The region's aging locks and dams could put put growth on lockdown

Moving goods on barges is big business. But it’s a part of the economy that floats precariously on infrastructure in dire need of an overhaul. [More...]

Deckhand Dustin Frazee (center) and lead deckhand Jeremy Groves look out over the Ohio River as their towboat, the D.L. Johnson, pushes a coal barge. Photo: Ryan Loew

Deckhand Dustin Frazee (center) and lead deckhand Jeremy Groves look out over the Ohio River as their towboat, the D.L. Johnson, pushes a coal barge. Photo: Ryan Loew

The canals that redrew Pennsylvania's wilderness and remade its economy

Park ranger Doug Bosley stands at the crest of a quiet, green hillside, looking down a stretch of railroad track that appears to have gotten lost and wandered into the woods. Besides the faint sounds of traffic wafting over the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site from old Route 22, there’s nothing to suggest that this spot in Blair County was home to a revolutionary system that changed Pennsylvania forever. [More...]

Park ranger Doug Bosley stands on a stretch of railroad track that was vital to the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal System. Photo: Margaret J. Krauss

Park ranger Doug Bosley stands on a stretch of railroad track that was vital to the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal System. Photo: Margaret J. Krauss

Why does Pennsylvania have only a handful of natural lakes? 

Look at a satellite map of Pennsylvania and you’ll see a lot of green. Part of the reason: There’s a ton of water in the state, and much of it resides in the ground. But what that glance at the map won’t reveal is many lakes. (OK—there’s Lake Erie, of course, but hold that thought.) [More...]

For a state with a ton of water, Pennsylvania has very few natural lakes. Even Pennsylvania's modest frontage on Lake Erie—the state's largest natural lake—had to be secured through some political wrangling. Photo: Ken Lund via Flickr

For a state with a ton of water, Pennsylvania has very few natural lakes. Even Pennsylvania's modest frontage on Lake Erie—the state's largest natural lake—had to be secured through some political wrangling. Photo: Ken Lund via Flickr

Using goldfish to raise vegetables—and a new generation of scientists

Until a couple weeks ago, the only species available for observation at Propel Andrew Street High School near Pittsburgh was the typical American teenager. But on a recent Thursday, ninth-grader Jayden Scapellato was anxious to point out some new arrivals that are upping the school’s biodiversity profile. [More...]

Yes, you can use goldfish to grow spinach. Just ask the kids at Propel Andrew Street High School near Pittsburgh who are part of the school's new aquaponics program. Photo: Benson Kua via Flickr

Yes, you can use goldfish to grow spinach. Just ask the kids at Propel Andrew Street High School near Pittsburgh who are part of the school's new aquaponics program. Photo: Benson Kua via Flickr

Here's the right (and wrong) way to dispose of unused medications

Like most people, Pittsburgh’s Erin Yourd has medicines in the house that she uses and medicines she doesn’t. She keeps the latter in a bowl on her countertop she calls the “big bowl.” It’s positioned out of reach of her three-year-old son, the baby in her arms and the family dog. [More...]

Erin Yourd wasn’t sure how to dispose of the medicines she and her family no longer need, so they were relegated to the “big bowl.” She keeps it out of reach of her children and the family dog, but when Yourd supervises, her three-year-old son is allowed to shake the containers. Photo: Margaret J. Krauss

Erin Yourd wasn’t sure how to dispose of the medicines she and her family no longer need, so they were relegated to the “big bowl.” She keeps it out of reach of her children and the family dog, but when Yourd supervises, her three-year-old son is allowed to shake the containers. Photo: Margaret J. Krauss

How the ancient practice of gleaning is still getting food to the needy

On a muggy Wednesday morning, before the sun burned off the morning's clouds, Lionel Greenawalt drives across his 100-acre Westmoreland County farm to a field of sweet corn. While Greenawalt and his children pick an average of 400 dozen ears of corn each morning, at the moment, they have more corn than they can sell. [More...]

Shale to Solar: Farmers use gas money to build solar arrays

Dwayne Bauknight and Duane Miller share a first name. They live 1.9 miles apart on the same road and have almost nothing in common. Except for a row of gleaming new solar panels on their farms. [More...]

Chatham University's Eden Hall campus grows with sustainability mission

Dave Hassenzahl, dean of Chatham University’s new sustainability school at Eden Hall Campus, doesn’t look ready for apple picking. Hassenzahl tromps through the orchard, heedless of the dry grass creeping into his dress shoes. [More...]

Endangered Species Act slights reptiles and amphibians

Two of the 10 species identified by the Center for Biological Diversity as most at-risk for extinction make their homes in Pennsylvania and New York. The Eastern Hellbender salamander, which is a signal of stream health, is increasingly threatened. So is the Blanding’s turtle, a medium-sized turtle with a startlingly bright yellow neck found in Erie County. [More...]

Skiiing the big slopes

ome friends and I decided to escape D.C.’s warm winter of 2011 and head for Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. A skier’s dream, the park offered two side-by-side mountains, thousands of acres of terrain and not one—but three—glaciers. In theory, I was excited.But as I shuddered down the approach toward my first run down the mountain, I concluded that whatever ability I might once have had died an early death and left me contemplating my own early demise. [More...]