ZSL Wild Science Podcast


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Delve into topical issues in zoology, conservation and the environment, from saving species and protecting the planet, to finding out about the animals living across the globe, including in London’s own river Thames. Learn more about the science behind the conservation work being done by ZSL and others in this podcast from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology. Hosted by Research Fellow Dr Monni Böhm.

  • ZSL #27 Madagascar's missing megafauna: life after lemurs, hippos and elephant birds

Madagascar is famed for its incredible biodiversity and charismatic lemurs, but has also seen extensive loss of natural habitat. Monni finds out from a panel of Madagascar aficionados what the island has been like in the past and what the challenges are for its surviving wildlife. How big is an elephant bird and its poo? What can old bones tell us? What are the ups and downs of conservation efforts on Madagascar? And why is the Madagascar pochard such a special bird?

This episode was recorded in November 2019. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm, ZSL Research Fellow and Eleanor Darbey, ZSL Scientific Events Coordinator.

  • ZSL #26 Shifting tides: how can small-scale fisheries help address the Sustainable Development Goals?

Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) provide around two-thirds of the world’s catch intended for human consumption, and support 90% of employment in the fisheries sector, therefore should have a huge role to play in achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite this, they are barely mentioned. Monni finds out from a panel of SSF a-fish-ionados why SSFs are being overlooked, what we can learn from them, and how we can better incorporate SSFs into policy, to meet human needs while safeguarding marine biodiversity. But where does gender come into this? And what is this creature that breeds like a plant but feeds like a carnivore?
Produced by Dr Monni Böhm, ZSL Research Fellow and Eleanor Darbey, ZSL Scientific Events Coordinator.

  • ZSL #25 Can badger vaccination help eradicate bovine TB?

For decades, conservationists, vets and farmers in the UK have been at loggerheads about the best way to manage bovine tuberculosis (bTB). This cattle disease is a huge burden on the farming industry and can pass between cattle and badgers, making it difficult to eradicate. In this episode, Monni teams up with bTB & badger specialists, to discuss badger vaccination as an alternative to culling operations – the current approach to controlling the disease in England. How do the two approaches compare in terms of effectiveness, practicality and cost? How can the disease be eradicated? And what on earth is a Goodger©?
Produced by Dr Monni Böhm, ZSL Research Fellow and Eleanor Darbey, ZSL Scientific Events Coordinator.

  • ZSL #24 Street-smart animals - incorporating cognitive behaviour into conservation efforts

Human-induced urbanisation, invasive species and land clearing are changing the environment at a far quicker pace than animals are able to evolve. Cognitive mechanisms can play a crucial role in determining how well animals adapt to this change. In this episode, Monni and a team of experts explore how integrating cognitive mechanisms into conservation strategies offers a new approach to enable animals to adapt and survive. How can cognition play a role in caring for our animals at ZSL London Zoo? Why do some baboons think they’re being stalked? And will Monni ever learn?
Produced by Dr Monni Böhm, ZSL Research Fellow and Eleanor Darbey, ZSL Scientific Events Coordinator.


  • ZSL #23 Indigenous knowledge and conservation management: challenges and opportunities

Indigenous communities around the world possess an extremely rich body of knowledge about local environmental resources and biodiversity, which has the potential to be an invaluable conservation tool. However, this local ecological knowledge is being progressively eroded worldwide. Hear Monni and a diverse panel of experts discuss the challenges and opportunities for incorporating indigenous knowledge into conservation management. How can social science help? And why should more trees be ordained as monks?
Produced by Dr Monni Böhm, ZSL Research Fellow and Eleanor Darbey, ZSL Scientific Events Coordinator.

Listener note: we apologise for the variety in sound quality on this episode, we experienced some technical issues during recording.


  • ZSL #22 Can we find better ways to live with wildlife?

People and nature depend on each other, and although humans are needed to manage and protect nature, conservation practices can interfere with human livelihoods and create conflict between groups of people with competing interests. In this episode our guest host Charlotte Coales teams up with four experts to explore the complexity of these conflicts. What are the underlying drivers? Why do conservationists need to brush up on their people skills? And how could consensus building help?
Produced by Dr Monni Böhm, ZSL Research Fellow and Eleanor Darbey, ZSL Scientific Events Coordinator.


  • ZSL #21 World Swallowtail Day

June 9th is World Swallowtail Day, and what better way to celebrate than with a trip to ZSL’s Butterfly Paradise to marvel at swallowtails, their bird poo mimicking larvae and get a good sniff of the osmeterium. The what? Find out in this episode, where Monni and guests discuss important conservation work for swallowtails at home and abroad, learn about butterfly houses and ZSL’s ongoing work assessing the status of swallowtails worldwide, and are introduced to the Dance of the Golden Birdwing. Happy World Swallowtail Day!


