The Sauropodcast is where you can find provocative, engaging, enlightening conversations about science. Produced by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and hosted by award-winning science journalist John Mangels, this half-hour interview show features scientists and science newsmakers discussing cutting-edge topics from the frontiers of research and the intersection of science, policy, popular culture and everyday life. It’s science out loud.
Keep It Great: The State of Lake Erie, Episode 22
Lake Erie is an invaluable resource and habitat. It’s the shallowest, warmest and most biologically diverse of the five Great Lakes. Its waters and watershed support a bounty of aquatic and terrestrial life, including dozens of species of native fish, plants, amphibians, mammals and insects. The lake provides drinking water for 11 million Americans and Canadians.
After decades of neglect and decline during much of the 20th century, Lake Erie rebounded during the 1980s and ‘90s, due to intensive efforts focused on reducing industrial pollution and storm water runoff.
But in the early 21st century, Lake Erie is facing renewed environmental threats, including harmful algal blooms, low-oxygen conditions, invasive species and the impact of climate change.
Recently, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History organized a symposium, “Keep It Great: The State of Lake Erie,” to examine the status and future of the lake. With Sauropodcast host John Mangels as moderator, a panel of experts discussed key Lake Erie challenges and two conservation success stories: the restoration of Mentor Marsh and the comeback of the Lake Erie Water Snake.
Dr. Jeff Reutter, retired director of the Ohio Sea Grant Program, Ohio State University’s Stone Lab and the Center for Lake Erie Area Research
Dr. Laura Johnson, Director of the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University
Dr. Kristin Stanford, Education and Outreach Coordinator at Ohio State University's Stone Lab
Dr. David Kriska, Restoration Ecologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Introduction – 00:00-16:43
Dr. Reutter - 16:43 – 36:05
Dr. Johnson – 36:05 – 57:18
Dr. Stanford – 58:01-1:12:52
Dr. Kriska – 1:12:52 – 1:28:08
Audience Q&A - 1:28:08 – 1:53:45
The Meteorite Man, with guest Dr. Ralph Harvey: Episode 21
On February 15, 2013, residents of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk were rocked by an early-morning explosion that shattered windows, damaged buildings and injured more than 1,400 people.
What caused all that havoc was a meteor – an asteroid, or at least a piece of one. It was a pretty big meteor, too – roughly the size of a five-story building. It didn’t actually strike the Earth, which would have made it a meteorite. It was kind of a glancing blow, so it exploded in the atmosphere, about 18 miles up; it was the shock wave from that air burst that blew people off their feet and knocked out windows and walls. The force was more than 26 times the energy of the atomic bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.
While events that destructive are rare, lesser meteorite impacts are fairly common. Experts say they happen five to 10 times a year. It’s just that they’re usually in uninhabited areas, where they don’t cause damage and might not even be seen.
Finding those meteorites would be pretty important, for several reasons. For one thing, they’re the leftovers of the raw material that formed the planets in our solar system billions of years ago, so they hold valuable clues to our early cosmic history. For another, if we ever need to divert a really big asteroid headed toward Earth, like the one that helped wipe out most of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, we’d better know a lot more about their basic properties.
But where can we find meteorites so that scientists can study them? Our guest on today’s show will tell us.
Since 1991, planetary geologist Dr. Ralph Harvey has led annual expeditions to the Antarctic ice sheets – the best meteorite-hunting location on Earth, and one of its most extreme environments. It’s not that more meteorites land there than anywhere else; it’s just that they stand out so vividly amongst all that white. And as Dr. Harvey will explain, there are forces that concentrate the meteorites in some spots, if you know where to look.
Our conversation covers a lot of ground, from what it’s like to work in one of the most hostile places on the planet, to what secrets these space rocks may hold, and the amazing technology that’s helping provide insights.
Dr. Harvey is a professor in Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. He is the co-principal investigator of the U.S. Antarctic Search for Meteorites program, which in its 42-year history has recovered more than 22,000 specimens for study by scientists around the world. Dr. Harvey’s research focuses on the geochemistry of planetary materials, including the geological history of Mars, various physical properties of asteroids and meteorites, and interactions between the crust and atmosphere of Venus.
