Brain Food

Bonnie Stevens

Planetary scientists in Flagstaff study Mars as if they are there. And virtually, they are. Northern Arizona University’s Mars Lab immerses them into the Martian environment with the aid of 3D goggles and the latest images from the Curiosity Rover and orbiting satellites. Christopher Edwards runs the Mars Rover Operations and Analysis Laboratory where he can explore old lake beds, collapsed lava flows, shifting sand dunes and rocky ridges. 


Bonnie Stevens

Scientists have noticed a sharp population decline in monarch butterflies migrating between Mexico and Canada. Flagstaff entomologist Mike Wagner wants to know if growing more milkweed will boost their numbers. Milkweed is a pollinator plant for many insects and the only plant on which monarchs will lay their eggs. 


Bonnie Stevens

Northern Arizona University is home to a giant collection of dried plant specimens that scientists across the globe use as a resource center. The Deaver Herbarium is essentially a plant museum that holds more than 120 thousand samples from the Southwest, some gathered more than 100 years ago. Biologist Tina Ayers is the director and curator. 


A rare “super bloom” is rolling across the Southwest this spring. A late, wet El Niño pattern has caused an explosion of wildflowers from the Pacific Ocean, to the Mojave Desert, to the mountains of northern Arizona. Brian Klimowski is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff. 


An elusive bat in the forests of Nicaragua has caught the attention of researchers at Northern Arizona University. The Vampyrum spectrum is the largest bat in the Americas, with a three foot wingspan. Wildlife biologist Carol Chambers collects data on the rare animal. She says habitat loss and human disturbance make them particularly susceptible to population decline.


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