Evidence suggests harmful algae blooms impact species from humans to whales

first_imgClimate Change | Fisheries | Nation & World | Oceans | Public Safety | Southwest | WildlifeEvidence suggests harmful algae blooms impact species from humans to whalesJanuary 30, 2017 by Johanna Eurich, KYUK-Bethel Share:A beached fin whale in the upper Knik Arm on June 21, 2016. (Photo by Christopher Garner/JBER biologist)There is growing evidence that harmful algae blooms have widespread health impacts on everything from humans to whales.When fin whales were found floating dead in Alaska’s oceans and stranded on beaches last year, some researchers suspected that toxic algae blooms might have been responsible.According to Nicholas Pyenson, a paleo-biologist and curator of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s fossil marine mammal collection, it would not be the first time such a thing may have occurred.He points to a huge graveyard of 900-year-old fossilized whales recently discovered in Chile.“Something else about this site, there’s not just whales there; there’s dolphins, early seals. That’s what we call a multi-species stranding event,” Pyenson said. “So this happened many times. Harmful algal blooms are the only explanation that really explains why we have the profile of death that we see at this site.”Pyenson said that the red halo of iron they found around the bones is a telltale sign of toxic algae blooms.“So we do have a candidate; a smoking gun. Could it have been domoic acid? Sure, but dinoflagellates red tide is, I think, probably the most likely explanation,” he said.That’s the same red tide that closes clam beaches today when it occurs in Alaska, something that has been happening more frequently as a result of our warming seas.It’s not just whales that are suffering.Kathi Lefebvre with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center said that marine mammals, like sea lions, are being found with the beginnings of seizures from harmful algae blooms associated with red tide.“You may or may not know, but on the central California coast we get dozens to hundreds of sea lions each year coming onto beaches, having seizures, and suffering from domoic acid poisoning,” Lefebvre said.NOAA scientists found evidence of memory loss and excitability in the sea lions that did not die from that exposure. That led them to wonder if the same thing was happening to humans who consume things like razor clams.“Pacific Northwest recreational and tribal communities subsistence harvest razor clams, which we know retain low levels of toxins below the regulatory limit for up to a year or more after the bloom,” Lefebvre said. “So that we know that populations are exposed to that.”Lefebvre and her colleagues exposed laboratory mice to low levels of domoic acid and trained them to run through mazes. At first they saw no effects, but after six months the change was striking.“Exposed mice simply did not learn,” Lefebvre said. “This big of an effect just completely shocked us. Doing chronic exposures is really risky, because a lot of times you don’t see something, so this was a pretty dramatic effect; way more than we had expected.”More study is needed to understand the effects on humans, but Lefebre points out that existing standards are based on one-time high exposures that can cause seizures and permanent brain damage.The good news is that the kind of effects showing up in laboratory mice from long-term low exposure can be reversible.How does this relate to beached whales?Even if the exposure to domoic acid wasn’t high enough to kill them, memory loss could have still made it tough to navigate.Share this story:last_img read more

Watch: Gov. Bill Walker delivers 2018 State of the State

first_imgJuneau | State GovernmentWatch: Gov. Bill Walker delivers 2018 State of the StateJanuary 8, 2018 by Tripp J Crouse, KTOO Share:Gov. Bill Walker delivers his annual State of the State address from the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau at 7 p.m. Thursday.Come back to this post at 7 p.m. for a live stream of Gavel Alaska coverage. Or watch on 360 North television, which is available in Juneau over the air on channel 3.3, or on cable and satellite.You can listen to coverage here on KTOO and over the air.Watch our 7-minute recap of the address #aksots TweetsShare this story:last_img read more