  • ZSL #20 Marine plastic pollution - the science story

Hold your breath while we remain underwater for this next episode - Monni and a team of specialists investigate the science behind marine plastic pollution. What are the impacts of plastic on wildlife, people and our coasts? What are the future avenues for tackling this issue? What can every one of us do to reduce single-use plastic in our everyday lives? And how many washing machines can you fit into one small laboratory?
Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Eleanor Darbey, ZSL Scientific Events Coordinator.


  • ZSL #019 How electronic animal tracking has revolutionised marine conservation

The marine environment is vast and until recently its sheer size and inaccessibility have hindered our ability to understand the impacts of environmental changes on marine life. Monni and a team of marine wildlife experts reveal how advances in electronic tracking equipment have allowed us to remotely monitor marine animals. How do you tag marine animals? What are the challenges we face when using tagging equipment in the marine environment? How can this help to improve conservation management? And fin-ally, why are plungers and egg timers involved? Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Eleanor Darbey, ZSL Scientific Events Coordinator.


  • ZSL #018 Rewilding in a changing climate

Conservation often tries to restore habitats to what they were - but given that our climate is changing fast, this kind of ecosystem restoration may no longer be possible. Monni and guests explore how rewilding can help build resilient ecosystems for the future. Why is rewilding often so contentious? How can it be applied to help threatened species? Can humans derive benefits from rewilding? And how do classic cars come into all of this? Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #017 Giving animals choice: how our zoo keepers use science to positively impact animal welfare

Monni teams up with ZSL's Behavioural Management Committee (BMC) to find out how giving animals choice positively enhances their welfare and how this is put into practice every day at our zoos. What is the BMC and what happens at 'enrichment evenings'? How do you assess the welfare needs of an ant? How long does it take a gorilla to solve a puzzle and how does behavioural management in our zoos benefit research projects in the wild? And finally... does 'positive reinforcement' also work on Monni? Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #016 Wildlife and wellbeing in urban landscapes

Nearly half of the world’s human population lives in urban environments and this is projected to increase in future. While many species suffer the effects from urbanisation, other species thrive (or at least persist) in our urban landscapes. Monni and guests explore what creatures are lurking in our cities at night, how we can improve our urban landscapes for nature and our own well-being and what you should (and shouldn't) do when you find a camera trap in a park. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #015: Biodiversity indicators: getting the measure of biodiversity and what it all means

Monni explores the ins and outs of biodiversity indicators with IOZ’s Indicator and Assessments Research Unit. Biodiversity indicators are measures of how biodiversity is doing worldwide, and we see them reported in the media: the Living Planet Index, for example, was recently published as part of the 2018 Living Planet Report and shows that populations of vertebrates (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish) have decline on average by 60% since 1970. How do such metrics come about and why do we need them? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Who are the people behind these biodiversity indicators? And… are spiders “huggable”? You’ve come to the right place to find out. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #014: A new era for shark conservation? Protecting ‘flat sharks’, rays and angels

Monni and guests explore a new era of shark conservation, focusing on protecting the lesser-known ‘flat sharks’ and rays, such as sawfishes, angel sharks, wedgefishes stingrays and guitar sharks. Large coastal sharks have a greater exposure to habitat degradation and fishing compared to offshore and pelagic species, increasing their risk of extinction. Find out what mermaids’ purses tell us about the current distribution of these flat sharks, and how we’re working to protect angel sharks living in the Canary Islands and around Welsh coast. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #013: Cetacean by-catch: casting the net for solutions

By-catch is defined as the accidental entanglement of non-target species in fishing gear and is a principal cause of strandings for cetaceans.  Monni is joined by researchers from the Cetaceans Strandings Investigations Programme (CSIP) and its partners to discuss by-catch as both a welfare and a conservation issue.  With the scale of fishing in global oceans increasing, what solutions are available to reduce the impact of by-catch on cetacean populations around our shores? Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #012: ZSL at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2018

In this special mini-episode join Monni at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition for a teaser of what our researchers will be talking about on our ZSL stand ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. Learn about the camera traps, tags and trackers being deployed around the world to study and monitor wildlife in remote locations, and what we can learn from the data they capture. Find out why should come along to the exhibition and what you can see and do at our exhibit, from animal top trumps, a cuddly shark, display camera traps and trackers, and an interactive game flapping an albatross! Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #011: Can we still save coral reefs and what if we don't?

