Introducing honoraria for storytellers

The Story Collider is excited to announce that we will now offer $25 honoraria to all of our storytellers, starting with shows in January 2018!

We've hoped to offer our storytellers honoraria for a long time, as we believe storytelling is an art and that artists deserve to be paid for their work. We have a deep respect for the time and effort that our storytellers put in. But as a small organization on a tight budget, it was a challenge for us to figure out how we could make this happen. After all, we produce 50 shows every year, each with five storytellers, and that adds up to... a lot of storytellers (hey, we're not mathematicians!).

 Here we are, being very serious artists in Vancouver.

Here we are, being very serious artists in Vancouver.

Fortunately, this year, an anonymous donor who believes strongly in storytelling as an art generously contributed funds specifically earmarked for storytellers -- enough for each to receive a $25 honorarium.  Although we're still on the lookout for opportunities to offer storytellers more in the future, we are grateful for this generous donation and the opportunity it has given us to honor our storytellers' time and committment. We hope this is just the beginning.

After their show, storytellers will receive a Google Form asking for anonymous demographic information, which we are gathering in order to promote inclusion at our shows, and feedback, which we may use as we apply for grants and other funding. Storytellers may contribute this information, or skip any or all questions, to get to the link that processes their honorarium. 

Storytellers will also have the opportunity to donate their honoraria to our pro bono shows, such as our upcoming collaboration with Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists.

I will begin contacting our storytellers from Q1 2018 shows over the next few weeks to process their honoraria. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please get in touch with me at Erin@storycollider.org. We welcome your feedback!

-Erin Barker, artistic director

 

 

Producer Search: Vancouver

 Producer Kayla Glynn tells her story at our first Vancouver event last December.

Producer Kayla Glynn tells her story at our first Vancouver event last December.

The Story Collider is looking for a new producer in Vancouver, BC. This job has three pieces: 1) event planning and promotion, 2) storyteller recruitment and coaching, and 3) hosting live performances. There will also be opportunities to contribute to the broader organization.

Experience in storytelling is essential, and experience on stage (such as in theater or stand-up, improv and sketch comedy) is strongly preferred. Scientific background is not required. We deeply appreciate people who are fun, funny, hardworking, and brave. You must have great communication skills and respect for people from all walks of life, and be able to work cooperatively with a co-producer to launch our series in Vancouver. We’d love to hear about and help you develop marketing, audio production, and other event-related expertise.

This is not a full-time position. Producers are paid on a flat per-show basis. 

Interested? Take a listen to our podcast to see the kind of stories we produce and then email us at stories@storycollider.org with "Vancouver Producer" in the subject line. Let us know what you think makes a great story, and why you have a passion for true, personal stories about science.

2017 Podcast Highlights

This year, 104 stories from New York, Toronto, St. Louis, Atlanta, Boston, DC, Los Angeles, the UK, New Zealand, and more have appeared on our podcast! To celebrate another banner year of science stories, each member of our production staff has selected a story from 2017 that was especially meaningful to them.

Veronica Ades

From "Identification," part 2

I heard this story live in New York and it left me speechless. It conveyed to me so many things: how hard it is to live in a country like South Sudan, how tough it is to be a medic, and how little we know about the human body. As a scientist I always want to be in control of things, and the more I try to do that, the harder it feels when I fail. For medical doctors, wherever they are working, failure means even more. “Sometimes you do your best, and it’s not enough.” Veronica also conveys beautifully all the complexity that goes with putting your career before your own health. I love how she comes to realize, through her experience, how to express her own needs and desires even while she continues her amazing, important work. I want to be her when I grow up.

-Paula Croxson, New York producer

 

Megan Hatlen

From "Pressure," part 2

"Science is 99% failure, which is slightly horrifying--especially if you're a scientist, which I am." I love a good failure story. And a good love story. And Megan Hatlen gives us the best of both in our recent "Pressure" episode. Our empathy muscles cramp as Megan describes failing and failing again in the lab. Our hearts flutter as her wife, Jess, reaches for her hand and says, "Do you know that there's no one else that I would rather go through this with than you?" We're #TeamMegan no matter what happens. But we get to jump up and down with her when her eureka moment finally arrives.

