Episode 107: Remarkable Creatures with Aga Grandowicz

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In many conversations on my podcast, we have observed that long-term success in nature conservation will be impossible without engaging and educating future generations.

Today kids, like their parents, are more and more disconnected from the natural world. Even the children’s dictionary has replaced words about nature with newer words. And so acorn has been replaced with analogue, buttercup with broadband, clover with chatroom, and so on.

That’s why, if you are a conservation-minded parent who cares about the future of the natural environment and preserving it for your children, you need to take their education about the natural world into your own hands. As you should with any other topic.

To help you with this, I would like to wholeheartedly recommend a wonderful book for children, ages 10 to 15, titled “Remarkable Creatures: A Guide to Some of Ireland’s Disappearing Animals” written by Aga Grandowicz. Aga is a wildlife artist, illustrator, graphic designer and author.

On this podcast, I had a wonderful conversation with Aga about her book, her motivation to write it and her life close to nature. After listening to the podcast, visit Aga’s online store and buy the book. You might also be tempted to buy some of her artwork!

Episode 106: Irish Cave Bones with Ruth Carden

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Regular listeners have already heard that this episode was coming. And we’ve been planning it for a long time. Conflicting schedules, travel plans and life, in general, were always getting in the way. But boy, was it worth waiting for! 

And so, we sat down for a chat with Dr Ruth Carden, a zoologist, who specialises in the zooarchaeological analysis of faunal assemblages. To the casual reader, Ruth is probably best known for her groundbreaking discovery of butchering marks on a reindeer bone found in the Castlepook Cave in north Cork. This discovery dramatically changed our understanding of Irish human history, pushing back the earliest signs of human activity by 20,000 years. 

We discussed this discovery as well as other topics related to Ruth’s research, including Irish glacial fauna with a particular focus on the Giant Irish Deer which is sometimes, incorrectly, called Irish elk. I wouldn’t be myself if I hadn’t asked Ruth about wild boar in Ireland. Were they native to Ireland at one point in time? You need to listen to this episode to find out.

And here is the craziest thing. All that research work is self-funded by Ruth and done largely in her spare time. Please, keep an eye on Tommy’s Outdoors website as we will shortly let you know how you can financially support Ruth’s efforts. For now, I want to give a massive shout out to the car company that co-sponsored one of those projects: K&N Motors, Dublin 22. A big round of applause for these folks, please!

Episode 103: Hunter-Gatherers with Graeme Warren

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The term hunter-gatherers is often understood as a description of primitive people who live in an idyllic state of harmony with nature. In reality however, the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers is way more complex than most of us think.

To shed some light on this fascinating subject and to clarify some misconceptions I bring you my conversation with prof. Graeme Warren of the University College Dublin, School of Archaeology. Graeme is a specialist in the Archaeology of Hunter-Gatherers, the leader of the UCD Hunter-Gatherer Research Group and a Vice-President of the International Society for Hunter-Gatherer Research.

During our conversation, we touched on many interesting topics. The impact of hunter-gatherers on their environment, modern-day hunter-gatherers, political implications of archaeology and many more.  We also touched on the often discussed topic of wild boar in Ireland.

Finally, if you want to delve deeper into the topic of hunter-gatherers you should check the website for the upcoming Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHAGS13) by going to www.ucd.ie/chags13


For more on hunter-gatherers, follow Graeme on Twitter @GraemeMWarren; the UCD Hunter-Gatherer Research Group @HunterUCD; the Thirteenth International Conference on Hunter-Gatherers Societies @CHAGS131; and the International Society for Hunter-Gatherer Research @ISHGR5.

Episode 97: Human-Wildlife Conflict with Amy Dickman

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Dr Amy Dickman needs no introduction. She is well known and hugely respected in both academic and conservation communities. She’s a conservation biologist and works on resolving human-wildlife conflict on human-dominated landscapes. Amy is a Kaplan Senior Research Fellow in Wild Cat Conservation under Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. She is also the founder of The Ruaha Carnivore Project where she works closely with local communities to mitigate the conflict.

During our chat, we explore the difficult topic of human-wildlife conflict and some of the related ethical and scientific issues. As it turns out, not everything is clear-cut and some questions are difficult to answer. If you are interested in wildlife conservation you will find this fast-paced episode fascinating. And as a result, you might find yourself questioning your own opinions.

Episode 94: African Big Game with Steve Scott

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Hunting in Africa is on the bucket list of many hunters. But for many, that dream might seem very distant. Almost impossible. But as you will see in this conversation with Steve Scott, a veteran hunter, TV host, and producer of television hunting shows, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Problems caused by the pandemic and related travel restrictions made the prices of hunts in Africa hit rock bottom. This combined with the progressive rollout of vaccines means that now might be the best time to fulfil your dream and book your bucket list hunt in Africa.

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 92: Upland Ecology with Cathy Mayne

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In recent episodes, I have presented a whole host of views and opinions regarding rewilding, land management, and the need to change the way we coexist with nature. In this episode, we continue on that path, but with a guest, Dr Cathy Mayne, who has a particularly interesting perspective. That perspective might not be entirely aligned with the usual rewilding approach, but it is very well thought out, balanced and realistic.

Cathy is an ecologist with vast experience in environmental management. She has a deep knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in land management. She also has a strong background in deer management and is a hunter herself. Currently, she is the Principal Ecologist at the Mountain Environment Services consultancy.

This episode is an absolute must for anyone interested in nature conservation, rewilding, and sustainable living. Cathy, without a doubt, is one of a kind and I am sure that our conversation will be as fascinating and informative for you as it was for me.

Episode 91: Beaver Trust with Chris Jones

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In this episode, once again, we are going to talk about ecological restoration and bringing back species that were extirpated from their native range. Our guest is Chris Jones who is the Restoration Director at Beaver Trust.

During our conversation, we discuss the history of Beaver Trust, how it was found and why. Then we discuss beaver ecology and the role of beavers in the ecosystem. Chris gives us some real-life examples of benefits that beavers bring, not only to the environment but also to humans.

We finish our conversation by discussing the future of beaver reintroductions and broader, the future of ecological restoration. This episode is a must-listen if you are interested in ecology and habitat restoration.

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.