National Weather Service issues high wind warning for Juneau area

first_imgJuneau | Public Safety | WeatherNational Weather Service issues high wind warning for Juneau areaFebruary 2, 2018 by Tripp J Crouse, KTOO Share:Update | 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018The National Weather Service canceled the high wind warning for Juneau shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday.Update | 8:50 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018The National Weather Service extends high wind warning until 6 p.m. Sunday.Original story | 10:51 a.m. Friday, Feb. 2, 2018The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning for the Juneau area. It’s in effect till 6 p.m. Saturday.Meteorologist intern Sharon Sullivan says the weather service is expecting near 65 mph winds tonight in downtown Juneau and Douglas.“Typically with these Taku winds, they can reach hurricane force and that’s currently what we are experiencing,” Sullivan said. “I think we’re estimating that the highest wind gusts are supposed to occur near tonight.”Pedestrian commuters this morning near the Federal Building experienced 50 mph wind gusts.“We actually had several strong gusts that were experienced this morning, near the Douglas Boat Harbor,” she said. “It got up to 70 mph.”It will continue to be windy tomorrow and tomorrow afternoon.“Any loose objects can be blown around, especially boats, those need to tied down as well,” Sullivan said. “There could be power outages that may be possible in some areas. Definitely bringing the pets in as well.The weather service recorded other notable wind speeds including:Cape Spencer (at the mouth of Cross Sound): 76 mphPortland Island (about 3.25 miles south of Point Lena) : 67 mphOut on Thane Road: 54 mphSullivan said Hoonah and Gustavus can expect lighter, 10 to 20 mph winds. Both will be partly cloudy and cold into tonight.Share this story:last_img read more

Park Service will not attempt recovery of wreckage in Denali National Park

first_imgInterior | Search & Rescue | Tourism | TransportationPark Service will not attempt recovery of wreckage in Denali National ParkAugust 11, 2018 by Corinne Smith, KTNA-Talkeetna Share:The wreckage of a de Havilland Beaver is seen near the summit of Thunder Mountain, about 14 miles southwest of the Denali summit. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)National Park Service says recovering the five deceased aboard a flightseeing plane that crashed Aug. 4 in Denali National Park and Preserve and removal of the aircraft exceed an acceptable level of risk and will not be attempted.The de Havilland Beaver, operated by K2 Aviation and flown by pilot Craig Layson, was carrying four Polish passengers when it crashed near the summit of Thunder Mountain, roughly 14 miles southwest of the summit of Denali.At the request of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles, Park Service will not release the names of the passengers.The crash site includes multiple hazards, including avalanche danger, crevasses, unstable blocks of ice loosely attached to the mountain, and aircraft-related concerns such as protruding pieces of jagged metal.The wreckage sits in a crevasse.The aircraft is broken in half behind the wing and the tail section of the fuselage is pulling the aircraft down the steep slope.The focus of recovery efforts has been on the safety of personnel, the stability of the aircraft, and the complexity of possible recovery operations, the National Park Service said in a news release.Share this story:last_img read more

Bear viewing industry brings in millions of dollars to Southcentral’s economy, study says

first_imgEnvironment | Outdoors | Southcentral | Tourism | WildlifeBear viewing industry brings in millions of dollars to Southcentral’s economy, study saysMay 18, 2019 by Renee Gross, KBBI Share:McNeil River is one of the largest gatherings of brown bears in the world. (Photo by Carl Chapman)On the edge of bear viewing season, a first-of-its-kind study finds that the industry brings in millions of dollars to Southcentral Alaska’s economy.University of Alaska Fairbanks economics professor Joseph Little is one of the authors of the study:“In general we find that remote access bear viewing actually supports quite a bit in terms of economic contribution,” he said. “So we estimate about $34 million in sales. That would also extend to about $19 million in value added to the regional economy.”Little and a graduate student worked together to produce the report assessing businesses tied into bear viewing such as lodges, air taxis and guides.“We had a number of service providers indicate that bear viewing related revenues, that is them taking people out to, say Katmai or McNeil River, add anywhere up to 80 percent of their associated revenues tied to bear viewing,” he said. “So it’d be very important to a lot of small local businesses in terms of their financial viability.”Little adds the industry has been growing. He says that Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in particular has seen an increase in visitors over the past few years.He says he doesn’t know whether this most recent report will be reproduced annually and says both he and his students may assess other aspects of the industry, such as the impact that online bear viewing has on actual visitation.Some are using Little’s economic study to oppose the Army Corps of Engineers draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine. They say that the draft statement does not do enough to address the project’s impact on bear populations and the local tourist economy.Share this story:last_img read more

