Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KPLU moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

Ways To Connect

Scott Applewhite / AP

The president of Liberia thanked Seattle-area philanthropists at a weekend appearance in Bellevue, crediting their early support during the Ebola crisis with helping to save many lives.

Nobel Peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cited support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others as crucial in helping Liberia eradicate Ebola. The Allen Foundation committed $100 million, while the Gates Foundation pledged $50 million.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Seattle scientists have managed to genetically transform human cells in the lab from HIV targets to HIV killers, and the technique could have implications for cancer and other diseases.

The virus that causes AIDS loves to go after a particular group of white blood cells called T-cells, a key part of the immune system. T-cells have a protein on their surface that the virus attaches to and uses to invade the cell.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping will cause especially thorny and unpredictable traffic tie-ups. Transportation officials are asking drivers to plan for delays, or better yet, stay off the roads.

President Xi will be traveling around Seattle and the I-5 corridor, but we won’t know when or where until the last minute. Security is tight for his visit, and that means not revealing his schedule.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

How do you make something called a “slime mold” sound even more disgusting? Call it “dog vomit slime mold.”

It looks more or less like you’d expect, at least from a distance.

“It looks a little bit gross to some people. I think it’s pretty cool,” said Angela Mele.

AP Images


Each week on Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk about local stories they feel didn't get sufficient attention.


Joining host Gabriel Spitzer this week are Sarah Anne Lloyd of SeattlishAnsel Herz of The Stranger and Aaron Burkhalter of Real Change

Lloyd said a Washington State Supreme Court decision about the future of charter schools seems to have gotten lost amid the hubbub of the Seattle schools strike.

AP Images

Each week on Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk about local stories they feel didn't get sufficient attention.

Joining host Gabriel Spitzer on this week’s show were journalists Nina Shapiro, Mike Lewis and Sarah Stuteville share their take on some of the under-reported stories of the week. 

Jason Brisch / Flickr

The city of Seattle will be back before a judge Tuesday over its minimum wage law, as the professional organization representing franchise businesses appeals an earlier court loss.

Seattle’s law lets small businesses raise their minimum wage more slowly, but it treats most franchises like big businesses: A chain restaurant that is independently owned has to hike its wage just as fast as one owned by corporate.

AP Images

There's always interesting stuff in the news that gets overshadowed by the big stories. On Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk over their nominees for under-covered story of the week.   

Joining KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer at this week's roundtable are Hannah Brooks Olsen of Seattlish, Josh Feit news editor of Seattle Met magazine and Emily Parkhurst Digital Managing Editor of the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Brieana Ripley, KPLU

Not so long ago, before there were self-driving cars, microprocessors or even abundant electricity, the state-of-the-art technology was clockwork. Through cams and springs and gears, craftspeople were able to create precise tools, rudimentary robots and exquisite pieces of art.

Brittany Nicole Cox is one of a handful of antiquarian horologists trained to preserve and restore those objects. She does that from her Seattle workshop where, in gloves and a white lab coat, Cox gingerly removes a box from one of her vintage hardwood cabinets. It’s her specialty-within-a-specialty: A Victorian-era automaton.

AP Images

There's always interesting stuff in the news that gets overshadowed by the big stories. On Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk over their nominees for under-covered story of the week. 


New statewide test scores released Monday largely confirm what a sneak peek suggested earlier this summer: Pass rates on the new, tougher assessments have dropped, though by less than many feared. But those results come with an asterisk in one grade.

Washington students outperformed the scores from a national trial run of the Smarter Balanced Assessments last year. That’s in line with preliminary results released in July.

Pamela Wible

Physicians are in the business of saving lives but they have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession.  An estimated 400 doctors a year take their own lives. Pamela Wible is a physician in Eugene, Oregon and she’s devoted a big part of her career to helping doctors cope with thoughts of suicide.

Stem Box

Imagine getting a box containing a ball of bones and fur regurgitated from an owl. That’s just one of the gross things a Seattle researcher plans to send to girls nationwide, as part of a new bid to attract girls into science.

Kina McAllister works as a research technician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and she’s the mind behind Stem Box. The subscription service sends out a kit each month geared toward awakening the scientist in young girls.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

To get a sense of why many in far-flung Seattle neighborhoods were eager to move to district-based representation on City Council, head to 125th and North Aurora and start walking south.