Monni is joined by co-presenter Rachel Jones to navigate the hot waters of threats to coral reefs. Speakers discuss their experiences and stories from over 30 years' of research into the beauty and importance of these bio-diverse ecosystems. Even away from direct threats such as pollution, the protected reefs of the Chagos Archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory have recently been severely damaged by widespread bleaching events. Can the reefs bounce back? What research is being done to find out more about them, and why is it so important to take action now? Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #010: Species in the red: behind the scenes of the IUCN Red List

We have probably all heard about threatened species that are close to extinction, but how do we measure this? Monni travels to the IUCN Red List Unit in Cambridge to find out about the ins and outs of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the extinction risk of species. How do we measure extinction risk? Who compiles the Red List and why? Which species have been assessed, what data do we need and where are the main data gaps? And what has Frank Zappa got to do with it all? Find out more about this flagship conservation tool and the people who eat, sleep and breathe the IUCN Red List. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #009  Collaborating for conservation in China

This episode is hosted by guest presenter Charlotte Coales, Public Engagement with Conservation Science Coordinator at ZSL. Charlotte and co-presenter Heidi Ma explore wildlife in China, a vast ‘megadiverse’ country that contains over 10% of global mammal species. From addressing pangolin trade for traditional Chinese medicine to protecting the beautiful and mysterious snow leopard, find out about the collaborative conservation projects stretching across China’s wide range of ecosystems. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #008: Reintroductions for saving species – meet the wildlife movers

Monni is joined by co-presenter Helen Gath to navigate the topic of reintroduction, an effective but complex conservation tool that can help save small populations of species. Speakers discuss how difficult reintroduction decisions are made in order to manage the risks and competing stakeholder interests involved, They discuss Helen's work on Mauritius, beavers in Scotland and Yellowstone’s 'nervous elk'! Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #007: Ten years on the EDGE of Existence

Monni is joined by co-presenter Claudia Gray to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of ZSL's EDGE of Existence Programme. This unique conservation programme aims to save wildlife that’s Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered, including the Chinese giant salamander, clawed frog and long-beaked echidna. Guests delve into the Tree of Life to explore these weird and wonderful species, which currently represent some of life’s oldest and most threatened lineages. Learn about the work being done across the globe to ensure their survival. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #006: Wildlife of the West African Savannah: unfamiliar and under threat

The West African Savannah stretches 1,600,000 square kilometres across 12 countries, ranging from dense rain forest to arid grassland. It once hosted rhinos, giraffes, lions and other charismatic megafauna more familiar from East African safaris, but populations have declined over the last 40 years. Despite working in an area of economic pressure and political unrest, Monni’s guests celebrate conservation projects that work with governments and local communities across national boundaries to conserve the region’s remaining cheetahs, wild dogs, and remarkable ‘desert-adapted’ elephants. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #005: The state of the Thames

Since being declared ‘biologically dead’ in 1958, the River Thames is now considered a global conservation success story of a recovering urban estuary. Monni talks to guests working on a range of conservation projects by researchers and citizen scientists in the heart of London, including juvenile fish surveys, seal counts and ‘outflow safaris’. Find out more about the diverse range of species now living in the Thames’ muddy waters. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #004: Conserving the mountain chicken frog: understanding and mitigating an amphibian disease outbreak

The mountain chicken frog became critically endangered after an outbreak of the amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis, which caused an 85% decline in population on its home island of Dominica, and near extinction on the neighbouring island of Montserrat. Monni is joined by a team from the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme working in ZSL London Zoo and out in the field to understand the disease and its impacts. By monitoring the outbreak as it happened, what can be learned to inform future conservation management and restore the mountain chicken to its native habitat? Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #003: Saving pangolins: Earth’s most trafficked wild mammals

To mark World Pangolin Day, Monni and guests discuss the plight of pangolins: the odd-looking scaly-anteater victims of an illegal wildlife trade that has brought them to the brink of extinction. Although they are severely threatened, a growing conservation movement is working to prevent poaching, limit trafficking and change consumer behaviour, with the aim of tipping the scales back in the pangolin's favour. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #002: Fishing in the Arctic - is there a sustainable approach?

In our second episode, we discuss the northern ocean, which has only recently become accessible after the retreat of Arctic ice.  Fishing vessels, including destructive bottom trawlers, can now venture further north than ever before into previously un-fished waters.  Monni Böhm is joined by guests to explore the potential value of marine reserves, consumer pressure, certification schemes and scientific understanding as strategies for managing future marine exploitation. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


  • ZSL #001: Can I protect the planet? How our daily decisions impact biodiversity decline

In this first episode of the ZSL Wild Science podcast, we interview speakers taking part in a debate at the Zoological Society of London: ‘Global biodiversity decline is not impacted by my daily decisions’. Join presenter Monni Böhm, a research scientist in ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, to discuss whether the problem of declining biodiversity requires global-scale political, technological and economic solutions, or whether individuals can make a difference. Produced by Dr Monni Böhm and Jennifer Howes.


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