Former Kake man, back in Alaska, arraigned on murder charge

first_imgCrime & Courts | Juneau | SoutheastFormer Kake man, back in Alaska, arraigned on murder chargeJanuary 9, 2020 by Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg Share:A former Kake man is back in Alaska and has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge for a 2017 death in that Southeast Alaska community.Isaac David Friday, 27, is facing one charge of murder in the first degree for the death of 19-year-old Jade Williams. An indictment by a Sitka grand jury alleges Friday caused Williams’ death on Aug. 15, 2017, in Kake.Friday is in custody at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau. He was arrested in Washington state in December.Friday was arraigned via telephone in Ketchikan Tuesday in front of Superior Court Judge William Carey. The judge appointed a public defender for Friday, who entered a plea of “not guilty” for his client. Carey agreed to keep Friday’s bail amount at $500,000.The judge tentatively set another hearing date for Feb. 25.Share this story:last_img read more

Veteran lawmaker Jay Kerttula remembered as mentor, statesman and father

first_imgJuneau | State GovernmentVeteran lawmaker Jay Kerttula remembered as mentor, statesman and fatherNovember 21, 2020 by Adelyn Baxter, KTOO Share:In this undated photo, former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford leans back to hear from former Senate President Jay Kerttula. The inscription reads “Beth — This is how I learned everything I know.” (Photo courtesy of Kerttula family collection)Alaska state flags were lowered to half-mast Friday in honor of Jalmar “Jay” Kerttula, the only state legislator to serve as both senate president and speaker of the house.Those who knew Kerttula best remember him for his warmth and humor as much as his many political accomplishments.Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/2020/11/20JayKerttula.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Remembrances and tributes for Jay Kerttula,92, poured out following the news of his death on Nov. 13.The lifelong Democrat represented Palmer in the Alaska Legislature from shortly after statehood well into the 1990s.He played a major role in the formation of state government and the Permanent Fund and was, until recently, the longest-serving legislator in state history.Former state Senate President Rick Halford, a Republican, remembers Jay as a friend and teacher who never hesitated to reach across the aisle.“Our working relationship started out on opposite sides. But as is often the case, we learn the most from the people we think we disagree with,” Halford said. “I got a lot of great lessons from him, some of which I didn’t want to learn at the time.”Gov. Bill Egan signs a bill by Rep. Jay Kerttula, holding his daughter Anna, into law. Also pictured, wife Joyce Kerttula and daughter Beth Kerttula. (Uncredited photo via Alaska House Democrats)Along with other state leaders, Halford credits Jay with working to ensure Alaska got its share of oil revenue, despite political opposition.“Without their efforts, we wouldn’t have had the financial resources on which the Permanent Fund is based,” he said.And of course, Halford added, no picture of Jay is complete without his wife, Joyce, who died in 2015.She worked by Jay’s side throughout his legislative career, running his office behind the scenes.Their daughter, Beth Kerttula, represented Juneau in the Alaska House for 15 years. She didn’t realize how important her parents’ working relationship was until she got elected.“When I got in office, myself, what I understood deeply is how much freedom that gave my father to just do politics and be a legislator, because my mother had it all under control,” Beth Kerttula said.On his last day in the Legislature, Halford gave his friend’s daughter a photo of himself and Jay conferring during a past session. Jay is ever the mentor, leaning in to whisper some piece of advice in Halford’s ear.Halford left a message on the photo: “Beth – This is how I learned everything I know.” It sits on her desk to this day.Beth and her sister, Anna Kerttula de Echave, grew up splitting their time between Palmer and Juneau, going to school in both places.Anna ended up getting diplomas from both high schools.Both of them also followed in their parents’ political footsteps.After leaving the Legislature, Beth became the Director of the National Ocean Council under President Barack Obama. Anna worked for years on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and is now program director of the Arctic Social Science Program at the National Science Foundation.Jay Kerttula and his daughter Beth Kerttula during lunch in Juneau in February 2020. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)Beth said, despite dementia, her father kept his sense of humor to the end.She thinks that humor may have developed out of necessity. As a child, Jay and his family migrated from Minnesota to join the Matanuska Valley Colony. The New Deal-era program brought farmers from the Midwest to Alaska — but self-sufficiency in the state was hard, and most failed.Jay’s family managed to establish a successful farm against the odds. He remained a lifelong farmer.“That enabled him past a lot of hardship, a lot of trouble and, and also to join other people and he could defuse anger or defuse bad things pretty quickly, through that amazing sidestep that having a great sense of humor will do for you.”Because of the pandemic, Beth said her family will hold off on funeral services for now.“Then we’ll have a memorial and I’ll let everyone know so they can all come tell the funny, wonderful, sad sometimes, but great stories about my dad, and my mother,” she said.She knows her dad would have liked that.Share this story:last_img read more

