62 episodes

Big Biology is a podcast that tells the stories of scientists tackling some of the biggest unanswered questions in biology.

Big Biology Art Woods and Marty Martin

    • Life Sciences
    • 4.7, 65 Ratings

Big Biology is a podcast that tells the stories of scientists tackling some of the biggest unanswered questions in biology.

    RE-RUN: Tangling the Tree of Life

    RE-RUN: Tangling the Tree of Life

    Today we’re replaying of our discussion with science writer David Quammen.

    We talked with him in 2018 about his most recent book, the Tangled Tree, which explores the influence of horizontal gene transfer on the evolution of life on Earth.

    But right now, it’s one of his previous books that is essential reading. In 2012, he published a book called Spillover that described the risk of new diseases jumping from wildlife to humans. Now, we’re seeing that scenario play out in a big way with the coronavirus pandemic.

    In May, he wrote an article in the New Yorker arguing that the U.S. has one of the worse coronavirus outbreaks in the world because it failed to learn from previous pandemics. You should definitely check out both books, and his recent article. 

    Photo: Ronan Donovan


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    • 1 hr 15 min
    RE-RUN: Information, Aliens and the Origin of Life

    RE-RUN: Information, Aliens and the Origin of Life

    This episode was originally published in 2018. It's one of our most popular episodes of all time, so we decided to run it again while we're in between seasons. Look for new Big Bio episodes in August. 

    What is life? How did life arise from non-life? What did life look like at its origin?

    Tune into this podcast to hear Art and Marty talk with Sara Walker, an expert in astrobiology and theoretical physics at Arizona State University. They discuss how life might have arisen on Earth and why biologists and physicists should work together to find a theory of life.

    Her ideas could help decide what to do about artificial intelligence (SPOILER: The robots will take over, but it’s going to be OK). They might also help us find life on other planets.


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    • 1 hr 4 min
    Ep 45: Student Spotlight

    Ep 45: Student Spotlight

    How are early stage scientists pushing biology forward?  What’s it like to be a graduate student during a global pandemic?

    Over the last several months, we’ve been collecting short audio clips from biology students describing their research. Associate Producer Michael Levin spearheaded the project, which we called the Student Spotlight.

    On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with four students who submitted the best audio clips for that project. We talked about their science, and also asked them about the most important areas for future research, advice for future biology students and what it’s like to be a young scientist when a global pandemic is making the future uncertain.

    The episode features Andrew Burchill at Arizona State; Ruth Demree, who recently graduated from Vassar; and Jason Hagani and Laura Plimpton, both at Columbia


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    • 1 hr 7 min
    Ep 44: The Science of Slime

    Ep 44: The Science of Slime

    What’s the slimiest fish on Earth? Why are they so slimy? And can we leverage our understanding of slime to make better bioengineered materials?

    In this episode we talk with Doug Fudge, an Associate Professor at Chapman University, about his research on hagfish slime. Over the past 20 years, Doug and his lab and collaborators have figured out how and why hagfish produce slime, how the slime’s remarkable properties emerge from its underlying chemistry, and whether the protein threads in slime can be used to make bio-inspired fabrics that are greener, better, and longer lasting.

    A significant portion of Doug’s work has been published in Journal of Experimental Biology, including this 2005 paper on the composition and structure of hagfish slime and this 2006 paper testing a key hypothesis about how hagfish use slime to defend themselves from predators. Fudge’s lab published recent papers on how slime glands refill after they eject their slimy contents and how they chemically stabilize coiled threads inside the glands before they are ejected. Papers in other journals explore how slime threads can be used to make bio-inspired fabrics and how slime threads are constructed and mature inside slime glands.


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    • 59 min
    Ep 43: Project ICARUS

    Ep 43: Project ICARUS

    What can we learn from animals by constantly tracking their movements with transmitters? How can we use information from collectives of animals to study and predict disease spread, earthquakes, and outbreaks of pests? How do you transform a massive, international scientific idea into a reality?

    On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with Martin Wikelski, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior. Martin leads Project ICARUS, an international collaboration aiming to track thousands of tagged animals at once from space. We talked with him about the long road to getting the project off the ground and what will ultimately learn from this new and powerful tool.

    Photo: © MPIAB Jacob Stierle


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    • 1 hr 8 min
    Ep 42: Fatal Fungus

    Ep 42: Fatal Fungus

    Why are amphibians across the world dying from a fungal infection? Where did the fungus come from? How does it kill and are populations adapting?

    On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with Craig Franklin, a biologist at the University of Queensland and the director of research for the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve, about the history and distribution of the fungus, how it’s killing so many species, and what we can do to save them.

    Cover photo by Brian Gratwicke.


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    • 42 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
65 Ratings

65 Ratings

Nzooks ,

Interesting topics, interviewed well

One of the things I like best about listening to the scientist interviews is the last question inviting the scientist to talk about any subject that was missed or add any point that they want to make. The science is engaging, often fascinating, and I look forward to the next episode.

Mkmn17 ,

Dives Deep, Stays Accessible

This podcast takes heavy, complicated topics and opens them up to anyone with basic scientific understanding. Perfect for learning something new on the morning commute!

nudibranchs ,

Best biology podcast I’ve found

This podcast is informative and engaging for biologists and non-biologists alike. Covers a wide-range of topics with a heavy focus on one of my favorite topics EVOLUTION

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