Brain Food: Insights and Discoveries from Northern Arizona

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Hungry for more stories on science, culture and technology?

Check out Brain Food: Insights and Discoveries from Northern Arizona. From ground breaking scientific research to global music projects, Brain Food profiles some of the unique projects happening in the region and the interesting people behind them.

Colorado River Discovery

The first all-electric commercial passenger raft launched this summer on the Colorado River. Instead of running on a gas-powered motor, the Helios uses rechargeable lithium ion batteries. It took 10 years to engineer and is a partnership between the river rafting industry and the National Park Service. 

Technology is making the world a loud place. Researchers say 1 in 5 Americans over the age of 12 now has at least some hearing deficit. Smart Phones, iPods, video games - even chemicals - are making it worse...stressing out the cells in our ears until they give up their biological instinct to protect themselves. That's why audiologist and molecular biologist O'neil Guthrie hopes to engineer biomedical therapies to amplify the cells' protective mechanisms. 

Getty Images

When bears raid campsites, it might be because of a relationship that developed thousands of years ago between humans and carnivores. That's what an archaeologist at Northern Arizona University believes. Chrissina Burke is looking at ancient bison kill sites to prove that wild animals have been conditioned to see humans as food providers. 

Burke says, "The research focuses is really focused on how do humans impact animals on the landscape. So, what I've been looking at in that context is how carnivores came in, saw, and said, 'Oh hey look! A smorgasbord. Free food!" 


The arid Southwest is ideal for preserving plant and animal remains. It's a living laboratory for scientists. At the Ancient DNA Lab at Northern Arizona University, wildlife geneticist Faith Walker is using tiny pieces of mummified biological material to learn more about life on Earth thousands of years ago.

KNAU/Bonnie Stevens

Wine making is an art. It's also a science. Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona is teaching that science in the Southwest's only viticulture program. 

Nikki Bagley is the director of the "wine school". She says, "What a student will get when they get in this program is experience from planting the vine in the ground, managing it through its entire life. They'll get experience with that and then move into the winter - producing the wine, labeling the wine and selling the wine out of our tasting room."