Ambar Espinoza

Environmental Reporter

Ambar Espinoza’s roots in environmental journalism started in Rhode Island a few years ago as an environmental reporting fellow at the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting. She worked as a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio for a few years covering several beats, including the environment and changing demographics. Her journalism experience includes working as production and editorial assistant at National Public Radio, and as a researcher at APM’s Marketplace.

Espinoza joins Rhode Island Public Radio most recently from Seattle, WA, where she earned a master of education with a focus on science education from the University of Washington. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from American University in Washington, D.C. Espinoza was born in El Salvador and raised in Los Angeles, CA.

Ways to Connect

A set of public lectures on how humans affect and respond to environmental changes kicks off this week at the University of Rhode Island. The Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting is hosting this annual series.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Homeowners interested in switching to solar energy will soon have the option to do so with no upfront costs. The nation’s largest rooftop solar installer is coming to Rhode Island. Starting this week, California-based SolarCity will offer Rhode Islanders loans to buy home solar systems.

SolarCity will offer homeowners in 10 Rhode Island cities and towns loans to buy solar panels for their homes with no money down. Homeowners would pay for the loan in monthly installments, said Lee Keshishian, the company’s vice president for its East Coast operations.

J.T. Owens Park will soon be home to a small orchard, in tribute to a Providence neighborhood that once existed at the site. A group of local nonprofits and residents are planting the fruit trees today.

The West Elm neighborhood in the southwestern part of Providence was bulldozed in the early 1960s to build an industrial park. That displaced more than 500 families in one of the first racially integrated neighborhoods in the city, according to Holly Ewald, artistic director of UPP Arts, one of the groups organizing the event.

RIPR File Photo

The Rhode Island School of Design is the first university in the state to pledge to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.

  Board Chairman Michael Spalter said the trustees studied the issue for two years after a student campaign. He said ultimately they felt it was the right move and voted unanimously for the change.

RIPR File Photo

Town officials on Block Island are calling the recent deer hunting season a success. Local hunters took down more than 400 deer.

Block Island has a high incidence of Lyme disease, transmitted by the bite of a deer tick. So last year the town of New Shoreham and the Department of Environmental Management hired a professional sharpshooting company, Connecticut-based White Buffalo, Inc., to curb the island’s large deer population. But the project fell through.

Daniel Guy via Flickr Creative Commons

Newport beaches and parks, and the historic Cliff Walk may soon become smoke-free. The Newport City Council has given a preliminary green light to a smoking ban.

Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano said the city council will likely give the smoking ban a final approval next month. She said most of the council members support the move, while a few others would like a compromise, such as designated smoking areas.

Napolitano said the benefit of a smoking ban on public beaches and in parks is two-fold.


A bill attempting to phase out cesspools takes a major step forward this week. The Rhode Island Senate approved the bill.

The bill would require homeowners selling their properties to replace their cesspools with any system that handles and treats human waste, like a septic system. That’s a hole in the ground that receives untreated human waste from a building. It can contaminate groundwater and local waterways.  

Meg Kerr, Rhode Island director of Clean Water Action, said the bill has come before the General Assembly for a number of years now.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Fare increases of 10 percent have taken effect for regular tickets on the Block Island Ferry. Interstate Navigation Company said the increase covers the costs of maintaining the ferries and docks.

Sarah Isabella, owner of Froozies Juice Bar and Café on Block Island, said she doesn’t think it will affect the number of tourists visiting the island. Isabella said she would be worried if the increase applied to freight rates, “because then we are eventually going to have to pass on the price onto tourists and at some point it all gets, kind of, out of reach.”

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

The nonprofit Ocean Conservancy mobilizes an international beach cleanup each year. The results from the most recent cleanup are in. 

In Rhode Island, volunteers collected more than 16,000 pounds of trash along 59 miles of the state’s shoreline last September. Save the Bay’s July Lewis says the number one item is always cigarette butts.

Kyle Bedell via Wikimedia Commons

The Roger Williams Park Zoo this week revealed its 20-year master plan to renovate the zoo in three phases.

  Last year voters approved a bond that set aside $15 million to cover the cost of the zoo renovation’s first phase. Each phase, which will add new exhibitions, will cost $25 million. The first phase will include a new rain forest building and a new education center. The old education center will be repurposed to a reptile house, the first one in New England, said Roger Williams Park Zoo Executive Director Jeremy Goodman.

About 33 million people nationwide will travel this Memorial Day weekend by car, according to AAA. Robert Sinclair, AAA’s Northeast region spokesman, said the numbers in this travel forecast are the highest the company has seen in the past 10 years. 

“And we're thinking that because of the economy being better, with gasoline prices being cheaper, and with lots of folks having new vehicles, that's the reason we are seeing so many people traveling,” said Sinclair. “[There is] a lot of pent up demand especially after a long, hard winter.”

RIPR File Photo

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse delivered his 100th climate address this week on the Senate floor. He’s inviting people to join him in a Google Hangout video conference tomorrow to mark the occasion.


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will join the president of the League of Conservation voters to talk about the threats climate change poses to the environment, public health, and economy. They’ll talk about some of the steps the United States is taking—and still needs to take—to combat climate change.

Robin Angliss / NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to continue to monitor daily the three beluga whales exploring Narragansett Bay. Biologists want to make sure they return safely back to their Arctic habitat.

Courtesy of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Later today, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse delivers his 100th address on climate change. In what has become a weekly ritual, the Rhode Island democrat takes to the Senate floor to call for action on climate change. Rhode Island Public Radio’s environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza caught up with Whitehouse at the Volvo Ocean Race in Newport to talk about what motivates him and what he’s learned since he delivered his first speech three years ago.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

A group of artists, scientists, educators, and residents who want to promote the health of urban ponds will march in a parade later today in Providence for the eighth year in a row. Mashapaug Pond and its watershed in the Pawtuxet River basin are the centerpieces of the Urban Pond Procession. The pond is on the state’s list of impaired waters. It’s not a safe body of water in which to swim or fish.

The procession, focused on water this year, returns with its distinct handmade art by students from schools in the south side of Providence.