Mankind Owes Its Success on Earth to Decimated Forests

On today’s show, Benita speaks with author John Perlin about his book, A Forest Journey: The Role of Trees in the Fate of Civilization. The book follows the rise and fall of human civilizations as they fuel their success and reap their downfall by using trees as a key resource.

Photo Credit: UC Santa Barbara and Patagonia Media

Published by Patagonia, Perlin revised this third edition of his environmental classic to include new scientific findings that further link the importance of trees in combating climate change and in creating life on Earth as we know it.


Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Show Producers Benita Lee and Shannon Young
Engineer Shannon Young

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2021 Graduation Special

diploma-and-graduation-hatWith graduation season upon us, today’s edition of How on Earth is our annual “Graduation Special”. Our guests in the studio today are scientists who have or will soon receive their Ph.D. in a STEM-related field.  They talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next.

(Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado)

Kate Doubleday – CU Boulder, Electrical, Computer & Energy Engineering
Topic: Development and Application of Probabilistic Solar Power Forecasts for the Day-Ahead Unit Commitment


IMG_5538Jason Silver – CU Boulder, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Topic: The Role of Stiffness and YAP/TAZ Mechanotransduction during Muscle Regeneration


ulibarri_headshotZach Ulibarri – CU Boulder, Physics
Topic: Experimental Studies of the Genesis and Detectability of Complex Organic Molecules and Isotopic Ratios in Hypervelocity Impact Ice Spectra

Host / Producer : Joel Parker

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Long Now Foundation in Colorado // Wild Boulder Citizen Science

The Long Now Foundation in Colorado (start time 5:02): People often measure “success” as fifteen minutes of fame, or a blockbuster financial quarter. This focus on short term results doesn’t always build the skills needed to solve long-term problems, such as reducing disease outbreaks or maintaining species diversity. So some visionaries have created a playfully serious way to think ahead, and those “ways” include projects here in Colorado. Shelley Schlender tells us about the Long Now Foundation who are developing programs to foster long term responsibility and long term thinking.

Wild Boulder program. Photo Copyright Wild Boulder.
Wild Boulder program. Photo Copyright Wild Boulder.

Wild Boulder
 (start time 10:t28): Boulder is launching a new citizen science project. The project, called Wild Boulder, will allow people in Boulder to use their smartphones to record wildlife observations, including photos, and share this information with local land managers and open space experts. To find out how this program works, and how it will benefit the community, we spoke with Dave Sutherland and Melanie Hill. Dave Sutherland is an Interpretive Naturalist with theCity of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parksprogram. Melanie Hill is Director of Communications for the WILD Foundation, which works to protect wilderness while balancing the needs of human communities.

Additional information:


Hosts: Shelley Schlender and Alejandro Soto
Producer: Alejandro Soto
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Additional contributions: Beth Bennett and Susan Moran
Executive Producer:Susan Moran

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Clinical Trials Test MDMA as PTSD Treatment

Artwork credit: MDMA trial participant Allison Heistand-Phelps
Artwork credit: MDMA trial participant Allison Heistand-Phelps

This week on How on Earth host Susan Moran interviews two investigators of FDA-approved clinical trials testing the efficacy and safety of the illegal drug MDMA — known in an altered form as Ecstasy or Molly — as a treatment (along with psychotherapy sessions) for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Our guests are Marcela Ot’alora and Bruce Poulter, investigators of the Colorado trial. Marcela is a licensed psychotherapist and Bruce is a registered nurse with a masters degree in public health

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that affects up to one in 12 people in the United States, and it’s at least as common in some other countries. It is a serious, and costly, public health problem. If the trials are successful,  MDMA, which has its critics, could become commercially available as a medically prescribed treatment by 2021. The trials are being funded by a nonprofit organization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which promotes careful and beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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2016 Graduation Special (part 2)

diploma-and-graduation-hatIn this follow-up episode of our “Graduation Special” we talk with three more guests graduating with science Ph.D.’s from the University of Colorado in Boulder.  They join us to talk about their thesis research, their grad school experiences, and what they have planned next:

CarleighSamson_headshotCarleigh SamsonEnvironmental Engineering Program
Topic: Modeling Relationships between Climate, Source Water Quality and Disinfection Byproduct Formation and Speciation in Treated Drinking Water

View More: BarbourDepartment of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Topic: Property-Guided Synthesis of Tricyclic Indolines to Confront Antibiotic Resistance in Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

94938Greg ThompsonDepartment of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Topic: Advances in a Microphysics Parameterization to Predict Supercooled Liquid Water and Application to Aircraft Icing

Host / Engineer : Shelley Schlender
Producer : Joel Parker
Executive Producer : Shelley Schlender

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Winter Stars // Pollinators and Insecticides

