Liza Gross

Liza Gross, an award-winning independent journalist and senior editor at the biomedical journal PLOS Biology, writes mostly about conservation and public and environmental health. She was a 2013 recipient of the NYU Reporting Award, a 2013 Dennis Hunt Health Journalism fellow and a 2015 USC Data Journalism fellow. Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.

Fire Safety without Harm

Last week, scientists and regulators from more than 20 countries gathered in San Francisco to discuss the latest research on flame retardants. The conference lasted four days, but the theme of the meeting was clear from just a few talks: Do we need toxic chemicals to achieve fire safety?

New research explores the cognitive effects of listening to another person's cell phone conversation. (Photo by futurestreet via Flickr, CC by 2.0)

Yes, Your Cell Phone Conversation Does Drive People Mad

It's well known that talking on your cell phone compromises your ability to perform simple tasks like walking and driving. Now it turns out cell phones impact cognition in bystanders as well: listening to another person talk on their cell phone isn't just incredibly annoying, it also interferes with your memory and concentration.

arsenic poisoning

Arsenic and Old Wells

Six years after the EPA's new arsenic rule for drinking water went into effect, poor communities in the San Joaquin Valley—who can’t afford the costs of complying with the stricter standard—face the highest risk of exposure to unsafe arsenic levels. claimtoken-5144c0abd5ac8

american crow

Book Review: Animal Wise – The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures

An appreciation of the rich inner lives of nonhuman animals dates back at least to Aristotle and gained support from Charles Darwin, who saw any differences between humans and other animals as a matter of degree, not kind. Still, the notion that humans stand above and apart from our fellow creatures dies hard. In her new book, "Animal Wise," science journalist Virginia Morell takes us on a tour of labs and field sites around the world to show us that many of the traits once thought uniquely human appear in even our most distant evolutionary relatives.

coyote pups

Coyote Killings: A Complex Debate of Conservation and Cruelty

Coyotes, reviled for preying on sheep and goats, are the most targeted predator in the U.S. This week, hunters in the tiny Modoc County town of Adin will compete in a contest to kill the most coyotes to protect their livestock--even though research shows that killing coyotes results in higher reproductive rates.

wolf with elk

Fear and Loathing in Wolf Country

After federal wildlife officials removed endangered species protections on wolves in the Rocky Mountains, hunters quickly killed them by the hundreds. If California's lone wolf leaves the state, he could meet a similar fate.

Blowing Smoke Exploratorium exhibit

Exploratorium’s Science with Spirit Transcends Place

A record number of visitors mobbed San Francisco's Exploratorium on its last day at the Palace of Fine Arts. The mood was bittersweet--not just visitors but a good part of the staff grew up at this place. But for the Exploratorium, the magic of science is where you make it.

Russula sanguinea

Conquering Fungophobia

Late fall rains signal the start of mushroom season, which can last until spring in the Bay Area. Though only experts should forage and eat wild mushrooms (following park rules about harvesting), anyone can appreciate the rich diversity of these ephemeral fruits of the forest.

arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus)

Can Earth Survive Without Scientist-Citizens?

Last summer, a group of top scientists warned that our penchant for growth and consumption may be pushing earth toward an irreversible tipping point. The days when scientists could share their results with just their colleagues are over, says NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. It's time for scientists to help solve our "wicked problems."


Flame Retardants, Redux: From Toxic Couches to Buildings

Last June, Gov. Jerry Brown directed state agencies to change California's flammability standard to ensure fire safety without dousing furniture and other foam products with toxic chemicals. Now activists are focusing on an even bigger market for flame retardants: foam insulation in buildings.

Grizzly bear

Trophy Hunting: For the Love of Blood and Money

Trophy hunters routinely pay thousands of dollars for the chance to kill big game like caribou, moose, black bear and especially grizzly bear. Trophy hunting narratives boast a love of nature. But some sociologists find a different story.

burning house

Playing Whack-a-Mole with Flame Retardants

Countless consumer products sold in California contain a flame retardant flagged as a possible carcinogen nearly 35 years ago. As of this week, finally, they must carry a warning that the chemical causes cancer. But is it enough when manufacturers simply replace one toxic chemical with another?