Wednesday, December 14, 2011

End of an era

Well my friends, I'm finally getting around to posting my last podcast (download here) for NYSK at KXUA. In August, I moved to Conway, AR, to work as a professor of biology at Hendrix College. It's the end of the semester now so I actually have a moment to make this last post!

Since the show started in January 2009, NYSK has brought you everything in nature that rocks! In this final episode, we revisited some of the topics, people, places, and music that have been featured throughout the last two and half years. Thanks to everyone for supporting the show and providing feedback. I hope this show has satisfied your curiosity about the natural world in some ways, but also stimulated it in others.  Also, a big thanks goes to the resources that made it all happen (e.g. the Macaulay Library, TNC’s Nature Stories, Scientific American’s 60-second Science)! Finally, a big FAT thank you goes to KXUA, for providing this nature nut with an outlet of expression for her love of the natural sciences and music.

As for the future, this might not be the end of the road for NYSK. Hendrix College also has station (KHDX), and I wouldn't be surprised if there are bird calls being broadcast from its studio sometime in the near future. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

All About Animal Communication

Singing Yellow Warbler
For the May 4th and May 11th shows, we covered topics in animal communication. In the first installment, we covered the definition of animal communication and channels through which animals communicate (e.g. visual, auditory, chemical). (No podcast was able to be posted of this show… sorry!).

Photuris firefly preying on another firefly species
In the May 11th episode (download podcast here), we continued our discussion of animal communication with the evolution of animal signals. Download the podcast to learn about competing theories for the function of communication, how raw materials for communication become ritualized over time, and some factors that shape the evolution of signals. We concluded with dishonesty in signaling, as represented by the female Photuris firefly, which mimics the flashes of females from another firefly species. The poor, unwitting males, thinking they’re coming in for some sweet love, are instead captured and devoured by the deceitful Photuris!

Some news stories from the two episodes...
American Alligator

Some of the critters we heard from over the two weeks included the Saddleback Tamarin, Wild Turkey, and American Alligator (pictured right).

My goodness we heard some rockin' music during these episodes, including tracks from artists such as Cat Power, Audible, Television, The Chemical Brothers, The Big Sleep, Cut Copy, LCD Soundsystem, Thelonius Monk, and more!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Amazing Animal Architects

In the April 27th episode (download podcast here), we learned about some crafty critters and their architectural masterpieces, including termite mounds (pictured left), which have “air conditioning” and can be up to 30-ft tall (that's like a mile-high in the termite world)! Other natural "buildings" that made the list included huge beaver dams, socialable weaver condos, mud dauber death chambers, and massive spider webs! Thanks to the folks at who continue to put together these comic lists of fascinating stories from the natural world.

 In the news...

Nine-banded Armadillo
We listened to some interesting vocalizations including the Nine-banded armadillo, American Beaver, and Prairie Dog.

As for music, we heard from folks like Modest Mouse, Darwin Deez, Velvet Underground, Electralane, Headlights, Sparklehorse, and more! Good times!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One year later

For the April 20th show (downlaod podcast here), we took a look at current perspectives on the oil spill in the Gulf that occurred one year ago this day. The theme that floats to the top is that although the spill did not result in the level of catastrophe we feared, we cannot truly understand its economic and ecological impacts after just one year. This story is far from over. Check out this video to hear from John Fitzpatrick, the director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to learn more.

In the news...
Roseate Spoonbill

We heard from critters affected by the oil spill such as the Brown Pelican. Roseate Spoonbill, Northern Gannet, Gulf Coast Toad, and Bottlenose Dolphin.

Some great music was featured as well, such as Johnny Cash, The Band, Emmy Lou Harris & Willie Nelson, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tab Benoit, The Standells, and more!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Move on out!

And we're back! After a month break, NYSK returned with the April 13th show, which featured animal migration (download podcast here). Migration is more than just traveling to new destination; it also requires a return to the original location. Scientists believe that many animals migrate in order to follow resources and reduce competition, particularly during the breeding season when parents need food and shelter for their offspring. Depending on the species, different animals use various tools to get from A to B. Such tools include magnetic cues, a star compass, and physical landmarks. For more information on animal migration, listen to the podcast!

The news in nature had some wild stories:

For the sound quiz, we heard from some migratory birds that make their way through Arkansas about this time of year. They included the Veery, Blackburnian Warbler (pictured right), and Tennessee Warbler.

Some great music was also featured, with tracks from the likes of Robert Johnson, Neko Case, The Breeders, Islands, and more!

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Spring without NYSK

    The show is taking a break for a short time because Razorback Softball is broadcasting during my regularly scheduled time slot. Never fear, you can enjoy the bursting buds of springtime (like this Cercis canadensis) until we return on April 11th!

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Works of Aldo Leopold

    The March 2nd episode (download podcast here) was inspired by an event held at Hobbs State Park on March 5th that celebrated Aldo Leopold, an early 20th century naturalist who is considered by some to be the grandfather of the conservation movement. Leopold's most famous work, A Sand County Almanac, beautifully expresses his ideas about the relationship between man and nature. For some excerpts from his works, click here.

    The news in nature:

    As for music, we heard from Nick Drake, Almanac Singers, The Whites, Neil Young, and more! We even heard from our friends the thrushes, including the Hermit Thrush and Veery.

    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Hydrofracturing in Arkansas

    For the February 23rd episode (download podcast here), Dr. Matt Moran of Hendrix College visited the studio to discuss the practice of hydrofracturing in Arkansas. Hydrofracturing, or hydraulic fracturing, has become a popular method for extracting natural gas from shale formations around the United States. Dr. Moran spoke to us about the environmental, economic, and personal impacts of this practice. Download the podcast above to hear more about this issue.

    Monday, February 28th, 2011, Hendrix College will host a screening of the Oscar-nominated film “Gasland”, which documents the stories of people involved with and affected by hydrofracturing. The creator of the film, Josh Fox, and local officials will participate in a panel discussion the following Tuesday on Hendrix campus. For more information, click here or contact Dr. Moran at

    As for the news in nature...

    Some artists featured included: The Pixies, Wildbirds and Peacdrums, Ryan Adams, Devendra Banhart, Beck, John Prine, Neil Young, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Hayes Carll, and the Grateful Dead.

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Dog breed diversity

    On the February 16th, 2011 episode of NYSK (download podcast here), we talked about the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show. I enjoy watching this event because it reminds me of the power of selective breeding, also known as artificial selection. For instance, compare the Pekingnese pictured above to the Scottish Deerhound (Best in Show, 2011) below. Can you believe these two dogs are the same species- Canis lupus familiaris? Darwin appreciated artificial selection so much that he used it as an illustration for how the process of natural selection works.

    The diversity of dog breeds has been (and still is) important to humans for several reasons. For example, we historically used certain breeds for specific tasks, such as rooting out rodents from holes (e.g. terriers) and guarding property (e.g. mastiffs). Dogs today are still worked around the world for things like hunting, herding, and guarding, but more often we find ourselves utilizing them as companions.

    Westminster Kennel Club's annual dog show allows us to marvel at the different breeds, but we should not forget our little buddies that reside in temporary shelters, just waiting for a loving person to adopt them. For information on a shelter in your area, visit and use your zip code to search for a shelter.

    As always in the show, we listened to fun music, mostly dog-related, such as the Scooby Doo theme, Elvis's "Hound Dog", and Patti Page's "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window".

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Worst-case scenario... would you survive?

    Oh my goodness... it has been a winter for the ages this 2011! Three weeks in a row, Northwest Arkansas was slammed by storms, each once worse than the next. My show suffered because the storms seemed to happen mid-week, but I found a way to make up one of the shows on February 11th (download podcast here).

    The storms also served as a source for inspiration. This week, I read from a book called The Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbook, which proposes various dangerous scenarios and how to come out on top. For instance, we learned what to do when encountering downed power lines and how to treat frostbite. We also learned what to do if you get trapped in a cab while giving birth. (That poor, poor cabbie.)

    In the news...
    American Goldfinch, basic plumage

    We also learned about different types of seed to put out to attract different species of birds, such as the American Goldfinch (pictured right), Dark-eyed Junco, and Northern Cardinal. We listened to some of these birds' vocalizations for the sound quiz.

    Artists featured included: Yes, Count Basie, Ryan Adams, Cat Stevens, Julie Andrews, and more!

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Gross anatomy

    The dissection of human beings has been important in our understanding of how our bodies work; however, it has not always been an approved practice. These days, many universities and medical schools are leaning towards using models and computer simulations to teach students anatomy. Check out the January 26th show (download podcast here) to learn more about human dissection.

    In the news...

    Music featured included Monty Python, My Morning Jacket, John Coltrane, more!

    Since it was also the 2nd birthday of NYSK, we celebrated by listening to birthday-related tunes by Concrete Blonde, Stevie Wonder, and The Bird and the Bee. Thanks for your support throughout the past two years! The show will sadly come to an end this summer when I graduate and leave KXUA. Let's make sure the next six months are a blast!

      Thursday, January 27, 2011

      Baby, it's cold outside

      Last summer, I did a show in which we talked about how plants and critters adapt to the heat. This week, we threw our thing down, flipped it, and reversed it to talk about how our friends in chilly places deal with frigid temperatures. Responses can be behavioral (e.g. migration) or physiological (e.g. short limbs). Check out the January 19th show (download podcast here) to learn more.

      In the news...

      For the sound quiz, we heard from some polar animals like the Greenland collared lemming and Gentoo penguin.

      Music featured included Leonard Cohen, Broadcast, Birdy Nam Nam, Caribou, Wintersleep, This Heat, and more!

      Saturday, January 22, 2011

      The Year In Science, 2010

      A cuttlefish, standing up to be
      counted in a marine "census"
      To kick off 2011, we reflected on some happenings from 2010, including developments in medicine, physics, and the environment. I have to admit, the topics I covered were a bit haphazard, and big things were left out (ahem... can you say oil spill?), but we listened to some sweet tunes by folks like UNKLE, Guided by Voices, Edie Brickell, and more! Check out the two part broadcast by downloading the following podcasts:

      Monday, January 3, 2011

      Songs for the environment

      On the December 20th show (click here for podcast), I featured a pre-recorded interview/performance with local environmental activist and musician, Shawn Porter. Shawn hails from the Buffalo River, a place that makes it into some of his songs. He was kind enough to play his harmonica and guitar and sing some of his tunes for us. Click here for just this part of the show.

      Since it was the holidays, I spent the latter portion of the show playing some Christmas tunes that might be a little off the beaten path. For example, we heard a rendition of "The Friendly Beasts" by Sufjan Stevens and "Christmas at the Zoo" by the Flaming Lips.

      My Christmas pets: Vik and Cutlet

      I hope everyone had a fantastic 2010. NYSK turns 2 years old next month. Join us in the new year to celebrate!