Barbara J. King

On a sunny Spring day last week, I met two Northern River Otters called Moe and Molly at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, a few towns over from where I live.

They were introduced to me by George Mathews, curatorial director of the VLM — and friend, especially, to Moe.

A coalition of animal-rescue organizations led by the Best Friends Animal Society based in Kanab, Utah, is aiming to bring the nation to "no kill" status for shelter cats and dogs by the year 2025.

Next week, a new pet adoption center will open in Soho in New York City to intensify no-kill efforts in that city and to bring attention to the national initiative.

You know that voice we tend to use when speaking to babies?

It's a sing-song voice, one with higher pitch, shorter phrases with simpler grammar, slower speech rate, more repetitions, and greater contrast in our vowels. It's called "motherese" or, more accurately, IDS (for infant-directed speech).

Three stories beneath the streets of Washington, DC, I stood on the bottom level of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture — for just a moment alone — as people flowed in all around me.

In front of me stood a stone block. Dating from the 19th century, the block, made of marble, once could be found in Hagerstown, Md. On it, enslaved people brought to the U.S. from Africa were sold at auction.

Many in the science community have expressed concern about the lack of science literacy demonstrated by the new Trump administration.

A look at the administration's statements and actions related to five key issues that are informed by science — anthropogenic climate change, vaccines, evolution taught in public schools, environmental science and protection of public lands, and human rights — bolsters that concern.

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When I give public talks about animal intelligence and emotion around the U.S., I'm struck by one thing: a big audience response to the behavior of octopuses.

Last month, Australian surfer Jade Fitzpatrick sustained three bite wounds to his thigh from a great white shark as he waited for a wave on his surfboard off the north coast of New South Wales.

As the Guardian newspaper reported, he was helped out of the water by a friend, received medical treatment and planned to surf again in the same waters within 10 days.

When you're trapped in an airport, relax and have some fun.

That's one possible takeaway from this small bird filmed earlier this year, riding the handrails of an airport's moving walkway.

The bird swoops in the air, lands on the handrail and repeats the whole sequence. Doesn't that look playful? Play isn't an outlandish explanation, in fact, because animal-behavior scientists agree that different species of birds do play in a variety of ways.

What lurks beneath?

Beneath the water, we find luminescent vampire squid and weighty blue whales. We find super-heated hydrothermal chimneys, sonar-pinging submarines and scientists who roam the watery terrain in submersibles.

Beneath the ground, we find a realm of geysers, volcanoes and tectonic plates. Here also dwell giant earthworms, warthogs and deep roots of wild fig and camel thorn trees. In the subsurface world, humans mine and tunnel and excavate to unleash bones and fossils.

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen's memoir set for release on Tuesday, is a virtuoso performance, the 508-page equivalent to one of Springsteen and the E Street Band's famous four-hour concerts: Nothing is left onstage, and diehard fans and first-timers alike depart for home sated and yet somehow already aching for more.

A dog video popped up in my Facebook feed this week that I'd never before seen, though it was originally posted late last year. It's clearly a home video, not always perfectly in focus, but in just two minutes tells an intriguing story.

A young girl, engrossed in an art project, dips the family dog's tail into shallow little cups of paint, then brushstrokes across her paper with the tail tip.

Sure, it's a cute video.

People, I have noticed, get very excited about eating pigs and pig products. Bacon mania has been going for a while now, and the well-established cult of barbecue continues as strong as ever.

Overwhelming hard data from biology, geology and anthropology — gathered with a firm grasp of the workings of evolution — prove false the claims made by creationists.

The Earth is not 6,000 years old and it wasn't shaped by a great flood 4,500 years ago. (The Earth is 4.5 billion years old.) Humans and dinosaurs did not coexist. (These life forms missed each other by many millions of years.)

When creationist claims are put forth as science in museums or taught as science in schools, our children lose out because their science literacy is diminished.

Wednesday night, the BBC documentary Koko: The Gorilla Who Talks premiered on U.S. TV.

The program tells the story of how Koko, age 44, one of two gorillas living at The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, Calif., began to learn as an infant to communicate with humans through use of American Sign Language (ASL). She went on to become the most famous gorilla in the world.

Watching the NBC Nightly News broadcast on a Friday earlier this month, I gaped as the last segment aired.

Last week, The Pokémon Co., Nintendo and Niantic Inc. jointly released the augmented reality game Pokémon Go.

A slim volume arrived in the mail this spring and captivated me because the author's joy in doing science and experiencing nature spills out on every page.

Now the book is published, with a pretty nifty title: The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher's Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. Its author is Marcelo Gleiser.

The National Park Service turns 100 this summer, and I've been thinking about how all of us might celebrate this milestone.

I encounter claims that humans were designed to eat meat — that it's in our genes, that we have teeth made for eating meat, that we need meat to get all the right nutrients — all the time in casual conversation and in media in stronger and weaker versions.

In "A Conversation with Whales" in The New York Times this past Sunday, James Nestor raises the tantalizing possibility of full-on collaboration between human observers and wild whales in research on whale communication. (The article includes a whale audio file and an option to download an app that yields a virtual reality video.)

One thing I've always loved about anthropology is its commitment to understanding humans by bringing to bear two divergent perspectives: evolutionary science, aimed at understanding the contribution of biology to our behavior, and field ethnography, a process whereby the anthropologist works to understand a social group's lived experience in the modern world from the inside out.

It's a familiar conversation in our house. When my husband dies, he wants to be cremated, with his ashes scattered in beloved locations ranging from the river behind our house to national parks including the Grand Canyon.

Michael Pollan's seven-word dictum for what we should eat is by now famous: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Imagine this: Right next to the lab where blood is drawn and blood pressure is taken stands a fully stocked kitchen — in your doctor's office.

It's not meant for the staff's lunch break, either.

During your checkup, your physician invites you into the kitchen, demonstrates some healthy-cooking tips she picked up in medical school and writes you a prescription for a cooking class.

For babies carried to full term, birth weight is considered "normal" between about 6 pounds, 2 ounces and 9 pounds, 2 ounces. Given sustained concern about childhood obesity, I have wondered how early in life children may be at risk for extra weight.

Can babies be obese?

In The New York Times last Sunday, University of Toronto political scientist Courtney Jung argued that the "righteous zeal" and "moral fervor" that surrounds urging of new mothers to breast-feed their babies in this country is harmful, especially because the touted benefits of breast-feeding are more modest than we are often led to think.

In The New York Times travel section Sunday, Stephanie Rosenbloom described a hot day this summer when she sat in the Roman amphitheater in Arles, France.

As she imagined scenes Van Gogh may have observed there during the 19th century, she says, a soft whirring sound broke into her reverie. Rosenbloom writes:

There's a lot of debate about how to define a mass shooting.

According to a recent NPR report, mass killings happen every two weeks in the U.S. — as defined by the FBI.

In U.S. counties with warm winters, temperate summers and beautiful natural resources — like beaches, lakes, hills or mountains — people's rates of affiliation with religious organizations are lower than in other places, according to a new study.

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