Kate O'Connell

Reporter, Innovation Trail, Finger Lakes

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail

Kate O’Connell comes to WXXI from Melbourne, Australia, and studied journalism at Royal Melboure Institute of Technology.

During her studies, Kate was a freelance journalist, reporting from Nepal and Haiti, and worked with the media team of the United Nations partner group, International Organization for Migration.

Kate's experience also includes work for the Shepparton News, Australian Broadcasting Company, Melbourne’s Channel 31, RRR radio and WIN television.

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4:08pm

Tue August 13, 2013
Technology

E-waste recycling is up, but report says there's a long way to go

Some rights reserved by Investing in gold

Two years after its enactment, a New York state law governing the recycling of electronic waste is making an impact according to a progress report.

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5:16am

Mon August 12, 2013
Health

Upstate hospitals get mixed reviews in 2013 report card

Crouse Hospital in Syracuse received poor marks for six cases of leaving an object in a patient during surgery.
der_krampus via Flickr

Four hospitals in upstate New York have been given poor grades and put on a "watch list" by a private health care watchdog group.

The Niagara Health Quality Coalition has been ranking New York state’s best and worst hospitals for a decade, and the latest report card released on Sunday shows a mixed bag in upstate New York.

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7:41am

Thu August 8, 2013
Health

Ontario County nursing home sale approved

Some rights reserved by thinkpanama

Ontario County is moving forward with the privatization of its nursing home. The board of supervisors voted last week to accept a $2 million bid for the Hopewell facility, but concerns remain about the level of care a private owner would provide.

The sale makes Ontario the latest in a string of counties in upstate New York looking to privatization as a solution to the rising costs of operating a nursing home.

Steuben, Chautauqua, and Onondaga Counties are among many considering or finalizing the sale of county facilities to private operators.

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7:38am

Mon August 5, 2013
Environment

Great Lakes restoration funding roundabout continues

International Joint Commission

A federal program dedicated to environmental restoration and cleaning up of the Great Lakes has escaped a massive budget cut. A committee in the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to amend a bill that looked to slash the program’s funding, partially restoring it to $210 million for fiscal year 2014.

The House bill originally aimed to cut 80 percent of the program’s budget, from nearly $300 million to just $60 million for next year.

A House committee has since revised that figure from $60 million to $210 million.

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4:11pm

Fri August 2, 2013
Agriculture

How do you like them apples?

SnapDragon apples
Kevin Maloney

After more than a decade of development, Cornell University has introduced two new apple varieties to upstate New York.

Previously known as New York one and two, the new RubyFrost and SnapDragon varieties were named Thursday and will be available to consumers as early as this fall.

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7:31am

Thu August 1, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Craft distilleries make a comeback in upstate New York

The Daily Refresher

As people increasingly stray from mass-produced products, demand is growing for locally produced food, wine and beer. In upstate New York this trend is spilling over into the field of craft distilleries, and the state is seeing a comeback of the small, artisan liquor operations of the pre-Prohibition era.

From the Adirondacks to the Hudson Valley, and down to New York City, dozens of micro-distilleries are popping up.

In western New York, Jason Barrett is adding another operation to the ranks.

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3:21pm

Wed July 31, 2013
Education

Innovative math workshop gets grant to expand program

Credit License AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by bitznbitez ( was lucias_clay) Flickr

A math workshop designed in upstate New York has received a $120,000 grant to advance the model nationally.

The Rochester Institute of Technology's annual Summer Mathematics Institute Teachers’ Workshop aims to share strong stories about math in the real world to high school teachers.

The workshops bring together teachers to hear how professionals use math in a variety of careers ranging from baseball to counter-terrorism, engineering and cancer research.

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3:40pm

Thu July 25, 2013
Science

3D imaging could cut health care costs

3D printed knee joint created with 3D imaging technology using a patient MRI
Kate O'Connell/Innovation Trail

Upstate company Qmetrics has developed technology that can take medical images like MRIs and turn them into a three-dimensional image or model.

The technology has implications for lowering health care costs and increasing patient-specific treatments.

While X-rays and MRIs can be useful, surgery is still frequently required to look inside a joint, explains Qmetrics CEO Edward Schreyer. For example, keyhole surgery or arthroscopy is still used to see the extent of a knee injury.

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3:38pm

Thu July 25, 2013
Technology

Organic LEDs, the next generation of office lighting?

Some rights reserved by Greg Marshall

According to estimates from the state’s Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), about 40 percent of electricity in the U.S. is consumed by office buildings. One upstate company, OLEDWorks, is developing technology that could help to lower this consumption.

The company’s developing organic LED technology, or OLEDs, as a more efficient alternative for lighting the nation’s office spaces.

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8:34am

Sat July 20, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Hill Cumorah Pageant brings more than entertainment to upstate New York

Hill Cumorah Pageant, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

With 750 cast members, more than a thousand costumes, and special effects to rival a Hollywood film, the Hill Cumorah Pageant, which celebrates the history of the Mormon church, draws thousands of people to western New York each year.