-Christine Gentry, Boston producer

 

Jess Thom

From "Excited State," part 2

Storytelling, at its heart, invites your audience to understand, perhaps just for a moment, what it feels like to be you. When Jess Thom finds herself staring out into a windy night, a poetic phrase bursts out of her: "You are waving like the sea, tree! Are you a large tree or a sea anemone? Trees, the squirrels are so lucky you’ve given them whitewater rafting lessons. It’s an adventure!” I LOVE that image -- it feels like magical realism. I'd never understood before that Tourette's can have a generative beauty to it. Jess speaks in such a warm, witty way that I couldn't help but share in her raw delight in that particular tic. Jess's exploration of what her tics feel like is unforgettable. Her story felt like a personal gift, and in giving it, she reminded me that the tiniest moments in my life can become magic too.

-Liz Neeley, executive director

 

Rob Campo

From "Oil," part 2

We were invited to host a Story Collider in New Orleans in early February that showcased stories related to oil spills. Finding scientists to fill the lineup was fairly simple. But our sponsors rightly encouraged us to reach out to at least one non-scientist — ideally a fisherman. I emailed and called a couple fishermen who didn’t respond. Fair enough: it’s a tall order to agree to share a personal story in front of an audience you don’t know for a show you may not have heard of. Another fisherman picked up the phone when I called but wasn’t available the night of the show. With the evening drawing closer, our options were running out. And then I got referred to Robert Campo. He’s a proud fourth-generation fisherman. The first time we spoke, Rob’s love of fishing oysters and running his 117-year-old business was evident. So was his pain when he told me about how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted him and his community. I was honored when he said he’d share his story on our stage. When it came time for the show, we decided to have Rob close the evening out. We had a bunch of good stories that night, but Rob’s deep connection to the Gulf and his ability to weave together the science and the emotion were a powerful combination. At one point, Rob said, “Louisiana is near and dear to me. It’s in my heart. I was born and raised on these bayous all my life. I tell people all the time that I have saltwater in my veins. That’s what my blood type is, it’s saltwater.” People listening that night were touched. Including me. In our eyes, there was saltwater.

Special thanks to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and the Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems for supporting our show in New Orleans earlier this year.

-Ari Daniel, Boston producer

 

Heith Copes

From "In the Field," part 2

When Heith Copes embarks on a study of meth users in rural Alabama, he expects it to be like any of the other work he's done as a criminologist. The sign outside the trailer that says, "Don't get caught being stupid" is the first indicator that he's wrong. And pretty soon, he finds himself connecting with his subjects on a much deeper level than he'd ever expected. I love so many things about this story -- the way he shows us the humanity and the struggle of his research subjects, the honest emotion with which he tells it, and especially the powerful conclusion he comes to about what love and sincerity have to offer both him and his science. (Since I hosted this show down in New Orleans, in conjunction with the American Society of Criminology's meeting, I can vouch for the fact that after this story, many hugs were had by all.) What makes this story even more incredible is that Heith's subjects are captured in a series of photos by Heith's collaborator in this project, Jared Ragland. You can view those here: https://jaredragland.com/good-bad-people

-Erin Barker, artistic director

 

Yael Fitzpatrick

From "Symbiosis," part 1

Full disclosure -- Yael is a good friend, so when she told me she was going to pitch us a story, I vowed to be hard on her as to not show favoritism. Turns out that was unnecessary as she told told a beautiful story about friendship, wildlife, and the power of good lighting. Sitting on the edge of the stage, listening to her story, I was taken to that beach, felt the wind and spray of the water, and was actually jealous of not being there in that time of acid-washed jeans, big hair, and flashlights that aren't on your phone. I get chills to this day when I hear those final words: "...it's definitely the most meaningful lighting work that I've ever done..."

