Curtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

Ann Kennedy’s bacterial compound is called ACK55, and it has been shown to cut the amount of cheatgrass in half in just a few years.

The Department of Agriculture soil scientist is getting closer to seeing her discovery registered with the EPA, and is giving state and federal land managers hope in the battle against the invasive weed. Once it gets approved, farmers can begin using it to treat cheatgrass on their land.

The Meeting Place North / Flickr

A Boise State professor is looking into whether an organic diet makes people healthier, and she’s crowdfunding to help pay for her research.

“This is a pretty new way, as far as I can tell, to raise research dollars,” says Cynthia Curl, an Assistant Professor of Community and Environmental Health at the university. She wants to find out if eating organic food has measurable health effects.

Gail Patricelli / University of California Davis

When it comes to understanding the biology of greater sage grouse, the male birds get most of the attention.


Forest Service researchers are taking a closer look at how wildfire smoke impacts the people most exposed to it. A five-year study will monitor the carbon monoxide levels of firefighters around the country.

Federal officials say they're taking public comments on a plan to ship two loads of spent nuclear fuel rods to eastern Idaho for research.

The U.S. Department of Energy in a statement says comments will be taken through July 13 on its draft of whether more environmental analysis is needed.

The 60-page document can be viewed at the agency's website under the Idaho Operations Office, Public Involvement Opportunities.

The agency has proposed sending up to 220 pounds of nuclear fuel rods to the Idaho National Laboratory.

Two Boise State University professors have received a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study the relationship between three western universities and their local arts scenes.

Robin Bjork

An Idaho woman is studying the migration patterns of a rare bird in Central America. The three-wattled bellbird makes bell-like calls, and those sounds can travel half a mile. Some experts believe it’s the loudest bird in the world.

Melody Joy Kramer / Flickr Creative Commons

Driverless cars are one step closer to joining Idaho citizens on the roads.

By a one vote margin, the Idaho Senate passed a bill allowing companies to test self-driving cars in Idaho. The bill also sets some regulations and guidelines aiming to improve safety.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Bert Brackett told lawmakers Thursday he hopes the bill will attract innovative businesses to Idaho.

But the plan's insurance and liability requirements faced bipartisan opposition on the floor.

Jeffrey Johnson / Boise State University

Jeffrey Johnson got quite a wakeup call this week. The assistant professor of geosciences at Boise State University is working in Pucon, Chile on a Fulbright grant to study volcanoes. He was just ten miles away when the Villarrica volcano had a large eruption Tuesday morning.

Johnson's work includes listening to low frequency sounds that volcanoes make. Here’s the low-frequency sound his sensors recorded during this week's eruption; the sound is normally too low for us to hear, so it's been sped up:

Ryan Wiedmaier / Flickr Creative Commons

A Boise State University professor wants to make it easier to decide whether it's worth it to spend a little more on organic produce, or purchase the cheaper non-organic option.

"Eighty percent of American grocery stores now sell organic food and people have to decide for themselves is this worth it to buy to feed myself and my family?" says Cynthia Curl. "We don't have a lot of guidance to give to those people and so I think it's a really important thing to study."

Gary Knight VII Photo Agency

NPR social sciences correspondent Shankar Vedantam is speaking Thursday in Ketchum at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

Vedantam regularly connects public radio listeners to scientific studies that show how unconscious factors can influence people without their awareness. Vedantam has written a book on the topic and calls these subconscious drivers the “hidden brain.”

Attending state-funded prekindergarten substantially reduces the likelihood that students will end up in special education programs later on, according to a new study by researchers at Duke University.

Boise State University

A Boise State professor is looking for clues about Earth's origin by studying planets around distant stars.

Brian Jackson is an assistant professor in Boise State’s Department of Physics. He’s using a $271,000 grant from NASA and data from the Kepler space observatory to study planets that are very close to their host stars.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

An Idaho State University study has found most high school football players are wearing helmets that don't fit and aren't property maintaining the inflatable lining inside their helmets.

The University’s research finds nearly 98 percent of its participants played football in a helmet that required regular inflation of the liner, 43 percent of those respondents said they’ve never re-inflated their helmet liners.

According to researchers at Washington State University, shoppers may be more likely to accept bad customer service from a company if they know that company supports causes they agree with.

The College of Idaho has received a $2.45 million grant spread over five years for biomedical research.

The school in southwest Idaho in a statement Monday says that about a third of the money will be used to investigate the medical properties of sagebrush.

A similar amount will be used to research small molecule inhibitors that could be used to fight pathogenic microorganisms.

The school says the rest of the money will be used for other research projects.

The money comes from the National Institutes of Health's IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.

New research could have implications for cattle and sheep grazing in the habitat of a ground-dwelling bird that environmentalists say needs federal protection across the Rocky Mountain region.

A study published in the December issue of Wildlife Biology examines the relationship between nesting success by the greater sage grouse and the height of grass nearby.

Environmental groups including WildEarth Guardians say the study is cause for concern about livestock grazing in sage grouse habitat. Others say grazing can improve habitat for sage grouse.

sheep, pasture, barn
Heidi Schuyt / Flickr Creative Commons

Scientists have found that, contrary to what many people think, killing wolves does not always reduce attacks on livestock.

Researchers at Washington State University found that for every wolf killed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming over the past 25 years, there was a 5 percent increase in the sheep and cattle killed the next year. Livestock kills only started going down after overall wolf numbers were reduced by more than 25 percent.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.

wolf, wildlife, yellowstone
Jim Peaco / Yellowstone National Park

A new study out of Canada reveals a surprising side-effect that hunting may have on wolves.

Researchers wanted to compare the hormone levels in wolves that often deal with hunters’ fire, versus wolves that are hunted very little. They were able to measure levels of progesterone, testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol by looking at samples of wolf hair from different parts of northern Canada.

school lunch, cafeteria, students
Lance Cheung / USDA | Flickr Creative Commons

Most Idaho kids went back to school this week, meaning for many, a return to school lunches. Food in public schools has changed significantly since new federal nutrition guidelines were passed in 2010.