Crazy stories about animals, told by the people who study them.

In this podcast biologists share their most amazing stories from working with wildlife around the world, focusing on specific individual animals they have met and followed through their research.

Season 2

Episode 2: Pacman the Jaguar With Two Girlfriends in Two Different Countries

  • Summary: Pacman was a jaguar in the Mayan rainforests of Southern Mexico. He was easily recognized by a big spot on his flank shaped like his namesake videogame character. International collaboration between scientists led to the surprise finding that Pacman would cross a major river to patrol parts of a territory in Honduras as well. This double life seemed to work for Pacman, until a tragic and surprise ending that served as a warning to Mexican conservationists of a new threat in their country.
  • Guest: Dr. Rodrigo Medellín is a Professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and a National Geographic Explorer at Large. You can follow Rodrigo’s ongoing work via Twitter @RodrigoMedellin or learn more by checking out the BIOCONCIENCIA organization and the Programa Jaguares in the Selva Maya.
  • Species: The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest cat in the New World, slightly smaller than tigers and lions, but with a stronger bite. Jaguars live across a variety of habitats in Central and South America where they hunt large prey, especially peccaries. Occasionally, they’ll prey on cows, which can put them at conflict with ranchers who kill jaguars to defend their herds. Recently, black market trade of jaguar body parts for Chinese “traditional medicine” has added more incentive for jaguar hunting, threatening their survival.
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Episode 1: John Snow, the Hoary Marmot Who Died and Came Back to Life Again.

  • Summary: Biologists often use themes to name their study animals, making it easier to keep track of which group an individual was from. John Snow was a male marmot in the Game of Thrones marmot colony, obviously. As biologists tracked this marmot they were amazed at how much the animal’s story paralleled the character from the TV show [Spoiler Alert!].
  • Guest: Katie Rubin, Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks working in the Mammal Department at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. You can read more about their work at the Alaska Marmoteers Facebook site.
  • Species: The hoary marmot is a large member of the squirrel family that lives near the tree line in the mountains of northwest North America. They look for places with grasses and forbs to eat and rocky areas for cover. They hibernate for all the cold months, emerging in the summer to breed and gain weight. Their body mass varies over the course of the year, from ~ 3.75 kg (8.3 lb) in May to around 7 kg (15 lb) in September, with exceptionally large males reaching 13.5 kg (30 lb).
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Season 1

Season 1 Introduction

Episode 10: Hansi, the stork who brought a baby to a farm

  • Summary: This week, Dr. Martin Wikelski shares the story of Hansi, a young stork that lost his flock while migrating south for the winter. Instead of ending up in Africa, he was stranded in Germany as winter quickly approached. Listen in to hear how Hansi survived and brought a baby to a farm.
  • Guest: Dr. Martin Wikelski, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior, Department of Migration. You can also follow Martin’s research on Twitter @AnimalTracking
  • Species: White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) breed in Europe and western Asia and migrate south for the winter. They forage in natural and agricultural fields where they hunt insects and small vertebrates. They have a long history of associating with humans, and still today nest in towns. An ancient legend, popularised by a 19th-century Hans Christian Andersen story called “The Storks,” suggests that the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents.
  • Released: August 13, 2019
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Episode 9: B5: The Flamulated Owl Who Got Away, Over, and Over, and Over Again

  • Summary: Studying flammulated owls is tough work. It involves trekking on mountain slopes with tall catch poles while avoiding bears and mountain lions. Plus, the elusive birds don’t make it easy. This week, we meet Scott Yanco as he recounts capturing and researching the movement and ecology of an owl named B5.
  • Guest: Scott Yanco is a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Denver. You can also follow him on Twitter @ScottYanco.
  • Species: Flammulated owls (Psiloscops flammeolus) are tiny birds (~15 cm (6 in) long) with a long (~36-cm (14-in)) wingspan that helps them fly rapidly to catch their favorite food: nocturnal moths. They breed in pine forests of the US and Canada and migrate south to Mexico and Central America for the winter.
  • Released: August 6, 2019
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Episode 8: Marijo, the forest elephant who liked to run the tracks

  • Summary: Follow the story of guest Ameila Meier about her adventures through the remote African forests of Gabon to track an elephant named Marijo. Throughout her journey she encountered local farmers, ivory poachers, and even learned the hard way that getting too close to an elephant may not turn out the way you’d like it to.
  • Guest: Amelia Meier, Graduate student at Duke University
  • Species: Elephants are big, but forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are hard to see. They are shy and can rapidly disappear into the thick rainforest of central Africa. However, they can just as quickly reappear and raid crops, stealing food from local farmers, and endangering their own lives if locals retaliate. Although their tusks are smaller than those of savanna elephants, they are still coveted by ivory poachers, which creates another threat to their survival. Conservationists are working hard to protect the elephants and find ways to minimize the conflict with locals.
  • Released: July 30, 2019
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Episode 7: Joy, the show-off humpback whale