-Shane Hanlon, DC producer

 

Devon Collins

From "Idenfication," part 1

I’ve often heard the refrain: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Still, there’s this really pernicious idea in science that once you don your lab coat, you must shed your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and accumulated lived experiences. That’s the price you pay to preserve your objectivity. As a scientist, I’ve rejected that idea with my whole heart. When I think about why, I turn to Devon’s story, to something his mother told him: “Sometimes what you imagine for yourself is not what the world imagines for you. And sometimes what the world imagines for you is a lot less than what you deserve. But you have to keep imagining because the world is wrong.” Devon’s story beautifully weaves the crushing blows of racism with the importance of role models, winding its way to why the work he does today, teaching and mentoring students who look and think like him, is so important. “As a teacher, I get to be the flesh in front of somebody actually living out their dreams, living out the best things that they could imagine for themselves.” I became a producer for The Story Collider this summer, and Devon’s story has become a touchstone for me when I think about the power of scientists telling stories. The stories we tell are windows into our humanity. And at their best, they offer hundreds of mirrors through which we might find ourselves reflected.

-Maryam Zaringhalam, DC producer

 

Skylar and Thom Young-Bayer

From "Chemistry," part 2

I have to admit, part of the reason I chose Skylar and Thom's piece is because I enjoy a good love story where things work out for the both of them (contrary to the piece that I performed earlier this year at the "Eclipse" show). What really got me hooked onto this story from the start was Skylar's frankness and self-deprecating admissions. For example, I laughed when I heard her talk about shaving her legs and reflecting on her exes and going, "Well, I'm really good at showing guys what they don't want," because I've been there, pretty hard. Skylar and Thom did such great job with building tension by describing the thoughts going through their heads and how that played into the way they acted with each other. The Story Collider pieces that I think do really well are ones like this where the storytellers' personalities are just so captivating that you forget you're listening to a science story.

-Eli Chen, St. Louis producer

 

David Baron

From "Syzygy," part 2

This summer I was listening to NPR and stumbled upon an interview with a solar eclipse chaser. My ears perked up. A total solar eclipse was to pass a couple hours north of Atlanta in a few weeks, and I’d been debating about pulling my small children out of school and going. My husband was going to be out of town and until that moment, I was on the fence thinking that without him, it would be too much of a pain. But hearing this man’s interview convinced me that there was no way I could pass up the opportunity. And he was right. Seeing the eclipse was the most mind-blowing, beautiful thing I’d ever witnessed. For those two minutes, I felt completely in touch with the universe, but also so very small.


Fast forward to later in the summer. I was working on the official launch of the regular series of The Story Collider in Atlanta. It was my first show as a producer, so I asked our artistic director Erin Barker for a story she’d suggest as “a good one” to help in trying to recruit tellers. And when I hit play on her suggested story, there was his voice again, the eclipse chaser I’d heard earlier on the radio. But this time as I listened to him, I’d actually witnessed the celestial phenomenon. Hearing him tell his story with such heart made all those emotions of feeling tiny, awestruck, tearful and connected with the universe come flooding back. Except this time, I felt a new connection. Not just to the universe, but to this man I’d never met.
If you’ve seen an eclipse, have a listen and find yourself reliving the wonder all over again. If you haven’t seen one, still listen. It’ll convince you to hop on a plane and head for Argentina on July 2, 2019. I’ll see you there.

-Meisa Salaita, Atlanta producer

 

Benjamin Rubenstein

From "Adaptation," part 1

Tales of survival can provide some of the most poignant reflections on life and the human experience, but Benjamin’s story is different and so much more. Picking up where many such stories end, he takes us along on his post-survival journey, handling the reverberations of his illness with a sense of humor and practicality that gives me such hope. We all experience surprise detours along our road; Benjamin’s story shows it’s possible to re-invent ourselves and persist with style.

-Emma Yarbrough, Atlanta producer

 

Jean Ansolabehere

From "The Science of Growing Up," part 1

When Jean took the mic at our LA show in September, I had read and heard her story a handful of times. It’s this beautiful interconnecting storyline of her relationship with her mother and her coming-of-age realization that Keanu Reeves no longer can keep her identifying as heterosexual. This is illustrated by a beautiful metaphor of a science project that her mother orchestrated for Jean that featured an open lamb heart: splayed open, strong, impossibly complex, and intricate. This is all of us! Our identities are influenced by loved ones, our likes, our dislikes, our environment, etc, and I know what it feels like to not be able to be who you really are in the world. While I already loved Jean’s story, hearing it along with an audience confirmed that this was my favorite story of 2017.