Sky_MilkyWay_BearLake_300x300Winter Stars (starts at 5:30).  We talk with Dave Sutherland, an interpretive naturalist with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, about winter star-gazing.  This program is tied to an upcoming concert performance by the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra on February 12, 2016.  More information about the Boulder night hikes and other programs can be found at: and to find out more about for the starry concert and to purchase tickets, check out

Monarch larvae Photo credit: Jonathan Lundgren
Monarch larvae
Photo credit: Jonathan Lundgren

Pollinators and Insecticides (starts at 10:06).  Although they may be hidden in the chill of winter, crickets, bees and thousands of other insects play a critical role year-round in how we grow the food we eat. Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, a South Dakota-based entomologist, talks with host Susan Moran about how predator insects serve as biological pest controls. Dr. Lundgren’s research on adverse effects of a controversial class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, on pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies,  has made him the target of political pressure from his employer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A watchdog group has filed a whistleblower complaint on Lundgren’s behalf against the USDA. Dr. Lundgren recently started a research and education farm, called Blue Dasher Farm, which promotes regenerative agriculture.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer & Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Hunter Lovins – Regenerative Economics Extended Version

Hunter Lovins - Natural Capitalism Solutions
Hunter Lovins – Natural Capitalism Solutions

Hunter Lovins – Regenerative Economics EXTENDED VERSION.  This is the extended version of the fall 2015 talk by Hunter Lovins, recorded by Shelley Schlender. Lovins heads up Natural Capitalism Solutions, and she’s a sought after speaker around the world, as well as here in Colorado. She gave this talk, including visuals, and called it Regenerative Economics.  This talk was recorded in Boulder as part of the Colorado Chautauqua Events series, in conjunction with the Boulder City Club.

For the broadcast version of this talk, GO HERE.


Grad School Science


What is graduate school and how does it differ from the undergraduate experience?  What drives people to go through another 4…5…6…or more years of school? Today’s show features some people who might be able to tell us about the grad school experience in the sciences.  We have three grad students from the University of Colorado at Boulder:
* Joe Villanueva in the Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology department.
* Annie Miller, in the Integrative Physiology department.
* Marcus Piquette, in the Astrophysical and Planetary Science department.
Each of them works in a lab with an advisor and is doing projects that will eventually lead to a thesis and getting a PhD, and they talk about what they do and what grad school is like.

Host: Joel Parker
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett, Susan Moran

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1964 Alaska Earthquake // Neuroscience of Dying

F3.mid1964 Alaska Earthquake (start time 04:37) This week 50 years ago, in 1964, the Beatles were huge, Alaska had only been a state for a mere five years, and the theory of plate tectonics was in toddlerhood. This Thursday, March 27, also marks the 50th anniversary of the magnitude 9.2 Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964.

This earthquake changed our thinking about how the world works by showing us the hard way that tsunamis can arrive before the ground even stops shaking, that we can look in sedimentary records to recognize past great earthquakes offshore in places like the Pacific Northwest, and that these huge earthquakes rip the Earth open along a plane rather than in bits and pieces. What you’ll hear on today’s show is just the tip of the seismic iceberg: How the earthquake confirmed subduction, which is where one tectonic plate plunges under another. Beth Bartel speaks with Dr. Mike West, the Alaska State Seismologist and Director of the Alaska Earthquake Center, about his recent paper, “Why the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake Matters 50 Years Later,” published in Seismological Research Letters.

near-death-brain-676472-Neuroscience of Dying (start time 12:38) If there’s one thing more certain than taxes—pardon the reminder—it’s death. It may be certain, but it’s still one of life’s biggest mysteries. On today’s show, we explore what neuroscience can tell us about chemical and hormonal releases that can occur as we near the threshold of death.

For instance, many people have written about so-called near-death experiences. It’s when your heart stops. You walk effortlessly toward a tunnel. You see a blast of white light. You might call it Heaven. Visions like these that people report they’ve had have some biochemical underpinnings.

To help us understand the limited but fascinating body of scientific research regarding the neurobiology and chemistry of dying, Susan Moran talks with Dr. Ilene Naomi Rusk. Rusk is a psychologist who specializes in neuropsychopharmacology and co-directs The Brain and Behavior Clinic in Boulder.

Hosts: Beth Bartel and Susan Moran
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional contributions: Jane Palmer and Ted Burnham

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Public health risks of BPA

Dr. David Dausey, Director of the Mercyhurst Institute for Public Health
(start time: 5:50). We Coloradoans pride ourselves on our healthy habits — eating right, exercising, and paying attention to what’s in the food we eat. Yet many of the things we use everyday, like water bottles, sunscreens, makeup, and – OK, soda cans — are full of toxic chemicals. Many of them are untested, and may be insidiously making us sick. One of the more controversial compounds is BPA, which is used to make some hard plastic bottles and other food packaging. Today we have with us public health expert Dr. David Dausey to talk about BPA –bisphenol A — and other environmental toxins. He directs the Mercyhurst Institute for Public Health in Pennsylvania.

Hosts: Jim Pullen and Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Susan Moran