There are auto shops, shabby motels and several marijuana stores. But it's not the type of retail that illustrates the case for district-specific council representation; it's what the walk to the store lacks. The sidewalk often peters out and disappears, leaving pedestrians nose-to-nose with traffic.

“In 1954 it was like this, and in 2015, it’s just dirt. Just a dirt path,” says retired teacher Richard Dyksterhuis.

Austin Jenkins

Washington state regulators are tightening their grip on medical marijuana this week by targeting dubious patient authorizations. But some clinics say the changes, which begin Friday, will put them out of business.

The new Cannabis Patient Protection Act requires any health care provider who authorizes more than 30 medical cannabis patients in a month to report to the Department of Health.

Creative Commons

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has revealed what he’s calling a “grand bargain” to ease the city’s affordable housing crunch, and it relies on a series of carrots and sticks for developers.

The heart of the plan is a proposal to let developers build bigger buildings in exchange for creating thousands of new affordable units, and charging new fees on commercial developments.

There's always interesting stuff in the news that gets overshadowed by the big stories. On Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk over their nominees for under-covered story of the week. 

This week Alex Hudson of the news and politics blog Seattlish noted that even though the heat wave is all anyone can talk about, there are dimensions of it that haven't gotten the attention they deserve, such as the outsize hazard heat poses for homeless people. 

"The city of Seattle has extreme weather plans that relate to cold weather, and there are no real plans that relate to hot weather," she says. 

AP Images

Last month was the driest June on record for the wettest part of Washington State.

The Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park got .17 inches of rain last month. That’s less than half the previous record low from 1961 and well under the four inches that falls in an average June.

Ranger Jon Preston collects daily measurements at the visitors center there. He says the region started drying out in May. 

Tracey Croisier

When Tracey Croisier was five years old,  she began having seizures. 

Her family was living in Taiwan.  By the time she was nine, they had moved back to the United States. Her parents took her to a doctor. He explained to the family that her condition, epilepsy, was so severe it would prevent Tracey from ever driving, holding a job or living independently. 

And then the expert added that she should never have kids.

Smithsonsian Institute

UPDATE:  After DNA testing confirmed the 8,500-year-old Kennewick man was ancestor of modern Washington tribes, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting that the remains be returned to Native American tribes.

A pair of college students discovered the skeleton near Columbia River and Kennewick in 1996. The U.S Army Corp of Engineers took control of the bones that are the oldest human remains discovered in North America. Recent DNA analysis proved that the Kennewick man is genetically linked to modern Native Americans.

“Now that DNA analysis has demonstrated a genetic link to modern Native Americans, including those in the State of Washington, I am requesting that the Ancient One be repatriated to the appropriate Tribes as expeditiously as possible,” Inslee wrote in a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Our Washington State tribes have waited nineteen years for the remains to be transferred for reburial.

Original Story, published June 18, 2015:

Scientists say they’ve pinned down the origins of a man who lived in the northwest about 9,000 years ago, and their conclusion is the same as what Washington tribes have been saying since the bones’ discovery: Kennewick Man was Native American.

Kennewick Man, known to the tribes as the Ancient One, has been fought over since his discovery in 1996. Researchers have suggested he came from Japanese, Polynesian or even European stock.

But Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen says DNA pulled from a hand bone now makes it clear where Kennewick Man belongs in the world’s family tree.

“Kennewick Man, the Ancient One, is more closely related to contemporary Native Americans than to any other contemporary populations in the world,” said Eske, speaking at a press conference at the Burke Museum in Seattle.

The museum has housed the bones while five Washington tribes have been fighting the federal government over control of the remains. They believe the new finding bolsters their case that Kennewick Man should be given to them, under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Gabriel Spitzer

In 2004, the city of Seattle installed five, high-tech, self-cleaning public toilets at a cost of $5 million. The toilets -- which opened at the push of a button disinfected themselves automatically -- were hailed as public service that would need little in extra staff hours to maintain.

It didn't turn out exactly like that.

Paradise Fire Incident Management Team

A smoldering fire in Olympic National Park flared up over the weekend, scorching at least 600 acres before heavy smoke and inaccessible terrain made the blaze too hard to measure.

