Christopher Joyce

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Joyce seeks out stories in some of the world's most inaccessible places. He has reported from remote villages in the Amazon and Central American rainforests, Tibetan outposts in the mountains of western China, and the bottom of an abandoned copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Over the course of his career, Joyce has written stories about volcanoes, hurricanes, human evolution, tagging giant blue-fin tuna, climate change, wars in Kosovo and Iraq and the artificial insemination of an African elephant.

For several years, Joyce was an editor and correspondent for NPR's Radio Expeditions, a documentary program on natural history and disappearing cultures produced in collaboration with the National Geographic Society that was heard frequently on Morning Edition.

Joyce came to NPR in 1993 as a part-time editor while finishing a book about tropical rainforests and, as he says, "I just fell in love with radio." For two years, Joyce worked on NPR's national desk and was responsible for NPR's Western coverage. But his interest in science and technology soon launched him into parallel work on NPR's science desk.

In addition, Joyce has written two non-fiction books on scientific topics for the popular market: Witnesses from the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell (with co-author Eric Stover); and Earthly Goods: Medicine-Hunting in the Rainforest.

Before coming to NPR, Joyce worked for ten years as the U.S. correspondent and editor for the British weekly magazine New Scientist.

Joyce's stories on forensic investigations into the massacres in Kosovo and Bosnia were part of NPR's war coverage that won a 1999 Overseas Press Club award. He was part of the Radio Expeditions reporting and editing team that won the 2001 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University journalism award and the 2001 Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Joyce won the 2001 American Association for the Advancement of Science excellence in journalism award.

Science
11:18 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Maybe Dinosaurs Were A Coldblooded, Warmblooded Mix

Being a bit coldblooded has its charms, scientists say. A mammal the size of a T. rex, for example, would have to eat constantly to feed its supercharged metabolism — and would probably starve.
Publiphoto Science Source

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 2:23 am

If you go to a zoo on a cold day and watch the snakes, you'll see what it means to be coldblooded. Not much action going on — most reptiles and other coldblooded creatures take on the temperature of their surroundings, so they tend to be most sluggish when the outside temperature is cool. The monkeys, however, act like they've had one too many cappuccinos.

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The Salt
12:35 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Looks Like The Paleo Diet Wasn't Always So Hot For Ancient Teeth

Say aaaaaah! Dental caries and other signs of oral disease are plain to see in the upper teeth of this hunter-gatherer, between 14,000 and 15,000 years old. The findings challenge the idea that the original paleo diet was inherently healthy, says paleo-anthropologist Louise Humphrey. It all depended, she says, on what wild foods were available.
Courtesy of Isabelle De Groote

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 3:16 pm

One of the hinge points in human history was the invention of agriculture. It led to large communities, monumental architecture and complex societies. It also led to tooth decay.

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The Salt
3:23 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Meat Mummies: How Ancient Egyptians Prepared Feasts For Afterlife

Anyone up for meat mummies? Above, a mummified beef rib from the tomb of Tjuiu, an Egyptian noblewoman, and her husband, the powerful courtier Yuya, circa 1386-1349 BC.
Image courtesy of PNAS

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 9:25 am

Meat mummies.

It's a word pairing that is, I dare say, pretty rare. Who among us has heard those two words together? What, indeed, could a "meat mummy" be?

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Research News
1:23 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Trapped In A Fossil: Remnants Of A 46-Million-Year-Old Meal

A very old squished mosquito found in fossilized rock from Montana. Analysis of the insect's gut revealed telltale chemicals found in blood.
PNAS

Originally published on Mon October 14, 2013 3:19 pm

Scientists who study why species vanish are increasingly looking for ancient DNA. They find it easily enough in the movies; remember the mosquito blood in Jurassic Park that contained dinosaur DNA from the bug's last bite? But in real life, scientists haven't turned up multi-million-year-old DNA in any useable form.

Fortunately, a team at the Smithsonian Institution has now found something unique in a 46-million-year-old, fossilized mosquito — not DNA, but the chemical remains of the insect's last bloody meal.

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Animals
9:07 am
Tue July 16, 2013

Om Nom Nom: T. Rex Was, Indeed, A Voracious Hunter

Mind The Teeth: Fossils indicate that Tyrannosaurus rex was an active hunter, in addition to being a scavenger. And in Jurassic Park, it also had a sweet tooth for lawyers.
Universal Pictures Getty Images

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 7:44 am

Tyrannosaurus rex is perhaps one of the most famous animals to have ever roamed the Earth. This huge, fierce meat-eater has graced Hollywood films as the perpetual villain, and it has played a notorious role in the science community that studies it, too.

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Energy
1:34 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Is The Sky The Limit For Wind Power?

Wind turbines at the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm in Whitewater, Calif., in 2012.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 6:55 pm

Wind power is growing faster than ever — almost half of the new sources of electricity added to the U.S. power grid last year were wind farms.

But is the sky the limit? Several scientists now say it's actually possible to have so many turbines that they start to lose power. They steal each other's wind.

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npr science
7:06 am
Fri October 26, 2012

Hey, Sexy Dino, Show Me Your Feathers

This artistic interpretation shows an adult and juvenile feathered ornithomimid dinosaurs.
Julius Csotonyi Science

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 5:43 pm

Some of the weirdest animal behavior is about romance. That's especially true with birds — they croon or dance or display brilliant feathers to seduce the reluctant.