-Cassie Soliday, Los Angeles producer

 

Renee Hlozek

From "Life and Death," part 2

I had the privilege of working on Renee's story with her personally, and from the first draft to the telling on stage it struck a chord and hit a nerve. My own father passed away when I was 20 years old, and I can understand completely feeling like the world expects something from you that you might not be keen to give. Grieving is an intensely personal process, and Renee found a beautiful way of both coping and making sense of something that doesn't through her own work on the cosmos. The death of a person and the death of the universe may seem unrelated, but both have the power to change the way you look at the world and your place in it, and Renee captured that beautifully. The story was particularly gripping for me at the time with my best friend's father dealing with what proved to be a terminal illness too. In an odd way, helping him deal with his situation was more troubling for me than my own experience years before, and this story helped me be more compassionate towards him when he needed it most.

-Jesse Hildebrand, Toronto producer

 

Cylita Guy

From "The Bats and the Bees," part 1

While I’m definitely not a scientist who will ever have to do field work that involves tagging bats in the middle of the night in High Park, the main theme of Cylita’s story really resonated with me. Cylita’s hilarious tale of misadventure was a great reminder that stepping outside your comfort zone and embracing whatever happens can be amazing. In my line of work I often find myself in situations that make me exceptionally uneasy, such as when I did yoga with goats. But no matter how reluctant I am at the start, the adventure is always worth it. Cylita proves that if you have a sense of humor, you can turn even the most ridiculous mishaps and challenges into fond memories and the greatest stories. Plus Cylita’s story serves as an important lesson that you never know when you could find your true calling.

-Misha Gajewski, Toronto producer

 

Margot Wohl

From "Friction," part 1

I’ve always been envious of people who seem to float through the world knowing exactly what to do at every turn. For some of us, that sense of security in our abilities and confidence in our worth is hard-earned, especially within the throes of academia. I saw Margot tell her story live at SciComm Camp in 2016, and was struck by how much it resonated with me. Like Margot, I’d entered the land of science without knowing what to expect, and thought I was navigating things fairly well. Like Margot, I encountered inappropriate behavior and abuse of power during the early years of my PhD. These stories are difficult, both to process and to tell, and are often not told at all for fear of repercussion. I’m moved by Margot’s ability to articulate the struggle of finding inner strength and cultivating a sense of worth within a culture that isn’t always supportive. I applaud her honesty and celebrate her journey. I think it’s important to tell these stories (and to share the pain of learning these things the hard way) in order to to foster a culture of support and empathy within science and beyond.

-Kellie Vinal, Atlanta producer

 

Donate to Story Collider this Giving Tuesday!

This #GivingTuesday, we're hoping you think of The Story Collider, and the important work we do producing powerful science stories and training scientists to be effective storytellers. As an extra incentive, we're excited to offer a few new special rewards for our donors!

Special #GivingTuesday offer

  Danny Artese's story, as illustrated by Maki Naro.

Danny Artese's story, as illustrated by Maki Naro.

WE LOVE ART...

Support us at $10/month via Patreon, and we’ll send you a comic book of four classic stories from our podcast, by Danny Artese, Patrick Freeman, and Story Collider’s own Maryam Zaringhalam and Paula Croxson

Illustrated by the amazing Maki Naro, Angela Entzminger, Jordan Jeffries, and our LA-based producer Cassie Soliday!

AND WE LOVE COFFEE!

If you sign up for monthly $25 donations via Patreon, you’ll receive both the comic book and a Story Collider coffee mug. The mug is large enough to hold literally all of the coffee you will ever need, and makes an excellent holiday gift for the overcaffeinated scientist in your life.

Please note: The Story Collider is a Section 501(c)3 nonprofit and your gift may qualify as a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes.