Fighting Plastic Pollution, with guest Dr. Marcus Eriksen: Episode 20
Plastics are a pretty new material, in the scheme of things. They only started showing up in consumer products in the last 80 years or so. Before that, we made stuff that was designed to last and was meant to be reused over and over, then passed along to others. It was called the heirloom society.
But today, disposable, single-use plastic is everywher. We make an estimated 400 million metric tons of new plastic every year – to get your mind around that number, it’s 880 billion pounds of plastic, the equivalent weight of 73 million elephants, or 144 million pickup trucks. Every year.
And most of that plastic isn’t recycled. It’s thrown away, into landfills and other dump sites, where it degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. And over time, a lot of that plastic ends up getting washed into creeks and storm drains, and ultimately into our lakes, rivers and oceans. Which means there’s plastic in our drinking water sources, and in the fish and other marine animals that occupy those habitats.
What are the consequences, and what can we do about it? That’s where our guest comes in.
Dr. Marcus Eriksen is an interesting guy, and as you’ll hear, he’s got some very interesting ideas about how we ought to be approaching the plastic pollution problem. He’s an educator, author, researcher, adventurer and activist, particularly focusing on water-borne plastic pollution.
He came to those roles later in life. A New Orleans native, he joined the Marines straight out of high school and served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He returned home disillusioned by that experience, and for a while struggled to find direction and meaning. He decided to journey the full length of the Mississippi River on a homemade raft, earned his Ph.D. in science education and found his passion in environmental justice causes.
In 2008, he and a colleague spent 88 days and risked their lives to sail from California to Hawaii on a raft made of an airplane fuselage and 15,000 plastic bottles, to call attention to the plastic pollution problem.
He and his wife, environmentalist Anna Cummins, then co-founded the 5 Gyres Institute to research plastic pollution and seek solutions. A gyre is an ocean current, by the way. The organization’s expeditions have documented plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and in the Great Lakes, where they found significant and previously unknown levels of plastic microbeads, which are used in products like facial scrubs. That discovery helped spur a federal ban on microbeads in personal care products.
Our interview with Dr. Eriksen took place via Skype.
Facing Fear -- What Surgeons Can Learn from Commandos, with guest Dr. Doug Johnston: Episode 19
Surgeons spend years mastering the technical skills their job demands: How to cut, suture, repair and remove various parts of the body.
But there’s a crucial psychological component to surgery that’s not covered in textbooks or taught in medical schools, even though it can affect an operation’s outcome.
It’s the surgeon’s ability to manage stress and fear.
Operating room emergencies like a ruptured blood vessel, or the daunting complexity of removing a brain tumor, can overwhelm surgeons who aren’t prepared. But how do you prepare?
At Cleveland Clinic, the nation’s No. 1 heart hospital, cardiothoracic surgeons are looking to elite performers in other professions with high-risk and even life-or-death stakes – specifically, to military special forces operators, or commandos.
Working with a company called Arena Labs founded by a former Navy SEAL, the Clinic is studying the principles of elite performance under stress. Its cardiothoracic surgeons are learning ways to mitigate fear’s effects, through training sessions, virtual-reality simulations, and debriefings and performance reviews after each operation. They’re measuring the physiological impact of stress in the operating room. And they’re creating a “fear curriculum” to help surgical residents develop strategies to manage their anxieties.
Here to tell us about these efforts is Dr. Douglas Johnston. He’s a staff cardiac surgeon and researcher with Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute. His specialties include replacing diseased or defective aortic valves, and repairing aortic aneurysms.
Dr. Johnston was a Presidential Scholar at Dartmouth College, where he earned an undergraduate degree in anthropology and spent time in India researching tuberculosis. He received his medical degree at Harvard Medical School, and was a general surgery intern and resident at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. He completed his surgical training with a fellowship at Cleveland Clinic, and has been a member of the cardiac surgery staff there since 2008.
Our interview took place on the Cleveland Clinic campus.
