The WildLife: Seahorses, Helen Scales

Helen Scales, author of Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses from Myth to Reality, reveals the unusual anatomy and strange sex lives of seahorses. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that seahorses live mysterious lives, tucked away out of sight on the seafloor, and provides insights into their strange characteristics, including: kangaroo-like pouches for the males to bear the young, horse-like snouts used like straws to suck in tiny zooplankton, prehensile tails to grasp sea grasses, swiveling chameleon eyes and color-changing skin. Seahorses face many threats, including habitat loss and degradation and commercial trade. They’re used in traditional Asian medicine, and also sold as curios and as aquarium pets. Global consumption of seahorses is massive, with about 25 million seahorses sold each year. There’s so much we still don’t know about seahorses. For instance, we’re not even sure how many different species there are.

Dr. Helen Scales is a marine biologist, writer, and broadcaster who specializes in fisheries, habitat protection, and the international trade in endangered species. She has lived and worked in various countries and now lives in Cambridge, England where she works as a consultant for a number of conservation groups including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Natural England, and TRAFFIC International. For her PhD from the University of Cambridge she studied the loves and lives of one of the biggest coral reef fish, the Napoleon wrasse, and its imperiled status due to demand from Asian live seafood restaurants.She appears as a radio host on the BBC’s The Naked Scientists show and on BBC Radio 4’s Home Planet. She also produces and presents a new podcast series, Naked Oceans, a fun and informative exploration of the undersea realm. In her first book, Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses from Myth to Reality, she explores humankind’s thousand-year fascination with seahorses. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 17, 2010.


The WildLife: Manatee Insanity, Craig Pittman

Craig Pittman, St. Petersburg Times environmental reporter and author of Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species, discusses manatees and the struggle to protect this endangered marine mammal. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme why manatees are so beloved and why these homely creatures are a flashpoint for Florida’s environmental debates. Did you know early sailors mistook manatees for mermaids? Or that the closest relative of the manatee on the evolutionary scale is the elephant?

Craig Pittman is an environment reporter for Florida’s largest newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times. Born in Pensacola, Craig graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the St. Petersburg Times, and in 2004 won the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida for revealing a secret plan by the state's business leaders to transfer water from sleepy North Florida to booming South Florida. The stories caused such an uproar that Gov. Jeb Bush scuttled the plan. In 2006, he won the Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists and also the Proffitt award (with Matthew Waite) for the series "Vanishing Wetlands," which found that federal and state wetland protection programs were a sham that enabled development to wipe out swamps and marshes. He and Waite shared a second Proffitt Award and a second Carmody Award in 2007 for a series called "When Dry is Wet" that exposed the flaws in the wetland mitigation banking industry. That led to their book, Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss. Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species, published by the University Press of Florida, is Craig's second book. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on December 6, 2010.


The WildLife: Wildlife Filmmaking, Chris Palmer

Chris Palmer, veteran filmmaker and author of Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom (Sierra Club Books, 2010), exposes the dark side of wildlife filmmaking. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about his experiences in wildlife filmmaking, its conservation impact, and how audiences are deceived as filmmakers take shortcuts to get their “money shot.” Did you know the famous shots of lemmings hurling themselves over a cliff in the 1958 Disney documentary "White Wilderness" was faked, and that the film crew actually threw the animals to their doom? Chris Palmer reveals the motivations for this type of trickery and why these deceptions can be both helpful and problematic. He’ll also discuss the implications of intrusive, on-camera hosts like Jeff Corwin, Steve Irwin and Bear Grylls, and what the sensationalized “fangs and claws” type shows, like Man vs. Wild, mean for wildlife conservation.

Chris Palmer has produced more than 300 hours of original programming for prime-time television and theatrical release over the past 25 years. His films have been broadcast on the Disney Channel, TBS Superstation, Animal Planet and PBS, as well as in IMAX theaters. He has many awards, including two Emmys and an Oscar Nomination. In 2004, he founded the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University’s School of Communication, which he now directs. Profiles about Chris and his book have appeared in many different media outlets, including National Public Radio (NPR), the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, as well as on Nightline, Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Fox News Channel, and other networks. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on November 15, 2010.


The WildLife: Hawaii’s Reef Fish & Aquarium Trade, Robert Wintner

Robert Wintner gives an insider’s view of the fishes he knows on Hawaii’s coral reefs. He reveals to “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme why Hawaii’s coral reefs are so special, how the marine aquarium trade threatens their future, and how Maui County’s recent legislation could lessen the negative impact. Did you know the Hawaiian cleaner wrasse, a prime target for the aquarium trade, sets up “cleaning stations” on the reef, akin to service stations on American highways? Reef fish then wait their turns for this unusual fish to remove its parasites and other debris. Unfortunately, once the Hawaiian cleaner wrasse is removed from its natural habitat, it rarely survives and other fish suffer.