LISTEN: Katie Hurley remembered for charisma, energy and love for Alaska

first_imgAging | Government | HealthLISTEN: Katie Hurley remembered for charisma, energy and love for AlaskaFebruary 24, 2021 by Alaska Public Media Share:Katie Hurley at a Portland, Oregon long-term-care facility, in her late 90s. Among many state government and political offices she held, Hurley was the head clerk at the Alaska Constitutional Convention. She died Feb. 21, 2021 at the age of 99. (Hurley family photo)Alaskans are mourning the loss of one of the last remaining participants in the crafting of the state Constitution, Katie Hurley, who died Sunday at the age of 99.Hurley was a longtime assistant to territorial Governor Ernest Gruening, the chief clerk at the Alaska Constitutional Convention, and, later, a state legislator, among many other roles.Hurley’s daughter, Susie Derrera, says her mother was principled and had a knack for taking on responsibility early in life, and her energy and charisma were on full display during her time working on Alaska’s foundational document.Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff March 30, in honor of what would have been Hurley’s 100th birthday.LISTEN HERE:Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/23-Susie-Derrera-int-FULL.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Share this story:last_img read more

Juneau’s suburbs are putting a lot of stuff down the drain that they shouldn’t

first_imgBusiness | Environment | JuneauJuneau’s suburbs are putting a lot of stuff down the drain that they shouldn’tApril 14, 2021 by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO Share:The Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant discharges treated wastewater into the Mendenhall River through this pipe, which is visible when the river is low, on March 23, 2021. Wastewater officials say the foaming phenomena is likely the result of turbulence in the water coming out of a diffuser at low tides. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/JNUSEWAGE2-NPR-One.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Near the beginning of the popular Airport Dike Trail, a big pipe juts into the Mendenhall River. Ducks quack and do laps near the gurgling pipe, which is exposed when the river is low. If the ducks could read the sign up on the river bank, they’d know they’re swimming around in water straight from Juneau’s biggest sewage treatment plant.“I would not let my dog play in that water,” said Guy Archibald, a wastewater expert and staff scientist with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.Most of Juneau relies on the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant to process sewage. But the facility has struggled in recent years to keep the treated water it pipes into the Mendenhall River clean enough for environmental regulators.City-hired wastewater experts figured out some of the problems. But one mystery is why a system that serves roughly 20,000 people is producing sewage they’d expect from about 50,000.There are several regulated pollutants the plant isn’t consistently meeting its discharge limits on. The one that’s a direct concern for people’s health is a bacteria called fecal coliform.“Fecal coliform in and of itself can cause illness,” Archibald said. “But the fecal coliform test is actually — they call it an indicator organism.”Meaning, if there’s fecal coliform in the water, that’s a strong indication that other, more harmful bacteria and viruses are, too.On some days in recent years, the plant has piped water into the river with fecal coliform levels two, three and four times the permitted limit. On one day in December 2018, it was 156 times its permitted limit.Archibald said he isn’t necessarily worried his dog would get sick — our canine companions are pretty resilient to stomach bugs that harm people.“But again, that dog comes out, then it jumps into the backseat of your car, maybe next to where you have your child strapped down in the car seat, you know?” he said.Public health officials track outbreaks of many illnesses, including those associated with fecal coliform. Fortunately, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services spokesperson Clinton Bennett said none have been identified or reported in Juneau over the last several years associated with what’s coming out of that pipe.Juneau wastewater engineer Lori Sowa said the fecal coliform discharge violations occurred when the plant was in an “upset.” That could mean the amount of sewage coming into the plant ramped up abruptly. If there’s too much, too fast, the plant has to spend less time treating wastewater that comes into it.Or it could mean a “slug” of especially nasty sewage hit the plant, like fats, oils and greases, medical waste, chemicals, food waste, even beer when something goes wrong at the Alaskan Brewing Company — more on that later. That stuff can disrupt the balanced conditions the helpful microbes at the plant need to grow and consume the sewage quickly.Ryan Hosman is a senior wastewater operator, and he’s pretty into his job. During a tour of the plant, he said he got into the field about 10 years ago.“I was a manager of Pizza Hut. … Somebody asked me the question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ And I just — it really hit me, and I was like, ‘Wow. Not doing this!’” he said with a laugh.Senior wastewater operator Ryan Hosman shows four samples of wastewater collected from different stages of treatment at the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant in Juneau on March 23, 2021. The stuff settling in the second sample isn’t raw sewage, but activated sludge, a community of microbes that grows in and eats raw sewage. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)At a lab on site, he preps a slide with a few drops of cloudy, partially treated sewage.Under the microscope, he identifies helpful and harmful single-celled organisms squiggling around.Senior wastewater operator Ryan Hosman spot checks for microbiology under a microscope in a sample of wastewater at the lab at the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant on March 23, 2021. Hosman said he’s basically a bug farmer: he tries to make the conditions ideal in wastewater to keep certain naturally occurring microbes that eat sewage happy. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)“So you can see some of the ciliates crawling around here. … And then here’s rod-shaped bacteria right here, kind of swimming around. … So right here, we see a limicola strand. Those are one of the undesirable microorganisms,” Hosman explains.Spot checks like this happen daily. It’s one of many pieces of information that may signal a need to tweak dissolved oxygen levels, the concentration of solids, water levels or the ratio of microbes to sewage in the mix.“We’re basically just no other than bug farmers, right?” he said from a catwalk overlooking some of the treatment basins. “I mean, ‘cause there’s hundreds, hundreds of different types of microorganisms down there. And we want to try to select just a small group of them.”Senior wastewater operator Ryan Hosman explains how one of the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant’s eight sequencing batch reactors treats wastewater on March 23, 2021. Also pictured: Wastewater engineer Lori Sowa. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)Tweaking their environment doesn’t have an immediate effect.“If you wait to correct the problem — it’s too late. Because it’s microbiology,” Hosman said. “When you make a change, it takes a few days for it to take effect. … It’s kind of like trying to stop a cruise ship. It’s just not going to stop on the dot, or make a 180 right away, you know?”City-hired wastewater experts with Tetra Tech identified some issues with regular operations at the plant that contributed to discharge violations. For example, the ultraviolet lights that disinfect the outgoing water needed to be cleaned and changed more often.Tetra Tech also found a big picture problem on the other end of the pipes — Juneau’s putting more than twice the organic matter down the drain than expected from the population served. It’s too much for the plant. And it isn’t entirely clear why there’s so much.The experts’ best guess is industrial users. Alaskan Brewing Co. is one known source of shock loads.Geoff Larson is a co-founder of the brewery, which is one the city’s biggest water and wastewater customers. He’s also held an industry seat on the city’s utility advisory board since it started in 2003. The board has helped write policies to get the city’s wastewater system on better financial footing and plan long-term for capital projects.Larson said the brewing company is committed to working in good faith with the city’s utilities.“From the very beginning we established a rapport, so to speak, to be able to make sure that one of the most vital parts of our infrastructure — that service that we have to have, which is water and wastewater treatment — could be provided most efficiently by the city,” Larson said.That’s part of why the brewery is in the Lemon Creek area, to be physically close to the wastewater treatment plant.Larson said if things go awry at the brewery, they’ll call the treatment plant and give the operators a heads up. For example, he said a valve failed on a tank a few years ago that sent a slug of beer gushing down the drain.Larson said the brewery also installed surge tanks to make its discharges more consistent and easier to treat. And they separate and dispose of some of the solids in their wastewater before it goes down the drain.“Again, that comes from the dialogue of, ‘What do you need from us? What can we do to help?’” he said.But overall, the wastewater experts said oversight of industrial users in Juneau is “deficient.” Tetra Tech named only two other known significant users: Capitol Disposal Landfill and Bartlett Regional Hospital.There are likely more in the plant’s service area putting tough-to-treat waste down the drain. But the last time the city put together a complete list was in 2002.The city has promised the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation that it will have a fresh industrial user survey done by the end of May.Another known problem with the city’s sewage infrastructure is rain. Decades ago, it was normal for storm drains to pipe right into the sewer system. Building codes and practices have changed so stormwater is not supposed to go to treatment plants anymore. But some stormwater systems are still improperly tied into the system. And rainwater has other unintentional ways of getting into the pipes.Wastewater engineer Lori Sowa said rainwater usually dilutes the wastewater stream. But storms can also send slugs of solids that had settled in the pipes their way. Amid the record storm in December, for example, the plant processed 6.1 million gallons of wastewater in one day, about three times a typical day.The city’s committed to examining this phenomenon beginning this summer into 2024 with new flow meters throughout the collection system.These are a few of many deadlines in the agreement the city signed with regulators to clean up its wastewater system. Other deadlines go out to 2025. There will be more in-depth studies, evaluations of other treatment technologies and facility upgrades, and new strategies for managing both what goes down the drain and how to treat it.In the final story in KTOO’s deep dive on sewage, we’ll find out about governance issues that let these violations stack up, and how Juneau’s officials intend to fix them.Share this story:last_img read more

‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Season 10, Episode 14 Recap:…

first_imgTVUncategorized‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Season 10, Episode 14 Recap: Dancing the SceneryAn all-star evening kicked off the Top 10, packing an emotional punch.By Renee Camus – August 14, 2013806ShareEmailFacebookTwitterPinterestReddItWhat an exciting, emotional night. SYTYCD’s Top 10 dancers continue to impress, growing and expanding to match the level of the all-stars they worked with. The choreographers were on fire, and the judges were all cheers and accolades—perhaps too much. Do they choose to be nice in the final weeks? Nigel isn’t usually one to pull punches.The evening started with an innovative rocking chair group number that would scare any cat—and probably worried a few dancers and audience members. Christopher Scott is quickly becoming one of our favorite choreographers, which is not an easy statement to make on a night like last night.Cat Deeley, looking as gorgeous as ever, introduced our judges, Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, and guest judge Debbie Allen, and then brought out the Top 10. After weeks of sharing their quick eight counts with a partner, they finally got the short time all to themselves, using it to show not just their ability but their personality. They were all adorable.On to the bad news, which wasn’t as bad as it has been in weeks past. There were no injuries this week and Tucker’s knee infection has healed. Also, there were only four dancers in jeopardy instead of six. But the results were disappointing: Tucker faced automatic jeopardy because of his injured status last week, along with Nico (our favorite), Jenna, and Makenzie. The judges still don’t understand why these two ladies keep ending up in the bottom, and Nigel chose not to have any of the dancers perform solos, feeling that we had seen them all dance before. While it’s lovely to see them dance, especially doing their own style, it’s also kind of Nigel to give them a rest. The judges ultimately chose to save Jenna again, eliminating Makenzie with a difficult six to nine vote, while they unanimously saved Tucker and sent Nico home. Wah.It’s so exciting to watch the contestants pair up with the all-stars. It’s great to see the veterans dance again, and it forces the competitors to stretch and grow. We look forward to seeing the challenges they face next week when the all-stars will also be choreographing.Amy and all-star Brandon blasted off in a puff of glitter with the first Disco routine of the season. Choreographer Doriana Sanchez again mixed hustle steps with crazy lifts and tricks that Brandon and Amy attacked mercilessly. The first few lifts looked labored but the duo got into a groove (see what we did there?) executing a gorgeous assisted attitude turn and a thrilling arabesque lift. Nigel called Amy vivacious and sparkling, which is absolutely true. She shone and twinkled as brightly as her sequined dress.Aaron paired up with all-star Kathryn for a Stacey Tookey contemporary routine. We were interested to see Aaron outside of Jasmine’s brilliant shadow, and while he was a wonderfully supportive partner to the constantly falling and literally needy Kathryn, he didn’t really have much to do on his own in this routine.Fik-Shun felt a special kind of pressure as the contestant to dance with former Season 8 winner Melanie. While all the all-stars are brilliant dancers (there’s a reason they’re called “all-stars”), Melanie is the only former winner in the lot—and she’s a difficult one to keep up with. She has such sharpness and flash, it’s near impossible not to watch her. Fik-Shun matched her pretty closely and even stole focus from her now and again. Mandy Moore’s fantastic choreography was sexy without being crass and illustrated the competition between the two dancers, particularly with Fik-Shun’s final jump forcing Melanie to succumb. Debbie said, “They call you Fik-Shun, but that was real.” Fik-Shun let his personality shine not only during the performance but also afterward, explaining to Cat that Melanie was on fire and he had to put her out.Paul, an old man in the competition, celebrated his 22nd birthday in style—his own style, in fact. He finally showed off the Latin Ballroom skills that got him on the show in “introverted” (read: wacky) Jean-Marc Genereux’s cha-cha with all-star Witney. While