Science and Technology

KNAU/Bonnie Stevens

Growing microscopic organisms in a lab to conduct biological warfare might sound like the makings of a science fiction movie. But in the case of the bark beetle, it's real. An entomologist at Northern Arizona University is using a fungus to combat the beetles' deadly attack on forests across the West. As Arizona Public Radio's Bonnie Stevens reports, the fungus is the latest in a string of unconventional methods to stop the bugs' rampage.

If you’re one of those people who puts on weight while another person eating the same meal doesn’t, blame your gut! Greg Caporaso says it’s all about the microbiome — or the microbes living in our bodies — that determines how many calories we extract from food and also, how susceptible we are to disease.

Soft ticks are arachnids, like spiders. They live in pine and hardwood forests and thrive on the blood of mice, squirrels, chipmunks and sometimes birds. They don’t usually feed on humans, but, as in the case that closed Camp Colton near Flagstaff recently, it does happen once in awhile. Northern Arizona University Forest Entomology Professor Rich Hofstetter explains.

Bonnie Stevens

Earthquakes can’t be predicted, but Professor Dave Brumbaugh says Northern Arizona can expect seismic activity simply because there are a number of faults here. Brumbaugh is the director of the Arizona Earthquake Information Center on the Northern Arizona University Campus. He says the Earth’s crust in the region is expanding.

Much of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from human activities — like burning fossil fuel — is taken up as plant food. Northern Arizona University’s Debbie Huntzinger, a researcher of climate change models, says the land’s surface is currently storing more of the greenhouse gas than it’s giving off. 

Bonnie Stevens

Nadine Barlow studies impact craters throughout the solar system. This professor of physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University calls these craters nature’s drills because they tell us what’s buried beneath the surface.

Courtesy photo

When a bird flaps its wings or a seal dives into the ocean, it’s generating energy. Michael Shafer, an assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Northern Arizona University, says it’s possible to harvest the energy that an animal produces and use it to power transmitters that collect information for biologists.


Astronaut Mark Kelly says New York’s Times Square is the brightest place on Earth when looking down from space. After that, the next brightest is the Strip in Las Vegas. What may not be readily seen from space is Flagstaff, the first International Dark Sky City. That’s a designation he and his wife, former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, fully support. Kelly recently spoke on the campus of Northern Arizona University.

Bonnie Stevens/KNAU

A machine that helped astronauts get used to what it feels like to walk in space is now being used at Northern Arizona University. Physical Therapy Professor Dirk de Heer says the Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill teaches students about biomechanics.

In the near future, so-called smart materials may eliminate the need for batteries in hybrid cars and in solar panels. Cornell Ciocanel is a mechanical engineer at Northern Arizona University. He’s developing a new smart material that’s strong enough to be used in the body of a car and also stores electricity like a battery.