Eilís O'Neill | KUOW News and Information

Eilís O'Neill

Year started with KUOW: 2017

Eilís O'Neill is the EarthFix reporter at KUOW. Eilís (eye-LEASH) fell in love with radio as a 14-year-old high school intern at KUOW. Since then, she’s wandered the world recording people’s stories and telling them on the air. She’s worked at KALW in San Francisco and WAMU in D.C.; she’s freelanced for public radio programs such as The World and Marketplace from places such as Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile; and she’s written for The Nation and other magazines.

Eilís has a degree in English and Spanish from Oberlin College and a master’s degree in science, environment and health journalism from Columbia University.

Ways to Connect

Protesters call for the removal of dams on the Snake River to help salmon spawn -- and consequently feed Puget Sound orcas. The protest came outside a meeting of the governor's orca task force in Wenatchee on Tuesday.
KUOW photo/Eilis O'Neill

In late July, an orca calf died within half an hour of its birth. The mother carried the dead calf on her head for more than a week.

Now whale scientists and NOAA are weighing trying to feed live Chinook salmon to an emaciated 4-year-old orca or trying to inject her with an antibiotic.

Citizen scientists count butterflies on Sauk Mountain, in the North Cascades.
Eilís O'Neill/KUOW-EarthFix Photo

Jean Bradbury lives in northeast Seattle. She’s an artist, and she loves swallowtail butterflies.

“These guys are big—like we think of a monarch, maybe—big like the palm of your hand,” Bradbury says. “They’re pale bright yellow. Very, very beautiful.”

She says she hasn't seen many swallowtail butterflies in Seattle before, but this summer she sees them every day.


A fish-friendly culvert in Washington state.
Flickr Photo/Washington DNR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/cCuMVy

A tie in the U.S. Supreme Court may cost Washington state $2 billion.

The court split 4-4 Monday in a long-running court battle between tribes and the state over salmon-blocking road culverts.


The Trump administration wants to slash the federal government’s biggest source of funds for conservation on private land. Here's what you need to know:

1. That funding is found in a surprising place: the Farm Bill.

Nationally, Farm Bill programs conserve about 50 million acres of land. For scale, that's more than half the entire acreage of the National Park system.

There’s a whole suite of conservation programs in the Farm Bill, but most of them do one of two things.

Rep. Joan McBride worries about what she's helping her children put in their bodies whenever she takes them to get a hamburger and fries.

And it's not the fatty meat or processed carbs that has her so concerned.

"Potentially those little pieces of paper wrapping up the hamburger had chemicals that potentially migrate into our bodies," said McBride, a lawmaker whose Washington House district includes the city of Kirkland.

Far more farmed salmon escaped from a collapsed net pen in Puget Sound than was first reported, according to a just-finished state investigation that lays much of the blame on the fish farm's operator.

On Tuesday, three Washington state agencies released their investigation into what happened when the Cooke Aquaculture salmon farm collapsed last August on Cypress Island north of Anacortes. The departments of Ecology, Natural Resources, and Fish and Wildlife conducted the investigation.

Ash Grove Cement Company is shown on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Yet another building with 400 offices, first-floor retail space, and underground parking is going up in Seattle’s South Lake Union.

One of the primary ingredients for the building is concrete. As each concrete truck empties its contents into the site, a new one pulls up: that’s a truckload of concrete every five minutes.

Ely Thomas, 7, runs from water spilling over a set of stairs that normally lead to the beach during a King Tide at Alki Beach Park on Friday, January 5, 2018, in West Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tom and Marie Cawrse live on the far east side of Port Townsend, on the northeast point of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, right on the beach. 

Since their house was built three decades ago, ice caps have been melting and the ocean's been expanding as it warms up.


The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s targeting a former creosote plant in the Seattle suburb of Renton for “immediate attention.”

The Quendall Terminals, on the southern shore of Lake Washington, joins Oregon’s Portland Harbor on the EPA's list of 21 Superfund sites across the country for expedited cleanup and redevelopment.

This is the final part in a series on the future of fish farming in the Pacific Northwest. Read part 1 here.

Inside a chilly warehouse on the north end of Vancouver Island, eight giant tanks are lit with swimming pool lights. These are fish tanks — some of the biggest fish tanks around. Every so often the glistening back of a fish surfaces.

This is the first part in a series on the future of fish farming in the Pacific Northwest. Read the second part here.

The Hope Island Fish Farm floats in the middle of Puget Sound, about a 15-minute boat ride from Whidbey Island’s Deception Pass. Narrow metal walkways surround giant nets anchored to the bottom of the sound. Those nets hold thousands of Atlantic salmon--though it’s difficult to see them till they jump.

Last year, five activists from the Pacific Northwest shut off pipelines bringing oil into the US from Canada. All five were arrested and charged with various felonies and misdemeanors. Now, a development in one of their trials could set a new precedent for cases in which climate change activists have been arrested for acts of civil disobedience.

What happened that day in October of 2016?

In 2015, University of Washington biologist Elli Theobald and her fellow researchers caught a glimpse of the future.

"The climate conditions in that year happened to mimic what we expect the climate conditions to be in the 2080s under unabated climate change," Theobald says.

Different flower species responded differently to the hot, dry weather. Some flowered a little earlier. Others flowered a lot earlier. Some flowered for a shorter time. And others flowered for a longer time.

The Pacific Northwest was once a coal mining powerhouse.

In the late 1800s, The area around Oregon’s Coos Bay had over 70 coal mines. Later, Washington’s biggest coal mine in Centralia supplied the Bonneville Power Administration with electricity.

Steve and Sandy Swanson were in a festive mood. It was an early December day and their house was ready for Christmas.

 “We already had our Christmas tree up,” Swanson remembers. “The house looked beautiful.”

 But, then, a representative of the Navy knocked on the door of their home on top of a ridge on Whidbey Island,

 “She walked in, and she seemed genuinely moved by the bad news she was going to have to tell us,” Swanson says.

On the ferry ride from Washington to British Columbia ten activists sang songs they’d written about the water surrounding them: the Salish Sea.

They were crossing the international border for a combination march and ferry ride that would take them from Victoria to Vancouver. Their goal was to protest the expansion of a Canadian oil pipeline.