  • Summary: Lisa Kettemer met Joy the humpback whale when it enthusiastically swam up to the boat and allowed biologists to tag it. Joy’s story includes intrepid work in frigid oceans and a mysterious but real-life white whale. Find out more about this project including tracks from Joy and other whales.
  • Guest: Lisa Kettemer is a PhD Student at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromso, you can also find Lisa on Twitter.
  • Species: Humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) are one of the most familiar of the great whales with characteristic long flippers, mournful underwater songs, and a habit of making spectacular leaps out of the water. They are filter feeders, using baleen in their mouths to filter out krill and other tiny organisms. Although humpbacks are relatively easy to spot from a boat, it is hard to track their movements across the global oceans, and we are only now starting to learn about their huge migrations.
  • Released: July 23, 2019
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Episode 6: Vanilla Ice - the coati who liked the ladies

  • Summary: While male coati typically remain solitary creatures after mating, “Vanilla Ice” has been documented to prefer spending time with his potential mates. Listen to this week’s podcast featuring Dr. Ben Hirsch as he goes through video and DNA tests to explain how this unusual behavior was discovered.
  • Guest: Dr. Ben Hirsch, Lecturer in Zoology, James Cook University, Australia
  • Species: South American Coatis (Nasua nasua) are a pointy-nosed and striped-tail member of the raccoon family with a unique social system where females and their young form large groups while males usually strike out on their own.
  • Released: July 16, 2019
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Episode 5: P22, the Mountain Lion of Hollywood

  • Summary: Can large predators coexist with humans? As the human population continues to expand, the natural habitats of many animals shrinks. Listen to the story of P22, a mountain lion that lives under the Hollywood sign. As part of his research with Los Angeles carnivores, Dr. Seth Riley has been following P22 since 2012. He joins us to tell the tale of how P22 has survived for the last 10 years despite mountain lions becoming more isolated. Our guest ends with a bold proposal that could not only ensure the future of Hollywood lions, but help other species as well.
  • Guest: Dr. Seth Riley is Wildlife Ecologist with the National Park Service at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Adjunct Faculty at the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
  • Species: Mountain Lions (Puma concolor) are North America’s largest cat, with the largest range (Alaska to Argentina) and the longest list of synonymous common names, including puma, cougar, catamount, and Florida panther. They are primary deer hunters, and can exist in a variety of habitats.
  • Released: July 9, 2019
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Episode 4: Bravo Luis, the Capuchin Monkey who became the leader on a rainy day

  • Summary: Listen to the incredible story of how one subordinate monkey, Bravo Luis, rose to power in the face of a disaster that nearly wiped out his entire group, leaving only Bravo and a few females to carry on. Dr. Meg Crofoot, who has been following Bravo for over 15 years, joins us to tell the tale of this reluctant monkey leader.
  • Guest: Dr. Meg Crofoot, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis and research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. She recently started a new job as a department director at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and as the Alexander von Humboldt-Professor at the University of Konstanz. You can learn more about her work in Panama at this video, and more about her latest research in this video.
  • Species: White-faced Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus capucinus) live in Central American Rainforests where they climb through the trees in search of fruit and insects. Capuchin live in groups with a mix of related females (many sisters and mother-daughter) and unrelated males. Dominant males lead the group and defend their group’s territory against other groups. Larger groups have larger territories, and are more likely to win fights with other groups, although there is a home-field advantage to groups fighting from the core of their homerange.
  • Released: July 2, 2019
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Episode 3: Osito, the bat who wanted a harem but ended up in a ditch

  • Summary: Osito was a young male bat living in a dingy drainage ditch who struggled to maintain the interest of a local pack of young females. Dr. Teague O’Mara tells about Osito’s struggles and expands on his research in Panama into how bats know where to find food.
  • Guest: Dr. Teague O’Mara, Assistant Professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
  • Species: The Greater Spear-nosed Bat (Phyllostomus hastatus) is the second-largest bat in the Americas and feeds on fruit and whatever else it can catch and kill with its bone-crushing bite. Female groups hang out together for years (maybe decades) but only live and mate with one male in a given year.
  • Released: June 25, 2019
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Episode 2: Jaeger, the python that should never have been in the Everglades

  • Summary: Giant pythons have escaped from captivity and started to invade southern Florida. Biologists are scrambling to learn about how these snakes survive, with the hopes of eventually eradicating this invasive species. Monica Lasky tells the story of Jaeger, a huge snake she radio-tagged and later radio-tracked deep into the Everglades, dodging sawgrass and alligators along the way.
  • Guest: Monica Lasky, Biologist, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Species: Burmese Pythons are one of the largest snakes in the world. They are native to Asia, but common in the pet trade. A population of escaped pets has established in Florida where they are causing severe declines in the populations of native mammals like raccoons, opossums, and deer.
  • Released: June 18, 2019
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Episode 1: Pluie, the wolf who inspired carnivore recovery across the west

  • Summary: Pluie the wolf was one of the first animals to wear a satellite tracking collar with global readout to track her movements — no matter how far she went. And she went far! Dr. Mark Hebblewhite shares how the incredible travels of this one wolf inspired projects that protect large ecosystems, like the initiative Yukon to Yellowstone. Pluie was even featured on an episode of the West Wing!
  • Guest: Dr. Mark Hebblewhite, Professor of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Montana
  • Species: Wolves (Canis lupus) were originally widespread across the American West until settlers hunted and poisoned them to near extinction. Once protected, they started to recover their populations and reclaim lost ground.
  • Released: June 11, 2019
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