They come in droves, from around the world, converging on the town of Palmyra to witness a Mormon spectacle taking place way off Broadway.

There’s a ten-level stage, a burning at the stake, and cast members descending on wires.

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8:10am

Fri July 19, 2013
Health

Upstate health care centers funded to get uninsured into Affordable Care Act

Some rights reserved by 401 (K) 2013

As delays pile up in the implementation of components of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded $150 million to the nation’s health care centers as part of an outreach and enrollment program for patients with low incomes.

The grants will help centers provide advice regarding the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, and how it will affect people’s current health coverage as well as those who are currently uninsured.

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6:53am

Wed July 17, 2013
Environment

Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River pose concerns for IJC

A visitor walks along the Lake Ontario shoreline.
Ray Sawhill/flickr

The organization responsible for regulating water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is holding a series of public hearings in upstate New York and Canada this week, presenting a new management plan. The International Joint Commission, or IJC, attracted criticism for its last draft of the plan, called Bv7, which aimed to alter water levels to decrease environmental damage around the Great Lake.

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4:25pm

Mon July 15, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Upstate New York tourism spending reaches new high

Employment associated with tourism by region during 2012.
Tourism Economics

According to new research, tourism spending rose across every region of New York state last year, with overall growth of more than six percent. Traveler spending reached a new high of nearly $60 billion statewide and upstate New York, in particular, did well.

The biggest areas for growth upstate were central New York, Niagara, and the Thousand Islands, with a bump of at least five percent in each region.

But Adam Sacks, lead author of the report and president of Tourism Economics, says the real indicator of the industry’s importance lies in job growth.

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3:02pm

Mon July 8, 2013
Health

Super computing could help manage enormous amounts of medical information

Some rights reserved by jfcherry

Watson, the IBM supercomputer, is best known for its historic win on the television game show, Jeopardy. But, the same components that made the system a quiz show winner could be redirected toward lowering the cost of health care in upstate New York.

According to Steve Gold, vice president for IBM’s Watson Solutions division, the amount of available medical knowledge doubles every five years. While that can provide a challenge for individual physicians to keep up with, it’s something Watson thrives on.

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9:16am

Tue July 2, 2013
Regional Coverage

Cloud technology deployed to make railway crossings safer

License Some rights reserved by loop_oh / Creative Commons License

In 2010, dance instructor Katie Lunn was on her way home from the American Dance Awards when her SUV was struck at a crossing by a Chicago-bound Amtrak train, killing her.

“None of the warning signs had activated. No lights flashed, no bells rang and the gates stayed up. Katie had no idea that the crossing was inactive, and neither did the railroad.”

Tim Myers, a co-founder of RocInnovations, says Katie isn't an outlier.

Despite an overall decline in the past 20 years, in 2012 there were almost 2,000 incidents at railroad crossings in the U.S., and 300 were fatal.

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7:16am

Fri June 28, 2013
The Upstate Economy

A new age of cheese for upstate New York

Kate O'Connell/Innovation Trail

It’s soft, stinky and delicious, and it’s an opportunity for economic development.

Upstate New York looks ready to usher in a new era of cheese production. A partnership between supermarket chain Wegmans Food Markets and Cornell University hopes to make the region a leader in the artisanal cheese industry.

Dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Kathy Boor, says growing demand for local quality cheese presents an opportunity to diversify the region’s dairy industry.

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8:27am

Fri June 21, 2013
Business

Kodak inches closer to emergence with UK pension plan settlement

Eastman Kodak Company

It's been a big week for Kodak. The U.S. bankruptcy court approved the company's previously announced comprehensive settlement agreement with its United Kingdom pension plan Thursday.

The settlement includes the spin-off of Kodak’s personal and document imaging businesses to U.K. pensioners, and represents a big step in the company’s bid to emerge from chapter 11.

The U.K. Kodak Pension Plan (KPP) is the company’s single largest creditor with respect to its chapter 11 plan for reorganization.

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8:19am

Fri June 21, 2013
Agriculture

Ain't it sweet: New York maple syrup production on the rise

New York's maple syrup production rose 59 percent this year thanks to better weather.
kulinarno Some rights reserved

Think pancakes, think sweet and golden; think economic development.

New York state’s maple syrup production surged this year, rising nearly 60 percent after a slow crop in 2012.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says production was boosted from 360,000 to 574,000 gallons in the 2013 season.

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4:35pm

Wed June 19, 2013
Science

Secret to possible cancer resistance discovered by upstate researchers

Brian Vick/University of Rochester

Researchers in upstate New York have identified the chemical that leads to cancer resistance in laboratory animals: naked mole rats.

The discovery could eventually lead to new cancer treatments and even the ability for cancer resistance in humans according to the authors.