 

If you’d prefer a one-time donation, for the next week, we’re also offering the comic to those who make a one-time donation of $20 or more, and the comic + mug to those who make a one-time donation of $50 or more. Go to https://www.paypal.me/TheStoryCollider to make it happen!

  Yep. It is genuinely almost as big as your head. 

Yep. It is genuinely almost as big as your head. 


What are you supporting when you support Story Collider?

When you donate to Story Collider, you have a chance to make a huge difference to a small organization with a big mission. You’re contributing to:

Kick-ass shows

The Story Collider produces more than forty  powerful, hilarious, gut-punching live shows every year, in cities around the country and beyond. Part of our mission is to gather stories about science from as many different types of voices as we can. That’s why, this year, we launched regular shows in three new cities: St. Louis, Atlanta, and Toronto. Our continued expansion depends on your support!

POWERFUL Stories

Story Collider stories have the power to change our perception of who science belongs to, and who can be a scientist. In fact, a recent study by scientist Jeff Schinske found that community college students who listened to a selection of Story Collider stories came away with increased interest in science careers and a higher likelihood of seeing a place for themselves in science.

TRANSFORMATIVE TRAININGS

We believe that now, more than ever, it’s crucial for scientists to connect with the general public. That’s why our indefatigable executive director, Liz Neeley, has been traveling the globe almost nonstop this year to run workshops that empower scientists with storytelling skills.

 

 Kellie Vinal and Meisa Salaita host our new Atlanta-based show at the Highland Inn Ballroom.

Kellie Vinal and Meisa Salaita host our new Atlanta-based show at the Highland Inn Ballroom.

 Marine scientists gather to listen to each other's stories at one of our recent workshops.

Marine scientists gather to listen to each other's stories at one of our recent workshops.

Welcoming our new producers!

I’m so pleased to announce that The Story Collider is welcoming several new producers onto its team this month.

In addition to launching new shows in Atlanta and St. Louis, we’ve also been searching for new folks to help with our existing shows in New York, LA, and DC. I sincerely wished we could have hired everyone who applied for these producer posts -- they were all so lovely, so talented, and so excited to share stories about science. But our executive director, Liz Neeley, informed me that as a small nonprofit, we’re unable to hire fifty new producers, and I think that’s probably a fair point.

 Paula Croxson, telling a story at our STEM Fest 2016 show.

Paula Croxson, telling a story at our STEM Fest 2016 show.

So I’m excited to share with you that Paula Croxson, Audrey Kearns, Maryam Zaringhalam, Eli Chen, Zack Stovall, Kellie Vinal, Meisa Salaita, and Emma Yarbrough will be joining us for our 2017-2018 season.

Paula Croxson will be working with me on our New York-based show. Paula is a neuroscientist and professor from Mt. Sinai who’s assisted us in the past with our annual Brain Awareness Week shows every March. If you’re an avid listener of our podcast, you may recognize her as an Alzheimer’s researcher or an insane open-water swimmer. She’s also a rock flautist in alternative rock band Marlowe Grey and nerdy rock band Pavlov’s Dogz. Catch her hosting her first show with me next week at the Kraine Theater!

 Maryam Zaringhalam, telling a story at our November show in New York.

Maryam Zaringhalam, telling a story at our November show in New York.

Molecular biologist Maryam Zaringhalam will be working with producer Shane Hanlon to continue production of our bimonthly show in D.C. Maryam, who recently received her PhD from Rockefeller University here in New York, also co-hosts the science policy podcast Science Soapbox. Again, if you’re an avid listener of our podcast, you may recognize her as a connoisseur of fine snack foods who cheats on tests or someone who once pooped under her bed.

Writer and actor Audrey Kearns is joining Cassie Soliday in producing our L.A.-based show. Audrey is founder and editor-in-chief of the website Geek Girl Authority, and also hosts and produces the podcasts Booze and Phasers, Kneel Before Aud and 5 Truths and a Lie. Look for their first show together this August!

 Eli Chen, sharing a story at our St. Louis debut in May.

Eli Chen, sharing a story at our St. Louis debut in May.

Eli Chen and Zack Stovall will be working with St. