Jennifer Pemberton

Reporter / Host

Jennifer Pemberton reports on community and the environment for Utah Public Radio. She also hosts the monthly program, The Source, and can sometimes be heard hosting Morning Edition or All Things Considered. Jennifer produced our special series on Utah water, Five Billion Gallons, and managed our community engagement reporting project on air pollution in Cache County: Having a Bad Air Day?

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and an MBA from Lund University in Sweden. A former ex-patriate living in Europe and Asia, Jennifer is happy to call the West home again. She is a fervent public radio fan and loves to hike in the summer and knit through the winter. Listen to her audio essays at RadioCalendar.org.

Ways To Connect

Pacificorp

Hydropower projects borrow water from rivers to create electricity, but while that water is impounded in reservoirs and forced into high pressure tubes, it’s temporarily unavailable for fun uses, like whitewater kayaking. Jennifer Pemberton has this story about prioritizing recreation on the Weber River.

At the diversion dam on the Weber River just a few miles up the canyon from the town of Ogden, the water just disappears. There’s a wide swollen reservoir backed up behind the dam, but downstream, there are a lot of exposed rocks with just a trickle of water running between. Because most of the river is in a concrete pipe.

Cr"Drought in Utah" by Anthony Quintano via Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/quintanomedia/)

<<Share Your Drought Insight>>

The lake level in the Great Salt Lake got so low last month that the sailboats in the marina all had to be removed until there’s enough water to sail again. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has already qualified two Utah counties as disaster areas due to drought. It seems like Utah is on the fringe of the worst of the Western drought, but we are not immune. 

Utah Public Radio is partnering with newsrooms across the country to see how everyday people are feeling the effect—or not—of the drought.

We'll use your insights for news coverage of the drought this summer and programs like Access Utah and The Source.

<<Share Your Drought Insight>>

Jennifer Pemberton

When water is left alone, it makes a mess. It backs up into wetlands. Rivers overflow their banks. Mud and silt builds up, new channels open up. But Elijah Portugal, who studies how rivers and streams shape the land, says that that mess is what rivers need to be functional. “Messiness matters,” he says.

In this program, we’ll meet some of the people who have been responsible for cleaning up rivers: the state and federal agencies responsible for controlling water -- for making sure it doesn’t slow down or back up, that it gets to where we need it as efficiently as possible. We’ll also meet people who appreciate the messiness of streams in their natural states -- it’s that messiness that creates great habitat for fish and birds and a host of other ecosystem benefits. And we’ll meet the creatures that mess up watersheds in the best possible way. The hour is all about Beavers and Dams.


The man who used to head the nation’s dam-building agency is now advocating for tearing them down. The Source’s Jennifer Pemberton talked to Dan Beard, author of Deadbeat Dams: Why We Should Abolish the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Tear Down Glen Canyon Dam.
 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has left an indelible mark on the West, helping homesteaders use the desert river systems to not only make themselves at home but also to create opportunity for their economic viability.

Jennifer Pemberton

It’s the fourth largest lake of its kind in the world, but the Great Salt Lake is often underappreciated in Utah. With the lake level within a foot or two of its record low, now is a good time to get to know the Great Salt Lake.

Over 7 million migratory birds stop at the lake each year, stocking up for their epic journeys across continents. Between the people who come to appreciate the birds and a handful of specialized industries, the lake brings in over a billion dollars for the state each year.

In this episode of The Source, we’ll hear from researchers and resource managers as well as residents and visitors to the Great Salt Lake. We’ll learn how close we are to actually losing the lake forever and some of the threats that are challenging it well beyond its usual ups and downs.


Jennifer Pemberton

<<Share Your Spiral Jetty Story>>

Robert Smithson's famous work of land art -- Spiral Jetty -- was completed in 1970. A few short years later, the artwork was inundated with a rising lake level of the Great Salt Lake and stayed mostly submerged for 30 years.

As Utah heads into a drought, the lake level has dropped to a historically low level, exposing the famous Jetty. Have you been there recently? Have you been out to the Great Salt Lake only to find that the Jetty was underwater? What else did you see when you were out there?

