Cheryl Lyn Dybas

“They came back,” says biologist Donald Webster. “This year.” His voice has a wistful note, wondering if the king of ducks, as the beautiful, crimson-headed canvasback is known, will return to rule Chesapeake Bay again next winter. In parka, gloves and hat, Webster, waterfowl coordinator for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), raises his...

Are answers to diseases hidden in the leaves and bark of trees such as maples? Researchers are finding out. (Photograph: University of Rhode Island) In the 1992 film Medicine Man, biochemist Robert Campbell, played by actor Sean Connery, searches for new drugs in the Amazon’s vast rainforests. There Campbell finds a cure for cancer not in...

Did you get the fish you ordered? In some sushi restaurants, it’s a flip of the coin. (Photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Tomek Strabski) Have plans this summer to visit your favorite sushi restaurant? You might order spicy tuna roll. Or maybe salmon or halibut. But is the fish you selected the one you got? If you’re in...

At twilight in winter, short-eared owls appear over grasslands across the U.S. (Photograph: USFWS) They emerge at twilight, the magical time when rarely seen creatures come out of the shadows. In the balmy air of an unseasonably warm February dusk, twilight indeed has opened a portal to another world. Like bats that flutter from caves...

Black panthers are more common south of Malaysia’s Isthmus of Kra than anywhere else in the world. (Photograph: Rimba) Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody dared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as [the golden jackal] Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had...

Is the sun setting for lions and other iconic wildlife species in Africa? This lioness is one of a fast-dwindling number of African lions. (Photograph: Craig Packer) With roars that rend the African night, lions have captured our imaginations since the dawn of humankind. “Lions have long been celebrated in art and literature throughout the...

Bone-dry winds are blowing across South Africa’s Kruger National Park (KNP), uprooting savanna grasses and whirling them like tumbleweeds across a sere landscape. How is the park’s world-renowned wildlife faring in an extreme drought? To find out, I talked with Izak Smit, Science Manager for Systems Ecology at South African National Parks (SANParks), which oversees KNP....

A woodland caribou peers through spruce trees on Lake Superior’s Slate Islands. (Photograph: Andrew Silver) Qalipu, it’s called by Canada’s Mi’kmaq people. To others, it’s the elusive gray ghost of the far northern forest. Most know it simply as caribou. Woodland caribou are medium-sized members of the deer family. In Canadian provinces such as Ontario,...

On-the-move: Canada lynx are making their way into new territory. (Photograph: USFWS/Keith Williams) The forest has eyes. And somewhere in the shadows of a winter dusk that falls across towns in northern New England, they’re watching. The deep green eyes of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) have the advantage in the region’s dark spruce-fir, or...

Can any species eat as much as it wants–and stay healthy? Yes: blind cavefish, scientists are finding out. (Photograph: Nicolas Rohner) Barbecues and clambakes. Ice cream and berry pies. Summer is the season of food, food and more food. Is there a way to binge and still stay healthy? For answers, look far underground, say...

On June 4, 1773, English naval officers were dispatched on an expedition to the Arctic. Their goal was to locate a passage from the British Isles to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, on ice floes near Spitsbergen (Svalbard), Norway, they found polar bears. The explorers were the first Europeans to describe the bears as a distinct...