they were off to a rollicking start, the energy waned a bit and they didn’t quite gel as a couple; he definitely out-danced her. The judges, however, loved it. Debbie was right: His double tour was beautiful and Nigel again mentioned that Paul could take home the whole prize. Yes, Paul definitely had a better birthday than if he had been a contestant on Top Chef.The set designers worked overtime on tonight’s show with at least six of the ten numbers requiring heavy-duty set-up. Hayley’s hip-hop routine with all-star Twitch was no exception with a table, chairs, and too many props (we got nervous and distracted when the cup of pencils tipped over and spilled). Chris Scott’s subtle but entertaining choreography accentuated the rhythms in Bruno Mars’s great song, and Hayley held her own against Twitch, though it’s difficult to steal focus from him.All-star Neil returned from New York after starring in the fantastic Bring It On: The Musical on Broadway to perform a Mandy Moore contemporary routine with Jenna. Among a sea of tea lights, the dancers took flight with several gorgeous lifts. Nigel called Jenna one of the best all-around dancers to start as a ballroom dancer (that qualifies things a bit), and Debbie said she dances “with the power of the ocean,” sometimes it crashes and sometimes it’s gentle. Mary made jokes about food.Jasmine practically outshined all-star Marko in a wonderful Ray Leeper jazz routine. The dancers maintained a very Michael Jackson vibe to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and they preserved the perfect unison throughout most of the routine. They were tight and together but her sharpness made it difficult to watch Marko. As brilliant as she was, Marko had more levels, varying his approaches to the steps according to the character he was playing: starting out subdued, almost like Fosse’s “Rich Man’s Frug,” then letting loose for the bigger movements, and bringing it back in for the ending walk. What a great routine, not lost in heavy concept but featuring fun, energetic dancing.Makenzie danced a Spencer Liff Broadway routine with all-star Jakob, and all we could say was, “Wow! Feet!” As Nigel mentioned, they both have the most incredible feet, and Spencer showcased them beautifully. As he mentioned to us afterward, Makenzie really does have feet strong enough to point through her character shoes, which is surprisingly difficult to do. Nigel called Makenzie “one of the best dancers we’ve ever had on the show” (not nearly as qualified a statement as what he told Jenna).Nico and all-star Comfort literally channeled their inner reptile-brain in a NappyTabs hip-hop with a strong Jurassic Park vibe. What a bizarre, ridiculous (in a good way) concept for a dance, but certainly entertaining. Belly laughs abound. Wearing glitter camouflage and hanging from a green cargo net, Nico embraced his freaky side. Tabitha and Napoleon choreograph for the camera as well as the live audience, taking advantage of those close-up moments.Closing the evening on a powerful note and driving Mary to a puddle of tears, Tucker danced a Travis Wall contemporary number with all-star Robert. How unexpected to see the two men dancing together. It’s almost sad there weren’t more similar pairings throughout the evening. Travis’s piece of brotherly love (apparently about his brother, season three runner-up Danny Tidwell, though we don’t know exactly why) celebrated second chances and being there for one another. Tucker and Robert, who had both recovered from near-fatal car crashes, poured their entire souls into it. They lost the unison a bit at one point, but the emotional impact made up for any technical setbacks. “Dance is the most amazing art in the world,” Debbie said. “We can convey every emotion.” Many of us are so grateful for SYTYCD bringing this power directly to our living rooms. TAGSDanceDebbie AllenEpisodeFoxL.A CultureMary MurphyNigel LythgoeReality ShowRecapSo You Think You Can DanceSpencer LiffSYTYCDTelevisionPrevious articleRecipe: Mohawk Bend’s Smoked Shorty PizzaNext articleCityDig: L.A. For Visitors!Renee Camus RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR‘Magic Is Important’: Debbie Allen on Bringing Her ‘Hot Chocolate Nutcracker’ to NetflixIn Supremely Boomer Move, Fox Applies to Trademark the Phrase ‘OK, Boomer’The Holiday Season Officially Starts with These L.A. Tree Lighting Eventslast_img read more