Brain Food

Jut Wynne

Roly-polies, book lice and bugs called springtails are among the 10 newly discovered insects that live only on the remote Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. Northern Arizona University Ecologist Jut Wynne found nine of these creatures; eight of them are eking out an existence in the limited entrances and skylights of caves.


A fungus that’s been around for more than 400 million years is showing up in the roots of trees and grasses all over the world and helping plants grow. In a global study, Northern Arizona University Ecologist Nancy Johnson contributed samples of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi from the Serengeti. She says the findings are surprising.

Spirits call out on the wind, and chains scrape the streets at night, or so go the ghost stories of Easter Island. Northern Arizona University archaeologist Britton Shepardson shifted his focus from studying the island’s mysterious and massive stone statues, to founding Terevaka Archaeological Outreach. The nonprofit organization involves local high school students in preserving the vanishing Rapa Nui oral history.


It's only been a few weeks since scientists confirmed there is indeed water on Mars. But they have yet to determine if life exists in the briny water or if that moisture is coming from the atmosphere or from underground.


The American Southwest is one of the fastest changing climates in North America. And some scientists fear many plants, and the organisms that depend on them, may not be able to adapt to the changes in time to survive. That’s why Northern Arizona University ecological geneticist Tom Whitham is cloning key species and planting them in different environments.


Information about Pluto continues to beam back to Earth from the New Horizons space probe. And scientists are finding the data perplexing, enchanting...and surprising!

KNAU/Bonnie Stevens

Tree climbing scientists are going to great heights to find pine genes with the perfect fit for the future.

Hillary Cooper is a biologist at Northern Arizona University. Perched high-up in a Southwestern White Pine on Mount Elden, she gathers cones for an experiment to see if they'll grow in warmer, drier conditions. "It wasn't too windy today," Cooper says, "but we had to climb pretty high on about a 4" trunk and then really stretch out to get those cones at the tippy top."

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge floating island of plastic. Twice the size of Texas, it's riding the ocean currents between California and Japan, threatening sea life along the way. Flagstaff-based marine scientist Maria Campbell studies ocean micro plastics with the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science. She says the plastics absorb harmful chemicals in the water.

Chris Downum

Archaeology students are using 3D technology to make an historic record of a deteriorating pueblo known as Tsöpki, or Antelope House. Northern Arizona University professor Chris Downum says terrestrial photogrammetry is a new trend in archaeology that stitches together hundreds of high-resolution digital images to create a virtual model.

Genetics are thought to play a significant role in why some pinyon pines survive drought, and some don't. But a biologist at Northern Arizona University believes a newly discovered fungus is making the real difference between life and death.