75 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
    • 4.6 • 78 Ratings

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

    New content on Patreon, social media and our website.

    New content on Patreon, social media and our website.

    We are jumping into the podcast feed with a few quick updates. We’re revamping our Patreon tier system to give you more Big Biology content. We also created a Facebook group where you can discuss Big Biology episodes with other fans and we're starting to upload transcripts for select episodes on BigBiology.org.

    Become a Patron: https://www.patreon.com/bigbio

    Join the Facebook Group

    Read the transcripts




    ---

    Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bigbiology/message

    • 2 min
    Hot wings: How birds stay cool under the Australian sun (Ep 55)

    Hot wings: How birds stay cool under the Australian sun (Ep 55)

    On this episode of Big Biology we talk to Christine Cooper (@CECooperEcophys), a vertebrate ecophysiologist and professor at Curtin University, Australia. Christine’s research focuses on the thermal, metabolic, and water physiology of Australian mammals and birds. Her recent research, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology (a sponsor of this episode), details how one small and common bird, the zebra finch, responds to prolonged and intense Australian heat waves. We also discussed the evolution of vertebrate endothermy and how various other animals have evolved to cope with changes in temperature.

    This episode is sponsored by Journal of Experimental Biology. The journal is published by the Company of Biologists, a not-for-profit that has been supporting and inspiring the biological community since 1925. JEB is at the forefront of comparative physiology and biomechanics.

    Photo: Christine Cooper


    ---

    Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bigbiology/message

    • 46 min
    And the Oskar goes to: Germ-soma differentiation in insects (Ep 54)

    And the Oskar goes to: Germ-soma differentiation in insects (Ep 54)

    What is a germ cell and why do animals separate germ and soma (body) cells at all? What molecules determine whether cells become germ or soma, and are some such mechanisms products of horizontal gene transfer?

    On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with Cassandra Extavour, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Harvard who studies the how's and why's of germ cell differentiation in insects. Recently, Cassandra's lab has been working on oskar, a novel and highly conserved gene that is indispensable for giving insect cells the ability to become sperm or eggs. She and others have found that Oskar effectively acts like a magnet in developing insect cells, keeping together molecules critical to transformation of undifferentiated cells into functional germ cells. Bizarrely, this really important gene is thought to have evolved partly through horizontal gene transfer between insects and particular bacteria. Since then, oskar has also come to have many other functions, including for nerve cell development, even though much of its history was in species without nervous systems. Cassandra thinks that genes like these with complex histories and pleiotropic effects might be very common in living systems, much more than longstanding one gene-one phenotype thinking would lead us to expect.

    Photo: Hannah Davis


    ---

    Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bigbiology/message

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Turn down the lights: The ecological effects of bright nights (Ep 53)

    Turn down the lights: The ecological effects of bright nights (Ep 53)

    How has the amount of artificial light changed over the last 150 years? In what ways does artificial light affect human health and wildlife? And how can new lighting technologies ameliorate the effects of light pollution?

    On this episode of Big Biology we talk to Kevin Gaston (@KevinJGaston), a professor of Biodiversity & Conservation at the University of Exeter. Kevin is an expert on the ecological impacts of artificial light and in particular “sky glow”--the combined glow of all lights coming from cities and towns. In our chat, we discussed how light production has grown over the past several decades and the growing impacts that it's having on our planet. Further, we discuss some of the psychology behind the human desire for bright spaces and what we as individuals can do to reduce the impacts of light pollution on ourselves and the organisms around us.

    This episode is sponsored by the Zoological Lighting Institute. Recognizing that natural light is a central aspect of animal health and ecological function, The Zoological Lighting Institute promotes scientific research to improve understanding of what artificial changes in light mean for animals and the human communities that depend on them. Through education on light pollution, ZLI hopes that proper and sustainable approaches to care and development of light sources can be taken by communities around the globe.


    ---

    Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bigbiology/message

    • 56 min
    Coronavirus III: Town Hall (Ep 52)

    Coronavirus III: Town Hall (Ep 52)

    How can local and state governments repair the damage done by COVID-19? Is there a vaccine on its way to a pharmacy near you? And what should you expect about lockdowns, facemasks, and new COVID-19 therapies in the coming months?

    On this episode of Big Biology, a panel of experts discusses the virus’s trajectory and impact, and our options going forward. This conversation was recorded live at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, in partnership with the University of South Florida College of Public Health and Morsani College of Medicine and the City of Tampa.

    The panel consisted of Jane Castor, the mayor of Tampa, Kami Kim, a physician and professor who specializes in infectious diseases, Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist focused on the population ecology of disease transmission, and Michael Teng, an immunologist with expertise in vaccine development. We moderate as the experts look ahead, and discuss what we can expect long-term.

    Photo: Allison Long


    ---

    Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bigbiology/message

    • 1 hr 11 min
    A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and Contingency (Ep 51)

    A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and Contingency (Ep 51)

    What is the role of chance in explaining variation in biology? How has it shaped the history of life on Earth? And how do scientists incorporate chance into their performing experiments?

    In this episode of BigBiology, we talk to Sean Caroll, an award-winning scientist, author, educator and, film-producer about his latest book, A Series of Fortunate Events, in which he writes about how chance has shaped life on Earth. In Sean’s view, chance is the creative process and contingency is the aftermath of chance. Consider the asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs and paved the way for the rise of mammals and ultimately humans. It could have missed our planet altogether. Or it could have hit 30 minutes earlier, or later, landing in the ocean and having effects that were much less severe.


    Sean argues that chance is not limited to biology but plays a big role society including the entertainment industry. The common theme between thinkers and comedians is that they tell the truth, but in a very different way. How do comedians get away with bold statements while scientists run into a controversy for the same ideas? Do scientists have something to learn from comedians?


    ---

    Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bigbiology/message

    • 57 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
78 Ratings

78 Ratings

Idardy ,

Great! Origin of life, Developmental Biology, ...

Great podcast. I got hooked on the multiple origin of life episodes - they were excellent! Also plenty of great developmental biology content. They bring in excellent guest researchers. Also, I do love Art and Marty’s curiosity and genuineness.

kaemae77 ,

I am learning so much!

I never went to college, I never took a biology class, I just look stuff up online and watch a ton of documentaries. I get almost all of what they are talking about. I overlooked this podcast for a long time because I thought I wouldn’t understand it. I am so glad I tried it out.

reviewer264858 ,

Best Bio-Based Podcast

Each podcast is scientific enough to teach me things and basic enough that I can understand the minute details of concepts they discuss. They keep the podcast to the point, but it always feels natural and like the guests are comfortable. Their excitement for biology is easy to hear and makes the podcast absolutely lovely to listen to. Can’t stop recommending it!

Top Podcasts In Life Sciences

Listeners Also Subscribed To