February 20, 2014#

National Geographic: Elvis the Dog Sniffs Out Pregnant Polar Bears

Elvis screenshot

For polar bear pregnancy tests, it’s all about the poop. Elvis the beagle is helping zoos around the country figure out if their polar bears are pregnant, and he gets it right 97 percent of the time. But Elvis has never met a polar bear. Instead, he sniffs samples sent to him from zoos around the country, anxious to know whether they can expect a little cub or not.

Dogs are trained to sniff out all kinds of things, from illegal wildlife to cancer to pesky insects. 

A chocolate Labrador retriever named Papa Bear and a golden retriever named Bretagne are even trained to let diabetics know when their sugar levels are too high or too low, according to ABC News.

But when Kansas-based dog trainer Matt Skogen received an email from a conservation expert at the Cincinnati Zoo asking him to help figure out if the zoo’s polar bears were pregnant, he was caught off guard.

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July 17, 2013#

The Atlantic: In Autism, the Importance of the Gut

Atlantic screenshot

Michael, an autistic boy living in New York City, started scratching and picking at his face when he was about seven years old. Before long, he was gnawing on the side of his thumb. Along the bottom of his stomach, he tore cuts so deep that they scarred.

Over the next five years, a series of psychiatrists prescribed psychotropic medications to correct the self-mutilation. But nothing seemed to help. By age 12, he’d been taken out of school because he was a constant disruption. Though his parents wanted him to live at home, they decided he could be better cared for in a residential facility.

As they prepared to move Michael to the group home, his family was referred to Dr. Kara Margolis. Margolis, 36, is a pediatric gastroenterologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a researcher at Columbia University Medical Center. She speaks with contagious enthusiasm and the slightest hint of a Brooklyn accent. By the time she met Michael, bloody scabs dotted his face, from the tender skin below his eyes to the tips of his ears. He’d chewed his thumb down nearly to the bone. There was blood everywhere, Margolis recalls as she describes their first visit. He screamed and paced the room throughout the brief exam.

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July 17, 2013#

Narratively: Five-star Soup Kitchen

Five-star Soup Kitchen

On the second Wednesday of each month, in the damp pre-dawn hours generally reserved for the city’s late-night revelers, David Garcelon rises for the day. By five o’clock, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, black apron tied on and coffee in hand, he takes his place as sous chef at St. Bart’s soup kitchen. Garcelon spends the early morning hours helping a crew of volunteers rinse and chop dozens of heads of lettuce and cabbage, then tomatoes, bell peppers and whatever other ingredients make up the daily salad. He slices open 102-ounce cans of green peas and sweet corn to pour into a bubbling vat of stew, which will stuff enough shepherd’s pie to feed the 150 or so homeless men and women who’ll be waiting at the door by seven a.m.

By 7:30, Garcelon removes his apron and crosses 50th Street, where the opulent 47-story Waldorf Astoria rises high above St. Bart’s dome. He enters the 1,413-room hotel, with its decadent Art Deco decor and crystal chandeliers. There, donning a crisp white hat and coat, he takes his place as the Director of Culinary, overseeing 148 chefs and cooks who serve more than 600,000 meals each year, visiting royals and heads of states among their guests. But when asked what he is most proud of about his work, Garcelon looks back across the street to the soup kitchen.

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September 19, 2012#

Candace Parker from Danielle Elliot on Vimeo.

[Director.Videographer.Producer.Editor] Part of an eight-part documentary series, this clip takes a look inside the life of one of 12 moms who competed for Team USA.

From April to November 2008, Candace Parker’s career skyrocketed. She won her second NCAA National Women’s Basketball Title with the University of Tennessee, was the No. 1 WNBA Draft Pick, won Olympic gold with Team USA in Beijing and earned WNBA Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. Then, just as she prepared to play overseas, she found out she was pregnant. What some women might see as a career roadblock, Parker embraced with enthusiasm. Her girly-girl Lailaa, 3, is always by her side and will be in London as Team USA looks to take home the gold.

February 9, 2012#

2012 U.S. Championships on NBC from Danielle Elliot on Vimeo.

[Field Producer/A.P.] The opening tease to the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, I interviewed three-time U.S. Champion Jeremy Abbott and rising star Adam Rippon, a pair of training partners whose rivalry is just starting to heat up.