Best of Natural History Radio

Best of Natural History Radio

United Kingdom

The BBC Natural History Unit produces a wide range of programmes that aim to immerse a listener in the wonder, surprise and importance that nature has to offer.

Episodes

The Listeners (Series 3, Ep 3)  

A Musician, a Poet and a Quaker share their listening experiences; discuss the difference between hearing and listening and reveal how listening is more than just an aural experience; it’s something much deeper motivating their work and their lives. The musician is Dame Evelyn Glennie, whose vision is to teach the world to listen by encouraging everyone to discover new ways of listening. As a result of hearing problems when she was a child, Evelyn learned to ‘feel ‘ sounds, not just hear them. Using different instruments she demonstrates how sounds and reverberations can affect us; emotionally and physically. Katrina Porteus’s earliest memory is the sound of a blackbird singing whilst she was in her pram. Since then listening has had a huge influence on her work as a poet; much of her work is about the fishing communities and landscape of County Durham and Northumberland. Like Evelyn, Katrina feels sounds; they are “the heartbeat of a place”. On the written page, there is silence between the words of a poem. “If we get it right we can find silence where we can really listen” says Hermione Legg, who has been a Quaker since she was child and regularly attends meetings which are opportunities for a community to come together in worship. There is no creed and much of the meeting is silent. The silence offers an opportunity to listen. Listening is also about communication. “If I’m listened to, I feel I have worth” says Hermione “Why speak if no one’s going to listen … Life would have no meaning without us listening.” Producer Sarah Blunt.

Would You Eat an Alien? - Alien Persons  

In this four part series Christine Nicol, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, explores the fascinating and challenging subject of animal sentience and welfare. To help delve into the nuances we set up an intriguing scenario: Jake the Spacemen (aka comedian Jake Yapp) has crash-landed on a remote planet and doesn't have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with alien life forms that are edible, but which ones should he eat? He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so what does he need to know about the nature of the beings on the planet? Can they feel pain? If so, how can he minimise suffering? Will eating an alien cause distress to others? Is the alien so aware and sensitive to its environment that Jake needs to consider whether it is a non-human person? Christine will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to get under the skin of animal sentience and the potential consequences of accepting that animals are conscious, aware creatures. These big questions generate surprising and challenging insights into our attitudes to other life. When you know absolutely nothing about the alien in front of you, what do you need to know before eating it?

The Listeners (Series 3, Ep 2)  

Fiona Gameson has been blind since she was about 3 and half years old, and since childhood has used echolocation to help navigate her surroundings. Echolocation is used by bats and dolphins and some other marine mammals to navigate and hunt their prey. It involves producing a sonar emission (mouth clicks in Fiona’s case) and listening to the echoes to hear and “see” their surroundings. Lore Thaler a lecturer at Durham University has been studying human echolocation and we hear about her work with individuals like Fiona. We also hear from Christopher Willis Clark, a senior scientist and Professor at Cornell University and in the Bioacoustics Research Programme at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology where he studies the acoustic behaviour of birds, fish, elephants and whales. He too is familiar with the notion of ‘seeing with sound’, of creating ‘maps’ from sounds and using these to navigate underwater. Above the waves, poet Katrina Porteus discusses how listening to the soundscape of places has influenced her work and Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford University recalls some of his favourite listening experiences in reverberant spaces and explains how the acoustics in a badly designed lecture hall in the late 1800's was the starting point for the study of architectural acoustics along with some hand claps and a saxophone in Trevor’s case! Producer Sarah Blunt.

Would You Eat an Alien? - Sociable Aliens  

In this four part series Christine Nicol, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, explores the fascinating and challenging subject of animal sentience and welfare. To help delve into the nuances we set up an intriguing scenario: Jake the Spacemen (aka comedian Jake Yapp) has crash-landed on a remote planet and doesn't have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with alien life forms that are edible, but which ones should he eat? He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so what does he need to know about the nature of the beings on the planet? Can they feel pain? If so, how can he minimise suffering? Will eating an alien cause distress to others? Is the alien so aware and sensitive to its environment that Jake needs to consider whether it is a non-human person? Christine will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to get under the skin of animal sentience and the potential consequences of accepting that animals are conscious, aware creatures. These big questions generate surprising and challenging insights into our attitudes to other life. When you know absolutely nothing about the alien in front of you, what do you need to know before eating it?

The Listeners (Series 3, Ep1)  

Listening is about more than hearing as we discover in this new series of 3 programmes. The first programme explores three very different experiences of listening to speech with a poet, a speech dialect coach and Chair of Samaritans. Jan Haydn Rowles is an accent and dialect coach whose interest in dialect began when she noticed how her parents who were born in different counties spoke with different accents; and that the same was true of her and her siblings. Jan not only hears sounds she sees them; “When I listen to a person’s voice I don’t see it, I hear it” and she offers a fascinating insight into her visual experiences of sound. Katrina Porteus has spent much of her life in County Durham and Northumberland writing about the fishing communities and coastal landscape where she lives. ‘A poem begins and ends in listening’ she says. For Katrina, listening extends to the sounds of the words; whether they be soft sounds or hard sounds, and beyond the meaning of the words to the rhythm of language and the music of the dialect as we discover. Jenni McCartney is our third listener. She has been working with Samaritans for over 30 years, first as a volunteer and now as Chair. “Listening is absolutely crucial to what we do” she says, Started by Chad Varra in 1953, Samaritans is a charity which provides confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts, and is available 24 hours a day, every day. At its simplest, Samaritans is about listening. “Every 6 seconds somebody contacts Samaritans”. Listening perhaps has never been more important. Producer Sarah Blunt