Hunting Horned Dinosaurs, with guest Dr. Michael Ryan: Episode 18
It’s summer, and the latest installment of the Jurassic Park franchise is in theaters. So, of course, we’re going to talk about dinosaurs.
Tyrannosaurus rex was the scariest. And sauropods were the biggest.
But horned dinosaurs were the showiest.
Their heads bristled with wicked spikes, menacing hooks and enormous, fan-like frills. Though all this gaudy ornamentation looked fearsome, you might be surprised to learn that its main purpose probably wasn’t for defense.
There’s lots more interesting stuff to find out about horned dinosaurs, or ceratopsians, as they’re formally known. And there’s no one better to help us understand their crazy appearance and lifestyles than paleontologist Dr. Michael Ryan, the former Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Dr. Ryan is one of the world’s leading dinosaur researchers, specializing in horned dinosaurs. He’s a native of Canada, as you’ll hear by his accent, and he spends each summer scouring the badlands of Southern Alberta for dinosaur fossils. He’s a prolific identifier of new species, and has come up with some memorable names for his discoveries, including Medusaceratops, which he’ll talk about.
It had a face only another horned dinosaur could love.
Dr. Ryan is co-creator of the Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project. That’s a collaboration among the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology to investigate the evolution of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs and other fauna in what’s now southwestern Canada. In addition to his work there, Dr. Ryan has conducted field research in Mongolia and Greenland.
He’ll tell us about exploring dinosaur mass graveyards, about how horned dinosaurs’ bodies changed as they matured, about the impact of fossil poaching, and about a unique fossil-hunting opportunity here in Cleveland later this summer that doesn’t involve dinosaurs, but does involve a big, fearsome prehistoric creature.
Intrigued? Let’s get on with the show.
The Amazing Theory of (Almost) Everything, with guest Dr. Glenn Starkman: Episode 17
Imagine if you had to come up with a concept that explains what everything in the universe is made of.
Could there be a more complicated assignment? To describe the stuff that comprises everything we know -- every galaxy and star and planet and person and protoplasm and dust mite? To boil all those complex, myriad things down into a basic set of ingredients and rules, that apply across the board?
If someone asked you to do that, you’d say it was impossible, right?
So it might surprise you to know that scientists have already done it. They’ve come up with an answer to the question of what fundamental particles and forces underpin almost everything in the universe (gravity is the only exception), and what governs the behavior of those ingredients.
And it might surprise you even more to know that that answer has been around now for 50 years.
It’s a pretty good answer too – so good, in fact, that this answer, this theory, has survived every attempt by scientists to challenge it and prove that it isn’t correct.
This theory was so ahead of its time that, only now, in the 21stcentury, are we able to design and build machines that can test the theory’s most extreme predictions. And those predictions are holding up. The tests show that every one of the theory’s predictions about the universe’s ingredients and forces are accurate. The theory has a 50-year-long winning streak.
We’re going to explore this remarkable theory, known as the Standard Model, in today’s episode. Our guest is one of the best people in the world to help us understand what the Standard Model is, how it came to be, why it’s important, and where we’re headed next.
Dr. Glenn Starkman is an internationally known theoretical physicist.
His research interests include searching for habitable planets, probing the shape of the universe, looking for miniature black holes, and extending and testing Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. He also serves as the Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Case Western Reserve University. And he directs the university’s Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics, and the Institute for the Science of Origins.
And by the way, he thinks the name “Standard Model” is pretty boring. He suggests replacing it with “The Absolutely Amazing Theory of Almost Everything.”
To celebrate the accomplishments of the Standard Model on its 50thanniversary, Dr. Starkman has organized a four-day symposium here in Cleveland, from June 1-4, 2018, called “The Standard Model at 50 Years.” Its all-star lineup of scientific speakers includes eight Nobel laureates in physics, including Dr. Steven Weinberg, whose landmark 1967 research forms the cornerstone of the Standard Model.
To register to attend the symposium's free public lecture, by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. David Gross, or to live-stream the entire symposium, go to artsci.case.edu/smat50/
Customer ReviewsSee All
Excellent podcast! Dives deep into specific topics, but explains them every step of the way. Very Informative and well-done interview.
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