3:37 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Dance Of Human Evolution Was Herky-Jerky, Fossils Suggest

Our popular image of Homo erectus as the proto-guy who whose human-like traits all emerged at once needs overhauling, some anthropologists say.
Sylvain Entressangle Science Source

Originally published on Sat July 5, 2014 1:18 am

A trio of anthropologists has decided it's time to rewrite the story of human evolution.

That narrative has always been a work in progress, because almost every time scientists dig up a new fossil bone or a stone tool, it adds a new twist to the story. Discoveries lead to new arguments over the details of how we became who we are.

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Science
2:03 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Maybe Dinosaurs Were A Coldblooded, Warmblooded Mix

Being a bit coldblooded has its charms, scientists say. A mammal the size of a T. rex, for example, would have to eat constantly to feed its supercharged metabolism β€” and would probably starve.
Publiphoto Science Source

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 7:01 am

If you go to a zoo on a cold day and watch the snakes, you'll see what it means to be coldblooded. Not much action going on β€” most reptiles and other coldblooded creatures take on the temperature of their surroundings, so they tend to be most sluggish when the outside temperature is cool. The monkeys, however, act like they've had one too many cappuccinos.

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Science
3:48 am
Tue June 10, 2014

Spiders Tune In To Web's Music To Size Up Meals And Mates

Hairlike sensors on the the legs of the golden silk spider help it "listen" to the thrum of its web.
I'll Never Grow Up Flickr

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 5:03 pm

Some of the toughest stuff in nature is spider silk β€” as strong, ounce for ounce, as nylon. And a silk web makes a great trap for prey, as well as a nice place for a spider to live.

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