Rae Ellen Bichell

Rae Ellen Bichell reports for the Mountain West News Bureau out of KUNC in Colorado. 

Before joining the team, she covered everything from Ebola to butterfly evolution and space toilets as a science reporter for NPR. She also tried freelancing for a couple years in Helsinki, Finland, originally under a Fulbright grant.

Now based in northern Colorado, she spends her free time reading, playing indoor soccer (not very well) and doing a crazy sport called canyoneering. 

You can reach Rae Ellen at rae.bichell@kunc.org.

The National Park Service is giving museums and universities across the country grants to return ancestral artifacts and human remains taken from Native American tribes over the years.

With wildfires burning through much of the West, there’s high demand for big aircraft to come in and battle the flames from above.

The Trump administration announced a new rule on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, called the ‘Affordable Clean Energy Rule.’ It would put regulatory power in states’ hands.

The Obama administration had previously tried to enact something called the Clean Power Plan, which was considered the country’s primary strategy for lowering emissions to meet its 2030 target under the Paris climate agreement.

Over the last 30 years, the West has seen an uptick in the size and frequency of forest fires. Scientists have typically attributed the change to low snowpack and high summer temperatures. But researchers writing in the journal PNAS say the trend could have more to do with rain.

Researchers pulled up maps of forest wildfires from 1979 to 2016 and compared those maps against data on snow, rain, temperature and humidity.

This summer, the housing market was expected to be extremely competitive, with lots of buyers vying for a limited number of homes. But it turns out, the housing market, including in our region, may finally be cooling down.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, says home prices have been rising too fast -- much faster than people’s incomes.

A new species of tick, the longhorned tick, has arrived in the U.S.

In other parts of the world it’s been known to carry diseases that can sicken people and livestock. In East Asia the tick can carry a nasty hemorrhagic fever called SFTS. A study in China looking at SFTS cases there found that 16 percent of people who were diagnosed with the disease died of it.

Starting this fall, our region will host something new: a graduate program in space resources.

“This is the very first program in the world that is focused on space resources,” says Angel Abbud-Madrid, the director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines.

Representatives of state outdoor recreation offices gathered in Denver Wednesday to sign something called the Confluence Accords.

The eight states include Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming.

The Pew Research Center is reporting that more than a third of large newspapers laid off staff in the last year or so, including in our region.

When The Denver Post laid off about a third of its newsroom earlier this year, senior editor for news Larry Ryckman left to start something new, The Colorado Sun.

Pikas are fluffy mammals that live at high altitudes across the West. They squeak when danger nears. The squeaky fluff-balls are considered indicators of climate change because they’re so sensitive to heat. Scientists say they have found some of animals in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are behaving strangely.

Jessica Castillo Vardaro, a wildlife biologist with the University of California, Berkeley, studies pika genetics, a field that can involve some unusual data collection methods.

According to the Western Governors Association, species like the Canada thistle and common carp aren’t just nuisances -- they’re a matter of western biosecurity.

Dozens of young children were reunited with their parents yesterday after being separated at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. The government is still working to reunite many more children with their parents, some of whom are being held at a detention center in Aurora, Colorado.

One of the world’s biggest firefighting aircraft is based in Colorado Springs. But it's fighting fires in California right now, rather than in the Mountain West.

Nuclear testing during the Cold War sent radioactive fallout far away from the actual test sites. Politicians are moving to expand who can be compensated by the government for getting sick after exposure to that fallout.

A study in the journal Science says a lot more methane is leaking from oil & gas sites than previously thought -- about 60 percent more than the current estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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