Would You Eat an Alien? - Emotional Aliens  

In this four part series Christine Nicol, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, explores the fascinating and challenging subject of animal sentience and welfare. To help delve into the nuances we set up an intriguing scenario: Jake the Spacemen (aka comedian Jake Yapp) has crash-landed on a remote planet and doesn't have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with alien life forms that are edible, but which ones should he eat? He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so what does he need to know about the nature of the beings on the planet? Can they feel pain? If so, how can he minimise suffering? Will eating an alien cause distress to others? Is the alien so aware and sensitive to its environment that Jake needs to consider whether it is a non-human person? Christine will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to get under the skin of animal sentience and the potential consequences of accepting that animals are conscious, aware creatures. These big questions generate surprising and challenging insights into our attitudes to other life. When you know absolutely nothing about the alien in front of you, what do you need to know before eating it?

Would You Eat an Alien? - Pain or No Pain  

In this four part series Christine Nicol, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, explores the fascinating and challenging subject of animal sentience and welfare. To help delve into the nuances we set up an intriguing scenario: Jake the Spacemen (aka comedian Jake Yapp) has crash-landed on a remote planet and doesn't have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with alien life forms that are edible, but which ones should he eat? He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so what does he need to know about the nature of the beings on the planet? Can they feel pain? If so, how can he minimise suffering? Will eating an alien cause distress to others? Is the alien so aware and sensitive to its environment that Jake needs to consider whether it is a non-human person? Christine will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to get under the skin of animal sentience and the potential consequences of accepting that animals are conscious, aware creatures. These big questions generate surprising and challenging insights into our attitudes to other life. When you know absolutely nothing about the alien in front of you, what do you need to know before eating it?

The story of the UK's first children's charity, The Foundling Hospital.  

Caro Howell presents the extraordinary story of the UK's first children's charity.

3D Bio-Printing  

Presenter Howard Stableford investigates whether 3D printing can bring real benefit to the natural world. Along the way he discovers a 3D printed reef structure and scientific applications. With species extinction in the natural world a reality, Howard then asks the bigger question: are we near the point when we could reproduce a living species? Producer: Andrew Dawes

Soundstage - Dawn Chorus  

Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson introduces the sounds of a dawn chorus recorded near Aldeburgh in Suffolk in the last in this series of immersive soundscapes. Produced by Sarah Blunt

Soundstage - Glacial Melt  

The extraordinary and powerful sounds of a glacier calving are captured by wildlife sound recordist, Chris Watson in this immersive soundscape. Produced by Sarah Blunt

Soundstage - The Wash  

Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson introduces the extraordinary sounds which accompany the movement of the tides on the Wash, in this series of immersive soundscapes. Produced by Sarah Blunt

Soundstage - St James' Park  

Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson introduces the sounds of the city on Match Day in Newcastle upon Tyne in the second in a series of immersive soundscapes. Produced by Sarah Blunt

Soundstage - Midnight at the oasis  

Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson narrates the first in a series of audio postcards capturing spectacular wild sound events, beginning in the Kalahari desert. Produced by Sarah Blunt

Living World - Dabbling Ducks, 1st March '15  

In winter, the UK's estuaries and wetlands play host to many species of 'dabbling,' or surface feeding, ducks. Chris Sperring visits the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire to find out more about them.

Living World, Giant Fungus  

Chris Sperring and Michael Jordan of the Association of British Fungus Groups go in search of giant bracket fungus in Dommett Wood in Somerset. Bracket fungus grow on a variety of native trees. The vegetative part of the fungus, known as mycelium, grows under the bark of fallen wood or living trees, and will eventually break down and rot the host tree. However, the part that can most easily be seen is the fruiting body of bracket fungus. These fruiting bodies, growing on tree trunks and fallen logs, allow the fungus to reproduce and exist to produce and liberate millions of microscopic spores.

The Cliff, Ep4  

Martin Palmer, Secretary General of The Alliance of Religions and Conservation reflects on the spiritual responses evoked by cliffs in religious stories and traditions.

The Cliff, Ep3  

Geologist Zoe Shipton explains how cliffs can be read like books to reveal the geological history of the earth.

The Cliff, Ep2  

Skellig Michael or Great Skellig is the larger of the two Skellig islands situated some 12km off the coast of Portmagee in south west Ireland. It’s a spectacular rocky pinnacle towering over 200 metres above sea level. Illustrated with recordings he made on location, wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson recalls his ascent of Skellig Michael.

The Cliff, Ep1  

Alan Read, Professor of Theatre at Kings College London explores the Dreadful Trade on Shakespeare’s Cliff in the first of a new series about our relationship with Cliffs.

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