Fostering Hope

Robin Foster keeps a small crystal figure on her desk at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, a gift from a retired nurse practitioner she worked alongside for 20 years. Etched in its glass is a quote from anthropologist and social activist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The quote is a favorite, says Foster, and one on which she has often reflected during her 20-plus years practicing pediatric emergency medicine at VCU.

‘Citizen Science’

The American avocet, a large wading bird with a rust-colored neck and a beak roughly the size and shape of an upturned crochet hook, is not usually found this far inland. In fact, local naturalist Paul Bedell suspects its July 16 sighting in the James River Park System is the species’ first in Richmond. The sighting is just one of more than 4,600 observations within the park system logged on the online platform iNaturalist. Created in 2008, the platform is part scientific database, part social network, allowing users to upload their photos of plants, animals and other organisms to project pages around the world.

The Universe Within

When Jennifer Fettweis stepped on the stage at The Byrd Theatre for a TEDxRVA talk in October, she had news that may have left some in the sold-out crowd squirming. The message? You’re not entirely human. Rather, our bodies are host to a complex network of bacteria, fungi and viruses — trillions of them. These micro-organisms and their products, which are known as the human microbiome, play an important part in bodily functions, from digesting food to warding off infection. Researchers say they may also hold the key to better understanding many diseases.

Favor of the Wind [Travel Essay]

When I first smell the smoke, it registers only superficially. Unlike the tight gild of the eucalyptus trunks or the mammalian noises of the kookaburras, which shock my perception with their newness, this smell is a familiar detail from hikes back home in Virginia. It isn’t until I see the concern on a fellow backpacker’s face that I recall that this section of Tasmanian forest is under a strict open-flame ban. Whatever I am smelling is nature-made, and nearby.