Category: Extinction


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.

On the Precipice

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

Environmental Icon David Suzuki

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

The Dino Crater

One of the best tales of all time from geologic history is the story of the meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs. As it turns out, though, there are still many unanswered questions about what exactly happened the moment the meteor connected with our planet. In fact, until recently, scientists had yet to collect sediment cores from the center of the impact crater. On today’s show, producer Michael Osborne talks with Sean READ MORE

Science…Sort Of & GenAnthro: Where the wild things aren’t

On today’s episode, our friend and co-creator of the wildly popular Science…Sort Of podcast, Ryan Haupt, joins us to talk about Pleistocene re-wilding.  If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry!  Follow along as we try to figure it out too.  Along the way, Ryan touches on the science of Iron Man, African elephant birth control, running zebras in the Kentucky Derby, and the worst safari ever.

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The dawn of de-extinction

Hank Greely and Jake Sherkow discuss the science, morals, and ethics of de-extinction: bringing extinct species back to life.  As lawyers with an interest in biotechnologies, Hank and Jake explain how they first got involved with de-extinciton, how scientists propose to bring species back, and discuss the potential for de-extinction technology to help restore damaged ecosystems.  While discussing some potential side effects of this new process, Hank and Jake recall how a man obsessed with William Shakespeare transformed the ecosystem of New England, and how de-extinction might do the same.
[audio:|titles=Hank Greely & Jacob Sherkow with Miles]
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Extremophiles of the Anthropocene

If we’re looking for how life will respond to rapid environmental changes, we should probably look to bacteria adapted to live in extreme environments – what scientists call extremophiles.  Astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch examines the Anthropocene with thought experiments of bacteria throughout the solar system, using scientific principles documented on Earth.  He discusses known extremophiles, certain problems posed by asteroid impacts, and the importance of keeping an open mind when analyzing evolutionary trajectories on Earth.
[audio:|titles=Dirk Schulze-Makuch & Miles]
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Masters of the Anthropocene Boundary

It’s our 50th episode!  To celebrate we sit down with four members of the Anthropocene Working Group: the scientists and experts who are deciding whether or not we formally adopt the Anthropocene into the geologic time table.  We discuss what makes the Anthropocene boundary different from all of the other boundaries in geologic history, how they deal with the increased public attention to this particular boundary, and some cultural ripple effects of the Anthropocene dealing with the Law of the Sea.  As we wrap up, the Generation Anthropocene producers take a minute to reflect on all of the rapid changes we’ve witnessed over the past 50 episodes.
[audio:|titles=Anthropocene Working Group Round Table]
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