There are billions of microbes both in and on our bodies. These invisible organisms form complex ecosystems, which are passed on to us as infants through breast milk, help digest food in our guts, and may even be correlated with a growing list of health conditions like obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autism. It’s no exaggeration to say that human life would not be possible without the microbiome. Science writer Ed Yong has been reporting on the microbiome for over a decade, and has just published his first book, ‘I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life.’ In this conversation with producer Mike Osborne, he reveals the evolutionary roots of the microbiome, what we know – and don’t know – about microbiomes across the human population, and how we as humans both create an imprint and are imprinted upon by the microbes in the environment all around us.
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 brings us this story, originally published in 2014 with support from the Stanford Storytelling Project and a Braden Storytelling Grant.
Producer: Laura Cussen
Featuring: César Abril, Nicolás Corona, Pedro Martínez, and Alexis Mychajliw
Special thanks: The Last Survivors, Natacha Ruck, Will Rogers, Graham Roth, Weston Gaylord, Professor Elizabeth Hadly, to all the people who have made this project possible, and to the Hispaniolan solenodon.
Music: Sunsearcher, Chris Zabriskie, Nicolás Corona
Image via flickr
This week we revisit our interview with Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich rose to notoriety in the 1960s following the publication of his bestselling book “The Population Bomb.” In the book, he foresaw a world characterized by widespread famine and societal collapse driven by overpopulation. In the years since, Ehrlich has received considerable criticism for his predictions. In this quintessential Gen Anthro conversation, our former student Jenny Rempel challenges Ehrlich about his past predictions and how his views have evolved.
THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.
The Anthropocene is characterized by exponential global change driven by human activity. But humans have been impacting the planet since the very earliest days when we first appeared on the evolutionary tree. In fact, one of the longest running debates in paleontology centers on homo sapiens’ role in wiping out North America’s enormous land animals, known as megafauna. In this interview with paleontologist Liz Hadly, we talk about what life looked like in the Pleistocene, the pattern of human dispersal around the globe, and new scientific techniques that allow us to understand how ecosystems respond to perturbations, like the arrival of early humans.