We're collecting your Spiral Jetty stories for our next episode of The Source. Share your stories with us online or come talk to host Jennifer Pemberton in person at our Spiral Jetty story booth after the Science Unwrapped presentation "Salty Metaphors" on March 20 at Utah State University.

<<Submit Your Spiral Jetty Story>>

Jennifer Pemberton

Inside every tree there’s enough information to keep researchers around the West busy for their entire careers. This week on the program, a look at dendroclimatology -- using tree rings to re-construct what the climate was like in Utah hundreds of years ago. Because looking at the state’s climate past is the best way to understand the future.

Jennifer Pemberton talks to plant and climate scientists about how they interpret the thousands of tiny rings that make up a tree’s life history into a full picture of the cycles of wet and dry Utah has seen over the past thousand years.


Jennifer Pemberton

By taking tree ring samples from thousands of trees around the West and determining how old each tree is and how many cycles of wet and dry each has been through, researchers are trying to create the clearest picture of climate in the West over the past several centuries and in turn, hopefully, an equally clear glimpse into the future. Jennifer Pemberton joined scientist Justin DeRose on a field trip to collect tree ring samples and sends this report.


Jennifer Pemberton

With less than a week left for Northern Utahns to comment on a proposed winter wood burning ban, the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) is acknowledging that the proposal will not move forward as written.

DAQ Director Bryce Bird told legislators on Monday that the overwhelming feedback received at public hearings in the seven affected northern Utah counties has made it obvious that the proposed rule needs to head in a different direction.

Jennifer Pemberton

On a cold and clear night in Logan there’s a low-hanging crescent moon, Venus is shining bright above the horizon, and on the side of the Caine Performance Hall on the main campus of Utah State University, there’s an animated waterfall of light. This is Particle Falls, a large-scale work of public art created by Andrea Polli. Polli was invited to display Particle Falls as part of ARTsySTEM, a semester long project initiative to integrate Art & Design with the STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.


Jennifer Pemberton

The opening of the general session of the state legislature sets the tone for the next 45 days.

The tone in the House of Representatives was emotional as Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, was sworn in to the spot vacated by former Speaker Becky Lockhart, who died after a short illness earlier this month.

Jennifer Pemberton

If it passes, it would be one of the strictest wood burning bans in the nation. State officials are accepting public comment on a proposed winter burn ban. UPR’s Jennifer Pemberton has this report on the overwhelming opposition expressed at Wednesday night’s public hearing in Logan.

In the simplest terms it’s the right to burn versus the right to breathe. At least that’s how those who oppose and support a seasonal ban on wood burning in Northern Utah are voicing it.

Governor Herbert tasked the state Air Quality Board with probing public opinion on the ban, which would prohibit use of all wood stoves in seven inversion-prone Utah counties from Nov. 1 to March 15 in an effort to limit winter air pollution.

At the public hearing Wednesday night in Logan the opposition was overwhelming. The sheriff’s office estimates there were 500 people trying to attend the hearing in the Cache County Courthouse with a capacity of 160.

State environmental officials are proposing a seasonal wood burning ban in seven northern Utah counties:  Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Tooele, and Weber. The ban could have an effect on winter air quality in our communities, so we want to know how you think the ban would affect you and if you support it.

<< Share Your Comments With Us >>

Democratic Party of Utah

The gathering of the Cache County Democrats was a party of one on election night. Jennifer Pemberton talked to Utah House District 5 candidate Jeff Turley shortly after the votes were tallied.


Jennifer Pemberton

As part of its Fireside Chat and Pizza series, the Institute of Government and Politics at Utah State University invited U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby to speak this week to students.

Judge Robert Shelby’s name is synonymous now with his December 2013 decision that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. His opinion in Kitchen v. Herbert made legal same-sex marriage a possibility for over a thousand Utahns and has been cited in some 30 other court rulings.