This sort of sexual display apparently has a long pedigree: There's now new evidence that some dinosaurs may have used the same come-on.

The source is a kind of dinosaur that was built like a 400-pound ostrich. It lived about 75 million years ago and is called ornithomimus, meaning "bird mimic."

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NPR science
7:46 am
Wed October 24, 2012

When fire met meat, the brains of early humans grew bigger

Actors Stan Laurel and Edna Marlon play at socializing around the campfire. It turns out that early man's brain developed in part thanks to cooking.
Hulton Archive Getty

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 10:08 am

If you're reading this blog, you're probably into food. Perhaps you're even one of those people whose world revolves around your Viking stove and who believes that cooking defines us as civilized creatures.

Well, on the latter part, you'd be right. At least according to some neuroscientists from Brazil.

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NPR science
9:14 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Baby Beluga, Swim So Wild And Sing For Me

This image, from an archival video, shows the white whale NOC swimming around and under researchers' boats.
Current Biology

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 1:18 am

Whales are among the great communicators of the animal world. They produce all sorts of sounds: squeaks, whistles and even epic arias worthy of an opera house.

And one whale in particular has apparently done something that's never been documented before: He imitated human speech.

The beluga, or white whale, is smallish as whales go and very cute, if you're into marine mammals. Belugas are called the "canaries of the sea" because they're very vocal.

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NPR science
5:06 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

What drove early man across the globe? Climate change

An artist's re-creation of the first human migration to North America from across the Bering Sea.
DEA Picture Library De Agostini/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 3:39 pm

Anthropologists believe early humans evolved in Africa and then moved out from there in successive waves. However, what drove their migrations has been a matter of conjecture.

One new explanation is climate change.

Anthropologist Anders Erikkson of Cambridge University in England says the first few hardy humans who left Africa might've gone earlier but couldn't. Northeastern Africa — the only route to Asia and beyond — was literally a no man's land.

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NPR Science
7:54 am
Wed August 8, 2012

A Clear And Present Danger: How Glass Kills Birds

Experts say glass buildings kill millions of birds every year. Scientists at Powdermill Avian Research Center are studying ways to help prevent this. Here, a volunteer tags a black hooded warbler in Rector, Pa., in May.
Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 9:05 am

First of a two-part series. Read Part 2.

Modern architecture loves glass. Glass makes interiors brighter and adds sparkle to cityscapes. But glass also kills millions of birds every year when they collide with windows. Biologists say as more glass buildings go up, more birds are dying.

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NPR Science
9:09 am
Fri June 15, 2012

Famous Cave Paintings Might Not Be From Humans

The Panel of Hands in the Cave of El Castillo in Spain. New dating methods suggest the paintings could have been drawn by Neanderthals, not humans, as previously thought.
Pedro Saura AAAS/Science

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 6:33 am

The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture.

But now a novel method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Not that they're fakes — only that it might not have been modern humans who made them.

The first European cave paintings are thought to have been made over 30,000 years ago. Most depict animals and hunters. Some of the eeriest are stencils of human hands, apparently made by blowing a spray of pigment over a hand held up to a wall.

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Japanese Tsunami debris
1:49 pm
Fri June 8, 2012

Is Japanese Dock A Noah's Ark Or A Trojan Horse?

Among the creatures that survived the trans-Pacific trek aboard the Japanese dock was this sea star, which was found inside the float.
Jessica Miller flickr

Originally published on Fri June 8, 2012 3:59 pm

A bizarre event has drawn scientists to a beach in Oregon — a floating concrete dock from Japan has washed ashore. It had been ripped from its moorings by last year's tsunami and floated across the Pacific.

The dock is encrusted with mussels, barnacles and other marine life from Asia. Scientists are amazed these organisms survived the 14-month voyage, but they're also worried some of these organisms could become pests in U.S. waters.

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NPR Science
5:49 pm
Sun May 6, 2012

The Dinosaurs' Nemeses: Giant, Jurassic Fleas

An illustration of the Chinese Jurassic "pseudo-flea," which lived in the Middle Jurassic in northeastern China.
Wang Cheng Current Biology

Originally published on Sun May 6, 2012 8:38 am

Fossil-hunting scientists are coming to grips with a new discovery that could change forever how we think of dinosaurs. What they've found is that dinosaurs may well have been tortured by large, flealike bloodsucking insects.

Yes, it appears that the greatest predators that ever roamed Earth suffered just as we mammals did — and as we still do. Fleas were thought to have evolved along with mammals — they like our soft skins and a diet of warm blood.

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Energy
9:05 am
Thu April 12, 2012

Scientists Link Rise In Quakes To Wastewater Wells

Originally published on Fri April 13, 2012 7:22 am

Scientists who watch for earthquakes have discovered a big increase in the number of small quakes in the middle of the country. It's an area that's usually pretty quiet geologically.

The scientists suspect the quakes are caused by wastewater wells. They plan to discuss their findings later this month at a seismology conference, but they've shared the basics with NPR.

Bill Ellsworth, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, says new technology over the past decade has given scientists a much better feel for when the Earth shakes.

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