In what is usually the wettest area of the lower 48 states, parts of the rainforest landscape have turned to tinder this year and set the stage for the rapid spread of the Paradise Fire.

“What’s actually carrying the fire are the lichens in the very tops of the trees. They're so dry that they’ll actually carry fire, and so the fire is jumping through the tree canopies,” said Donna Nemeth, an information officer with the Fire Incident Team made up of National Park Service and National Forest Service personnel.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

  Many will tune in to the U.S. Open golf championship in University Place for the grace of a perfect swing or the elegance of a golf ball’s arc. But people at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center hope you will also watch for the science at the heart of the game.

At the Science Center’s exhibit, “Learning Science through Golf,” you can see how much force it takes to make a four-foot putt or measure the volume of a golf club head by dunking it in a beaker of water. You can even learn what it takes to maintain healthy turf grass in the northwest climate.

Juno Theraputics

Seattle-based scientists are reporting more encouraging results from treating blood cancer patients with souped-up immune cells.

The trial, part of a larger study by Seattle-based biotechnology Juno Therapeutics, involved about 50 people with three different types of blood cancer. Patients in this type of trial typically have not responded to the usual treatments, and are nearly out of options.

Scientists from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center re-engineered the patients’ immune cells and injected them back into their bodies. Dr. Cameron Turtle of Fred Hutch reported Monday that 91 percent of those with acute lymphoblastic leukemia went into remission.

Courtesy of Lloyd Pernela

"Sound Effect" is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme, and this week we hear stories about the promise and the perils of self-government. 

We begin with the tale of a short-lived utopian society, right in the heart of Seattle. In 1962, a mysterious island rose, inexplicably, out of the waters of Lake Union. That gave a group of UW students an idea. Gabriel Spitzer tracks down one of the ringleaders of their plot, half-a-century later, to learn about the epic rise and tragic fall of Chelan Island. 

file photo


For food writer Nancy Leson, “comfort food” means Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. This Philadelphia-based regional candy is made of peanuts suspended in molasses covered in dark chocolate.

For me, that’s not an appealing description, and the proud declaration on the package that they “originally served as a WWI ration bar” doesn’t help. But for Nancy, they mean something different.

Courtesy of the Burke Museum

  Washington State has its first dinosaur.

Researchers at the Burke Museum say they excavated a weathered, 80 million year old thighbone from a beach on Sucia Island in the San Juans. It is the first verified dinosaur fossil ever found in Washington.

Workers at a South King County psychiatric hospital are walking off the job Thursday, one day after another unit of the same SEIU Healthcare local staged a one-day strike at a Bellingham hospital.

Nurses and other workers at Cascade Behavioral Health in Tukwila say they’re protesting stalled contract talks and inadequate staffing. Carol Myers, a detox unit nurse, says when the private company Acadia took over the former non-profit hospital, it cut staffing levels in the geriatric psych unit.

“These people are fall risks and incontinent and you need additional staff in order to keep these people clean. And that’s really overwhelming for the amount of staff that they’re given,” she says.

Cascade CEO Michael Uradnik says the staffing ratio is safe and up to industry standards. He says he’s still hopeful the sides can reach an agreement.

“I’d have preferred if they hadn’t done it, absolutely. Does it make me further entrenched and more bitter? No. This is part of what you want to do, that’s fine. It’s a one-day action. After [Thursday] we’re going to get down to negotiating again,” he says.

The hospital plans to remain open during the one-day strike, with replacement workers trained to step in.

Dean Hochman / Flickr

A group of allergy researchers in Seattle is releasing new recommendations that mark a complete turnaround from the conventional wisdom on when to introduce peanut products to babies. The guidelines come in the wake of a recent major study.

Doctors used to say parents shouldn’t let kids even try peanuts until age three. The American Academy of Pediatrics dropped that advice after incidence of peanut allergy continued to climb, quadrupling between 1997 and 2010.

University of Washington

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a smartphone app to test for sleep apnea, a common but potentially serious sleep disorder.

People with sleep apnea struggle with or stop breathing while they sleep. It affects up to 18 million Americans according to the National Institutes of Health. But getting diagnosed tends to be expensive and invasive. UW grad student Rajalakshmi Nandakumar says it generally involves an overnight stay at a sleep lab, in a less-than-restful setting.