Episode 93: The Amazon Rainforest with Alex Lees

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The Amazon rainforest is the largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest in the world. It represents over half of the remaining rainforests. It is home to countless species of insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Not to mention the fish. Unfortunately, as we all can read and hear in the news, it is subject to unrelenting exploitation and destruction.

I decided that my podcast would never be complete without talking about the Amazon. So, it was my great pleasure to sit down with Dr Alex Lees who is a Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology in the Department of Natural Sciences at Manchester Metropolitan University. Alex spent a long time in the Amazon while working on various scientific projects. He has a deep understanding of the Amazon ecology as well as the land use issues which underlie the progressive destruction of this unique ecological system.

Episode 90: The American Black Bear with Matt Gould

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This time our guest is a wildlife biologist from across the pond. Matt Gould works for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology at New Mexico State University. Matt is also an avid hunter. This combination makes him a perfect guest for my podcast.

Matt has done a lot of research and has written several papers on American black bears and that was the topic I was most interested in. However, we started our conversation by discussing birds of prey, their conservation status, and the impact the wind farm industry has on their mortality.

We had a great conversation, and by listening to it, you can learn a lot. Not only about black bears and eagles, but also about the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Enjoy!

Episode 89: Camera Trapping and Large Mammal Monitoring with Adam Francis Smith

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In this instalment of the podcast, our guest is a young scientist, Adam Francis Smith, who lives in the Bavarian Forest National Park. Adam specializes in large terrestrial mammal monitoring and predator-prey interactions. He also works for the Frankfurt Zoological Society where he focuses on specific project areas in Ukraine and Belarus and where, with a team of ecologists, he tries to protect large wilderness areas.

During our conversation, Adam took us on a fascinating journey to, among other places, the Chernobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve where he and his team set camera traps to monitor predator and prey species. Of course, there was no way to avoid mentioning rewilding, a topic that is prominently featured in recent podcasts.

Episode 73: Quantitative Ecology with Kilian Murphy

Is it possible to use artificial intelligence to tell us how rewilding will look in any area where it is implemented? Is it possible to create a computer model that would tell us how the species eradicated from the landscape hundreds of years ago would behave when reintroduced? Listen to my conversation with Kilian Murphy where we talk about such models.

During the podcast we discuss the possibility of reintroducing wolves and wild boars to Ireland, and the difference in perception of rewilding between city-dwellers and farmers. We also touch on the role hunters have to play in rewilding projects and discuss the dynamics and density of the deer population in Ireland.

Episode 20: Irish Wildlife Trust with Pádraic Fogarty


This is a big one. Our guest, Pádraic Fogarty is the Campaign Officer at Irish Wildlife Trust and an ex-editor of the Irish Wildlife magazine. Protection and conservation of the natural world should be of the greatest importance for all outdoorsmen. For that reason, I was really excited when Pádraic accepted an invitation to the podcast. If you care about the environment, tune in and listen. We are talking not only about key conservation issues but also how to get involved and make a difference. This is not tree hugging stuff, this is a practical and down to earth discussion about the protection we all owe to Mother Nature. Also, check out Pádraic’s book “Whittled Away – Ireland’s Vanishing Nature”.

Sportsmen and Ecologists

While recording episodes of the podcast I get to meet and speak with people involved in the outdoors. Most of them are interested in the use and preservation of the natural environment. Among those people two distinct groups stand out the most: sportsmen, most often represented by hunters and anglers, and ecologists as in conservationists and environmentalists. In theory, they should represent one consistent front for protection of the natural environment. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Oftentimes representatives of these groups are involved in a counterproductive confrontation with each other. So, let’s dive into this issue and try to understand some of the reasons why this is happening.

For starters, let’s look at the common ground they share. Genuine ecologists are usually research scientists or employees of governmental or non-governmental bodies involved in the protection and management of natural resources. Of course we all know there are self proclaimed, shouty types, but I’m not going to talk about them here. Whenever I have an opportunity to talk to environmentalists I always ask the question, “Do you see sportsmen as allies in the efforts to protect the environment or as adversaries?” Based on the responses so far, I gather that sportsmen are mostly recognized as important stakeholders. Ecologists also recognize that they are an invaluable source of information about the state of the environment. It is because hunters and anglers spent lots of time in the outdoors and have an opportunity to observe nature and the changes it undergoes over time. They are often referred to as the boots on the ground.

Sportsmen also recognize the important role of ecologists as a source of information about wildlife and the environment. They also recognize that ecologists work to protect the resources they interact with. Wild game and fish. And here is where the tension starts. Ecologists often feel that sportsmen repeatedly engage in practices aimed mainly at their own interest, to the detriment of conservation. For example, when engaging in catch and release, they place more importance on taking a trophy photo with the fish over promptly releasing it back to the water. On the flip side, on many occasions sportsmen consider some of the regulations as limiting their activities unnecessarily.

It is not my intention to judge which side is right. Each case is different and everybody makes mistakes. Unfortunately, as the result of these tensions, the opportunity to create a combined, strong and environmentally minded front is lost. Sportsmen are often reluctant to engage in conservation initiatives worried that their interest won’t be recognized and they will find themselves on the wrong side of the equation. On the other hand, ecologists are reluctant to reach out to sportsmen for support, being afraid of a backlash.

It is my strong belief that true hunters and anglers are also environmentalists and conservationists. It is in their own interest, after all, that the waters are full of fish and the woods are full of wild game. In fact, there are many people who belong to both groups. It is not unheard of for a game and wildlife officer to also be an avid hunter or angler. These days, the natural environment is under more pressure from human activity than ever before. Only combined efforts to protect it can be successful. Sportsmen, ecologists, environmentalists and anybody else to whom nature is dear, should pull together. They should bury the discord about the way they intend to use it, and work together to protect it. Otherwise there will be nothing left to use anyway.