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
“In Asia or Africa around 60 million years ago, snakes became more venomous, though scientists aren’t quite sure why then and there.” Sometimes understanding global environmental change requires that we simply know how nature works. And not just the pleasant side of nature, but all of it. When we look back through the wonders of READ MORE
The solenodon: a venomous, shrew-like mammal, found only in the Caribbean, that has survived for millions of years by hiding underground. Even the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago couldn’t kill this hardy little creature. But after surviving for so long, after outliving the freakin’ DINOSAURS, the solenodon is now threatened by human encroachment into their habitat. Guest producer Laura Cussen READ MORE
In the late 1970’s, tens of thousands of Brazilian agricultural workers found themselves out of work due to technological advances on farms. To combat the problem, the government, with help from the World Bank, set up a program to settle people into the rainforest and allow them to farm commercial crops. The hitch? No one had tested the soil to see if it could support the crops being grown. From there, the ambitious social and ecological experiment quickly turned into a nightmare of Hollywood proportions involving strife between ranchers and local tribes, clear cutting of the rainforest, and disease outbreaks of all kinds. What can we learn from what went wrong in Rondônia?