Two stories of ecological disruption: the great sea star wasting, and a graveyard of trembling aspens. As climate change unfolds, one of the scariest prospects is that we will witness large scale ecosystem collapse. So is that moment already upon us? Will we be able to recognize the symptoms in time, and do we have enough information to take steps in advance? In both of today’s stories, from the oceans to the mountains, scientists are trying to understand the magnitude of ecological transformation underway – and what that might mean for the future.
Sea level rise is a global concern, and on the whole, policy and funding for mitigation aren’t keeping pace. Today on Gen Anthro, producer Isha Salian shares a story about a unique mitigation method in the San Francisco Bay Area – wetlands restoration, which is happening right next door to Silicon Valley’s biggest tech campuses. The Bay Area has a reputation for being environmentally conscious, but even here, local ecologists and policy makers are facing big challenges.
Isha originally produced this story for Peninsula Press, a project of Stanford Journalism. The Gen Anthro version of the piece has been edited by Leslie Chang and Mike Osborne.
We hear a lot in the news about the Antarctic ice sheet melting – but other than climate change, it’s hard to imagine what else threatens a place so cold, so remote, and so seemingly barren. What other ecological protection could the southern continent possibly need? But Antarctica is…a really weird place. No single country “owns” or governs Antarctica, so decisions about conservation are a huge challenge that involve diplomacy and cooperation. On today’s show, we learn about polar history and the recent fight to save the surprisingly biodiverse waters of Antarctica’s Ross Sea.
Image: John B. Weller
A story about accidental beauty, a changing landscape, disappointed tourists, and the complicated nature of conservation in the Anthropocene.
Today, Ginkgo biloba is a common street tree, found in cities all over the world. But believe it or not, it was once almost lost to extinction. This once global tree retreated into a tiny relic community, only found in a few valleys in China. But about 1,000 years ago, humans discovered ginkgo, thought it was beautiful and useful, and began to cultivate it. From there, in time, it spread across the planet again. This makes ginkgo arguably our oldest conservation project.
This episode of Gen Anthro tracks the entire journey of the ginkgo, from its emergence to its decline, to its resurgence. The story is also partly based on a book by Sir Peter Crane, former dean of the Yale School of Forestry, entitled Ginkgo: the Tree that Time Forgot.
What if you you could scoop up a jar of seawater and use it to figure out what species were in that part of the ocean? Today we’re able to do that with a new scientific technique analyzing environmental DNA, or eDNA for short. In this episode, we talk to Ryan Kelly, an ecologist and lawyer at the forefront of eDNA research, about the technique itself, how it’s changing what we can learn about the ocean, and how that might impact policy.
Today: border critters and beaked whales. Two stories about human actions disrupting the ecosystems and lives of other animals with whom we share the planet. First, a tale of how the U.S. Navy’s sonar activities created an acoustic storm in the Great Bahama Canyon, impacting a population of remarkable, rare whales. Second, we brush the dust off a once-forgotten research paper about the likely ecological impacts of a coast-to-coast U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Featuring student producers Denley Delaney and Maddy Belin; sound design by Jackson Roach. Image credit: Blainville’s Beaked Whale, by MatthewGrammatico.
Andy Revkin is an award-winning journalist whose life work has centered on reporting about the environment and climate change. He spoke to producer Mike Osborne about his early seafaring adventures, how he got his start in journalism, and his view that climate change is a symptom of a READ MORE
Sometime in the near geological future, the landscape of life on earth as we know it will be transformed. It’s a mass extinction, and it’s only happened five times before in Earth’s history. There have been severe ice ages, perplexing loses of oxygen from our oceans, massive volcanic eruptions, meteor impacts. And now, we’re on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction… and it’s nothing like our planet has ever seen before. In Season 8’s final episode, producer Miles Traer dives into the sixth mass extinction: Are we in it? What can the previous mass extinctions teach us about READ MORE
This week we bring you an intergenerational conversation featuring David Suzuki, who is a Canadian scientist, activist, and media figure. Since the 1970s, Suzuki has hosted both radio and television shows about the natural world and environmental issues. A self-described “elder,” Suzuki READ MORE