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4:01pm

Thu June 13, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Access technology development also has strong economic potential

Some rights reserved by WELS.net

An estimated 15 percent of people around the world live with some form of disability. Upstate universities are tackling the challenges faced by this segment of the population and coming up with innovative technologies to increase access.

A walker for elderly people that also monitors vital signs, and a cane that uses vibrations to allow deaf and blind people to easily navigate their environment: these are just a couple of the access technologies created by researchers in western New York.

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9:15am

Thu June 13, 2013
Education

Definition of STEM economy needs to be broadened report says

Brookings Institution

A new report from the Brookings Institution argues that more resources for training workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) should be directed at non-degree education providers.

The need for more STEM grads is a familiar cry from industry leaders and politicians alike. But, this new report argues there’s a large potential workforce being ignored because STEM jobs are being too narrowly defined.

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4:09pm

Wed June 12, 2013
Energy

Copper ink could cut cost of solar energy systems

Conductive copper printed onto flexible plastic sheets
Kate O'Connell

The commercialization of a new industrial process in upstate New York could lead to cheaper, greener solar energy systems.

Nanotech company Intrinsiq Materials has been awarded $887,000 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to take their idea forward.

Solar cells are currently made with circuits that use connections made from silver; an efficient but expensive conducting material.

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7:24am

Sat June 8, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Advanced manufacturing sector asking for more workforce training

Jim Alderman during the hands on part of an advanced manufacturing training lesson.
Kate O'Connell WXXI

Last year the U.S. Department of Labor awarded more than $14 million to the SUNY network of community colleges in upstate New York to develop work training programs for emerging industries. But, nearly one year on, the advanced manufacturing sector is asking for more, pointing to the skills gap as an ongoing issue.

Eric Roth is one of fifteen students in the commencing class of an intensive course aimed at combating the growing thirst for workers.

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8:41am

Fri June 7, 2013
Energy

Competing solutions Dunkirk coal plant's future

There are proposals to turn the Dunkirk coal plant into one running on natural gas.
Kate O'Connell WXXI

The changing face of New York’s energy landscape has brought uncertainty about the future of the state’s coal plants. The future of one particular plant in western New York has become a hot topic.

Plummeting natural gas prices and tightening emissions restrictions have made the NRG Energy plant in Dunkirk unviable from a business standpoint.

But, the plant is too important to the reliability of western New York’s electricity grid to simply shut it down.

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7:31am

Fri June 7, 2013
Agriculture

Amendment to Farm Bill could help boost upstate milk production

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wants to create a dairy block grant program.
Matt Richmond WSKG

The five year Farm Bill, likely to pass a vote in the U.S. Senate next Monday, includes an amendment from New York Sen. Charles Schumer that attempts to address rising demand for milk.

Schumer says the amendment could help New York’s dairy farmers supply a fast-growing yogurt industry.

It would create a $5 million pilot program aimed at helping small dairy farms access technical help for  things like animal nutrition and business planning.

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1:02pm

Wed June 5, 2013
Energy

New York's top court asked to hear fracking home rule cases

New York’s top court has been asked to decide whether local governments can ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Last month a mid-level appeals court ruled unanimously in favor of upholding local bans in the towns of Dryden and Middlefield, meaning there’s no requirement for the case to be taken up by the top court.

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4:29pm

Tue June 4, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Greek yogurt plant could boost upstate dairy industry

Sen. Schumer joins Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi and Theo Muller in taking a scoop from a giant Mulle Quaker yogurt tub
Kate O'Connell

Upstate New York’s newest Greek yogurt factory opened its doors in Batavia, Monday. The factory is a joint venture between Pepsi and German dairy giant, the Theo Muller Group. The Muller Quaker Dairy Plant is touted as a shot in the arm for the dairy industry in western New York.

The 350,000 square foot facility will produce several yogurt products, including the fast growing Greek yogurt varieties. The plant will initially operate three lines, producing more than 120,000 cups of yogurt per hour.

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8:57am

Fri May 31, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Community colleges help region's economy

Community colleges are having a large economic impact on their home counties upstate, according to new research.

A report focused on Monroe Community College in western New York, calculated the institution has an annual impact of more than $710 million in Monroe County. And, says MCC president Anne Kress, SUNY colleges across upstate New York are no different.

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8:49am

Mon May 27, 2013
Environment

Taxpayers bear the brunt of climate change costs

National Resources Defense Council

The impact and severity of weather events like the tornado that hit Oklahoma City are increasing due to a changing global climate, according to research from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

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8:25am

Tue May 21, 2013
Agriculture

Fighting fire blight in New York's apple industry

Apple stalls at the Rochester Public Market
Kate O'Connell/Innovation Trail

New York is the second biggest apple producing state in the country. But, last year production dropped dramatically due to a warmer winter, early blooms, and harsh spring frosts. The total production from the state plummeted from 1.2 million pounds in 2011, to just 710,000 pounds in 2012. But, weather isn’t the only challenge growers are contending with.

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