Robert Wintner is owner of Snorkel Bob shops in the state of Hawaii, Executive Director of the Snorkel Bob Foundation and an advocate to protect Hawaii reefs. He is also the author of several books, including the most recent, Some Fishes I Have Known, a photo essay that provides an intimate look at a vast array of creatures of the coral reef. The Snorkel Bob Foundation focuses on near shore reefs, and Wintner has been the lead advocate for eliminating and/or regulating the aquarium trade in Hawaii. From 2007 to 2010, he led legislative campaigns at the Hawaii State Capitol and in Maui County, which brought the plunder from aquarium trade into the light of day. However, with what he sees as a grim reality of empty reefs facing the people of Hawaii, Wintner will continue his legislative efforts. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on October 11, 2010.


The WildLife: Geoduck Trade, Craig Welch

Craig Welch, Seattle Times environmental reporter and author of Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers, and The Hunt for Nature's Bounty, talks about wildlife trafficking in Puget Sound and the massive illegal trade in geoducks (pronounced “gooey-duck”) clams. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how geoducks are more than fashionable seafood by providing an entrée into the dark underworld of illegal wildlife trade.  Geoducks are a species of large saltwater clams native to the northern Pacific coasts of Washington State and the province of British Columbia.They’re the largest burrowing clam in the world, weighing on average 1 to 3 pounds, and also one of the world’s longest living organisms, with a life expectancy well over 100 years. Harvesting them is difficult, as these clams bury themselves deep into the muddy ocean bottoms and tidal flats, with only the small tips of their siphons evidence of their presence. To show just how difficult it can be, the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs television show even went to a geoduck farm in 2006. Geoducks are prized for their meat, and are considered a delicacy in China and elsewhere. They’ve been featured on a variety of cooking shows, including Top Chef, Dinner Impossible, and Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin.

A journalist for two decades, Craig Welch’s work has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, the Washington Post, and Newsweek, as well as the Seattle Times. He has won dozens of local, regional and national journalism awards, and has been named the national Society of Environmental Journalists's Outstanding Beat Reporter of the Year. In 2007, he completed a fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Craig has hunted seals with tribal fishermen in Alaska, hitched helicopter rides with scientists in the melting Arctic, prowled the Oregon woods for endangered owls, and tracked the development of Wyoming’s oil fields. In researching his book Shell Games, Welch got an insider’s look at a group of dedicated state and federal wildlife agents who have devoted years to cracking down on the lucrative trade in geoducks in the Pacific Northwest. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on August 30, 2010.


The WildLife: Elephant Seals, Christine Heinrichs

Christine Heinrichs exposes elephant seals’ captivating habits and bizarre lifestyle as she takes us to Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery on California’s central coast. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how elephant seals spend 8 to 10 months a year in the open ocean and that, to find food, they dive incredibly deep, up to a mile underwater.  Twice a year they migrate thousands of miles to their land-based rookeries to give birth, breed, molt and rest. Listen as we meet some of these fascinating creatures — such as bull elephant seals who battle rivals for months only to lose out when the females finally come ashore and a courtly male who escorts his lady friend through hoards of suitors so that she can safely reach the ocean — and find out just how much we still have yet to learn. Christine Heinrichs is a docent with Friends of the Elephant Seal (www.elephantseal.org) who works at Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery where she helps protect these large marine mammals and educate visitors about their unique characteristics.  She enjoys animals of all kinds, wild and domestic, and has written two books on domestic poultry, How to Raise Chickens and How to Raise Poultry, which focus on raising traditional breeds in small flocks. This episode of THE WILDLIFE aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont originally aired on December 7, 2009 and was rebroadcast on August 16, 2010.


The WildLife: Marine Aquarium Trade, Brian Tissot

Brian Tissot, marine ecologist, discusses the marine aquarium trade. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how the United States, as the world's largest importer of marine ornamental species for the aquaria, curio, home decor and jewelry industries, has an opportunity to leverage its market power to promote more sustainable trade and reduce the effects of this trade on coral reefs worldwide. The trade in coral and coral reef species for ornamental purposes is substantial and growing, with approximately 30 million fish and 1.5 million live stony corals removed from the ecosystem each year. The aquarium industry alone targets some 1,500 species of reef fish, and many die in transit, prompting collectors to gather even more animals to compensate for potential losses. With the United States accounting for over half of the ornamental trade in live coral, reef fish and invertebrates, Tissot and 17 other scientists are calling on this country to leverage its market demand—through additional regulation and enforcement, public awareness campaigns, certification of sustainable products, and assistance to spread best practices in source countries—to make the trade more sustainable.