Jennifer Pemberton

Utah Governor Gary Herbert was in Cache Valley this week to hand deliver a check to the owner of Logan’s Caffe Ibis Coffee Roasting Company. The money will partially cover the cost of a piece of equipment that reduces the roaster’s emissions by 95 percent. Despite a tragic setback, the company’s efforts to clean up the air are proceeding at full speed.

When we think of things that produce air pollution, we think of things like cars and oil refineries. We don’t necessarily think of the giant oven that bakes goldfish-shaped crackers or the small cabinet shop on the edge of town or the local organic coffee roaster. But anything that burns creates particulate pollution -- so any effort to reduce air pollution in a community has to address individual contributions from our homes and our vehicles and the contributions of factories big and small.

Jennifer Pemberton

On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management and Utah State University signed an agreement to share research on air quality in the Uintah Basin. UPR’s Jennifer Pemberton traveled to Vernal to see how this agreement might make life easier for researchers trying to understand the mystery of wintertime ozone in the rural West. 

Ozone is associated with summer air pollution in populated places. Today in northeastern Utah, even within the city limits of Vernal, the air is clean. But almost everything about air pollution here is backwards.

Jennifer Pemberton

You're probably not thinking about the Arctic now that spring is here, but March is the month when the sea ice is at its maximum. UPR's Jennifer Pemberton flew over the Arctic this month and has this reflection on the season's melt and the more serious melt.


Beijing-SLC Connect

Utah’s winter air pollution often entices comparisons to Beijing, a city notorious for having off-the-chart smog levels, which is why a delegation of artists from China and Taiwan are in Salt Lake City this month to let Utah’s inversion inspire them. The project called “Beijing-SLC Connect” invites the artists to compare the pollution problems of these two cities through art.

inversion capitol
April Ashland / Utah Public Radio

The clean air community had high hopes for SB 164, which did not pass out of the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment committee on Tuesday. Jennifer Pemberton has more on the bill’s short life.


inversion capitol
April Ashland / Utah Public Radio

Two days ago the Capitol steps were full of protesters demanding that the legislature do something to clean up Utah’s air. Today the commotion was inside the chambers as the general legislature session opened. When asked what they’re hearing from constituents, majority and minority leaders in both the house and the senate said "air quality".

Jennifer Pemberton

Thousands of protesters turned up at the Utah State Capitol over the weekend for the “Clean Air, No Excuses” rally. UPR’s Jennifer Pemberton tells us why voters and activists are targeting lawmakers two days before the start of the general legislative session.


folkcostume.blogspot.com

When is a mitten not just a mitten? When UPR commentator Jennifer Pemberton is knitting it in the wake of the changing definition of legal marriage in Utah.

"Latvian women knitted hundreds of pairs of mittens and her dowry included an entire chestful of mittens to be distributed to her husband’s family, given not just to her new in-laws, but also to her husband’s family’s cows and pigs, the fruit trees, and even to inanimate objects like doorknobs and stables. A bride and groom even ate their wedding meal with their mittens on. Many a folk song tells of the foolish man who chooses a pretty hand over a warm one."

Jennifer Pemberton

Dozens of women with political ambition or at least curiosity, turned up at the Real Women Run training in Sandy over the weekend.

Real Women Run is a nonpartisan advocacy group that encourages women to run for public office in Utah. Because statistics show that women win elections at the same rate as men, but very few women run for office in the first place, especially in Utah, where they make up only 15 percent of the state legislature.

Gender isn’t the only way these women don’t fit the mold in Utah politics. Maile Wilson probably exemplifies this best.

Wilson was elected last November as the first female and youngest mayor ever of Cedar City.

“I was 26 when I filed. There had never been anyone under mid- to late-fifties…I’m still in a small conservative community, not married, being a female, not having children, all the stereotypical roles,” Wilson said.

Hélène Halliday / Fletcher Wildlife Garden

Did you hear the one about the Californians who moved to Washington and cut down their first wild Christmas tree? Jennifer Pemberton has the punchline in this story about Christmas in the Evergreen State.


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