In this episode, we raise the blinds on an invisible world that’s all around us: the realm of bacteria. Don’t reach for the antibacterial gel just yet. Roberto Kolter of Harvard explains the relationship between one bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, and the majestic trees outside his office windows at Harvard Medical School. There’s a lot going on, down among the roots.
Black-tailed prairie dogs
Over the past century the grasslands of northern Mexico have been taken over by shrubby mesquite and turned to desert. Ecologist Gerardo Cellabos is on a mission to turn them back. Can he restore an entire prairie ecosystem? Cellabos hopes he can, with the help of an unlikely ally. Ari Daniel Shapiro reports from Chihuahua.
Image Credit: Arthur Chapman, Flickr: EOL Images. CC BY-NC-SA
Hungarian Meadow Viper
Vipera ursinii rakosiensis
There’s a snake in the grass—but the viper in this Hungarian meadow is more threatened than a threat, at least to people. As new ways of farming replace the old, these vipers have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Can conservationists change the hearts and minds of local farmers in time to preserve this critically endangered species? Ari Daniel Shapiro reports from Kiskunság National Park.
Image Credit: Bálint Halpern, Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society. CC BY-NC
Likes moths to a flame, some people are irresistibly drawn to the woods at night. Carrying bedsheets and armed with special lights and lures, they come seeking moths. In July 2012, in 49 states and numerous countries across the world, scientists and ordinary folk alike fanned out to get a closer look at these insects. They may be less gaudy than their butterfly cousins, yet they’re anything but ordinary.
What can species as different as a hedgehog, a swift, and a glow-worm possibly have in common? To find out, we journey to southwest England. We’ll join two naturalists on a walk through the heart of Exeter, a city known more for its football club and cathedral than for its wildlife. You may be surprised at what we find.
Image Credit: Piotr Halas, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA
Does the mane really make the lion? Certainly, luxurious locks are the feature that sets Panthera leo apart from the other large cats. But surprisingly, not all male lions have manes. And back in the early Pleistocene, manes covered more of the lion than just the head.
Ari Daniel Shapiro speaks with archivist Connie Rinaldo of the Biodiversity Heritage Library and Harvard University and curator of mammals Bruce Patterson of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to learn about the diversity of lions in the distant past and the challenges they face in the present.
Image Credit: H. Vannoy Davis, CalPhotos, California Academy of Sciences. CC BY-NC-SA
Cyprus is split in half, with a Turkish sector in the north and a Greek sector in the south. The unofficial division makes scientific collaboration in this Mediterranean island nation all but impossible; it also complicates management of the island’s endangered sea turtles. While the conflict between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots dates back centuries, twenty-first century problems such as climate change make it urgent for scientists in the north and south to find ways around the old differences, before the turtles slip across a different kind of dividing line—from living to extinct. Ari Daniel Shapiro reports.
Listen to the Podcast
Podcasts are hosted by Ari Daniel Shapiro. Brought to you by the Encyclopedia of Life and Atlantic Public Media.
When you think of the tools of the modern geneticist, the lowly razor blade probably don’t come to mind. But this low-tech tool is essential to the work of Dutch geneticist and passionate gardener Ben Zonneveld, who is using it to tease apart the genetic secrets of the flower whose spectacular genetic variation caused “tulip mania” in the 1600s and has made it a star in the genetics lab in the twenty-first century. Ari Daniel Shapiro reports from Leiden, the Netherlands.
The marabou stork of southern Africa isn’t much to look at—it’s large, ungainly, and bald like a vulture, with a nasty appetite for carrion. This bird is increasingly making a home in urban areas like the Ugandan capital of Kampala, where human city dwellers don’t much like the habits of these winged neighbors. But graduate student Lillian Twanza has been studying the storks, with growing respect. She tells Ari Daniel Shapiro the ways that people have unknowingly put out the welcome mat for these scavengers.