Dr. Brian Tissot is a Professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Science at Washington State University Vancouver. His research is focused on the interface between biology, management, and policy and examines ecological interactions between habitat and commercially important marine fishes and invertebrates and the role of the community in managing marine resources. Through collaboration with state, federal and international agencies he is involved in a range of activities including basic research, research with implications towards resource management, and environmental policy development in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California. In Hawaii, he helped improve the management of an aquarium fishery along the Kona coast by being a part of a collaborative research program with state biologists and policy makers, SeaGrant extension, and the local community. On the west coast he is examining the role of continental shelf invertebrates, especially deep water corals, and how they function as critical habitat for commercially important fishes. Information from his work has been used to improve management strategies for coral reefs in the Pacific, west coast bottom trawling, and in the development of legislation in Congress. In addition to over 60 publications in scientific journals, Dr. Tissot's work has been featured in Scientific American, National Geographic News, Smithsonian magazine and in the Washington Post. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on July 26, 2010.


The WildLife: Reef Sounds, Corals and Reef Fishes, Steve Simpson

Steve Simpson, University of Bristol, about his research into ocean sounds and how reef fish and corals use these cues to find their way home. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how research by him and his team of scientists has shown that corals, rather than drifting aimlessly after being released by their parent colonies and landing by chance back on reefs, instead find their way back purposefully by detecting reef noises like snapping shrimps and grunting fish. With coral reefs one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world, that discovery has staggering implications as it could means that coral larvae might struggle to find reefs because human noise, like drilling or boats, might mask their sound. Steve Simpson is a Senior Researcher at the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences. As a marine biologist and fish ecologist, he has particular interests in coral reef fishes, commercial fisheries, climate change, fish behavior and aquaculture. Specifically, he works on: the effects of climate change on European fish communities; underwater noise and its influence on fish behavior; fish population biology and dispersal; and population connectivity and marine protected areas. His work combines overseas fieldwork, often in remote and challenging developing country environments, with laboratory-based behavior experiments and computer modeling. His research has appeared in numerous research journals as well as the popular press, including the Los Angeles Times, the UK Guardian and The Independent, among others.This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on June 28, 2010. Article and transcript available on Mongabay.com.


The WildLife: Corals & Coral Reefs, Kristian Teleki

Kristian Teleki, SeaWeb’s Vice President for Science Initiatives and former Director of the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), reveals some of the mysteries of corals. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the biology and uses of corals and how much we still don’t know. He also discusses the threats to coral reefs and what can be done to halt their decline. Kristian Teleki joined SeaWeb as Vice President for Science Initiatives in November 2009. For the decade before that, he served as the Director of the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), a unique global partnership dedicated to addressing the serious decline in the health of the world's coral reefs. During his tenure there Kristian had oversight for more than 40 coral reef projects in 35 countries. Project activities ranged from livelihood diversification and resource management to the prevention and mitigation of ecological degradation of coral reefs through management, monitoring and public awareness actions. In addition to his ICRAN duties, Kristian established and led the One Ocean Programme at the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre, designed to reflect the interconnected nature of the world's seas and its coastlines, the rich and varied biodiversity they support, and human reliance on its resources and services. Kristian Teleki has a diverse background in marine science and conservation, and his field experience extends from the polar to tropical environments. He is particularly interested in the relationship that humans have with the ocean and promoting the sustainable use of its resources. He has degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Cambridge University. He also is on the Editorial Board of Aquatic Conservation, is a member of the Resource Users Group for the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA) and is a Steering Committee member of the Global Islands Partnership and the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on May 3, 2010.


The WildLife: Killer Whales & Vocalizations, Ari Daniel Shapiro

Ari Daniel Shapiro, a wildlife biologist and radio contributor, shares his research on the vocalizations of killer whales. He reveals to “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme a number of interesting facts about the sounds of killer whales. Did you know they use both high and low frequencies in the same vocalization? He’ll also divulge what it’s really like to undertake this demanding kind of research in remote and frigid locales. While earning his PhD in biological oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Ari Daniel Shapiro studied the vocalizations of killer whales in Norway. Now he uses his own voice and knowledge to tell stories about science on radio and other media. He's a regular contributor to a variety of national public radio programs and the host of both the Podcast of Life and Ocean Gazing. You can find the video on Ari’s killer whale research discussed in this interview as well as other material on his website, www.aridanielshapiro.com. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on March 29, 2010.