48 episodes

When We Talk About Animals is a series of in-depth conversations with leading thinkers about the big questions animals raise about what it means to be human. Supported by the Law, Ethics & Animals Program at Yale Law School, Yale University’s Human Nature Lab, and the Yale Broadcast Studio.

When We Talk About Animals Yale Podcast Network

    • Science
    • 4.9 • 56 Ratings

When We Talk About Animals is a series of in-depth conversations with leading thinkers about the big questions animals raise about what it means to be human. Supported by the Law, Ethics & Animals Program at Yale Law School, Yale University’s Human Nature Lab, and the Yale Broadcast Studio.

    Ep. 47 – Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil on writing love letters to nature

    Ep. 47 – Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil on writing love letters to nature

    Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s exuberant book of essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, & Other Astonishments, has unlocked protective passion for nature among readers since its release in 2020. In the book’s thirty dazzling essays, Nezhukumatathil weaves love stories about being a daughter, a partner, a mother, and a teacher with reverence for a delightful catalogue of wild animals and plants and what they give us: their ability to expand our imaginations, to connect us with others, to unearth memories, to break habits of thinking, to teach us lessons, and to simply leave us awed that we co-exist with such wildly magical creatures as frogs and fireflies. In this episode, Nezhukumatathil reads from her collection, tells us about animals who have shaped her experiences and understanding of the world, and discusses the power of wonder and astonishment to expand our empathy.

    • 56 min
    Ep. 46 – Paleobiologist Thomas Halliday on the Animals of Ancient Worlds

    Ep. 46 – Paleobiologist Thomas Halliday on the Animals of Ancient Worlds

    The fossil record acts as both a memorial to life’s spectacular possibilities and as a warning to humanity about how fast dominance can become forgotten history, according to our guest, Scottish paleobiologist Dr. Thomas Halliday. Halliday’s research investigates long-term patterns in the fossil record, particularly in mammals. In his magnificent and daring new book “Otherlands: A Journey through Earth’s Extinct Worlds,” Halliday translates cutting-edge science into vivid portraits of sixteen fossil sites and their inhabitants extending back 550 million years. We speak with Halliday about his travel guide to the history of multicellular life on Earth, how an animal fossil can be read as a character description, how entire extinct worlds are reconstructed from remnants in the Earth’s crust, and the importance of realizing that our lives and the worlds we know were preceded by hundreds of millions of years of other life and other worlds, “simultaneously fabulous yet familiar.”

    • 57 min
    Ep. 45 – Rob Dunn on what the laws of biology predict about our future

    Ep. 45 – Rob Dunn on what the laws of biology predict about our future

    Amid the cataclysms of the Anthropocene, an era defined by humans’ attempts to control the natural world, it’s easy to forget that we remain as subject as ever to the ecological laws that govern living things. Like the laws of physics, paying attention to our planet’s biological laws empowers us to understand how the world works and to make predictions about the outcomes of our actions. In his new book, A Natural History of the Future, ecologist Rob Dunn warns that continuing to ignore these laws will cause us to fail again and again in our attempts to build a sustainable future for our species. In this interview, we speak with Dr. Dunn about how across life big and small, remote and within our own bodies, these immutable laws of ecology, evolution, and biogeography will shape our future; what the trajectory of life could look like in our absence; and about the marvelous unknowns still to be discovered around and within us.

    • 1 hr
    Ep. 44 – Rick McIntyre on the stories of Yellowstone’s greatest wolves

    Ep. 44 – Rick McIntyre on the stories of Yellowstone’s greatest wolves

    In 1995, the U.S. government took unprecedented actions to restore the wolf population of Yellowstone National Park, which it had brutally destroyed seventy years prior. More than thirty wolves from multiple packs were captured in Canada, transported to the park, and released in a grand experiment that would become the most successful wildlife reintroduction effort in history. Our guest, the legendary wolf expert Rick McIntyre, has dedicated his life to those wolves. For the past 26 years, he has observed the park’s wolves nearly every single day, accumulating more than 100,000 sightings. After retiring from the park service, McIntyre – who still watches the wolves daily – penned a gripping series of biographies of Yellowstone’s greatest wolf leaders: Wolf 08, one of the first reintroduced wolves who grew from a runt into a powerful pack leader; his adopted and brave son, Wolf 21, known for his long and successful reign as king of the park’s Druid Peak pack, his deep devotion to his mate, and his unusual benevolence to his defeated rivals; and 21’s nephew, Wolf 302, who started life as an irresponsible Casanova who stole food from pups and slept during battles, but transformed his character and died as a heroic father. In this episode, McIntyre describes the wolves’ unique personalities, the packs’ dynastic dramas, and the exuberant joy that he’s seen through his spotting scope, and explains why federal action is urgently needed to protect these wolves, who are at risk of being massacred once again due to draconian new state laws.

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Ep. 43 – Cynthia Barnett on our world of seashells

    Ep. 43 – Cynthia Barnett on our world of seashells

    From tiniest cowries to giant clams, seashells have gripped human imaginations since time immemorial. In her magnificent new book, The Sound of the Sea, journalist Cynthia Barnett tells the epic history of humanity’s interactions with shells and the soft-bodied animals who make them. These stories of how we have treasured, traded, plundered, and coveted shells reveal much about who we are and who we’ve been, both good and bad. Barnett’s deep research ranges from the awe-inspiring “great cities of shell” of the Calusa people in Florida, to the use of cowrie shells as currency in the Atlantic slave trade, to the decimation of mollusk populations due to climate change and over-harvesting. In this episode, we speak with Barnett about what she describes as our “world of shell,” what shells can tell us about our past, how they have shaped our present, and how the future of shells and their animal makers is tied to our own.

    • 1 hr 3 min
    Ep. 42 – Edie Widder on the ocean’s spectacular light

    Ep. 42 – Edie Widder on the ocean’s spectacular light

    Most of us land-lubbers assume that light-making among ocean creatures is an exotic and rare phenomenon. But that’s wrong. The majority of animals in the ocean, which means the majority of animals on the planet, are capable of making light. From top to bottom, the ocean is teeming with unforgettably beautiful and extraordinarily diverse light shows made by animals that we’re only beginning to understand, from deep-sea shrimp that distract predators by spewing glowing mucus to squids that backlight their body tissue in flickering patterns that seem to coordinate group hunting. In this episode, we speak with Dr. Edie Widder, a renowned deep sea explorer and world authority on marine bioluminescence, about ocean animals’ language of light, her startling beautiful experiences in the deep, how dim our understanding of much of the ocean still is, and why investing in ocean exploration is key to ocean protection.

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
56 Ratings

56 Ratings

CaseyRP ,

Arresting

The conversations on When We Talk About Animals often appear esoteric at first, but end up revealing themselves as central to considerations of what it means to be alive and enmeshed in a web of life, laws, and technology on this planet. These are the questions we should wrestle with daily.

KyleAlexanderD ,

Wonderful

Truly an excellent podcast! It's incredibly well done with conversations and topics that satisfy the mind.

AnnaElisabeth S ,

Love this podcast

Fascinating discussions about topics that matter

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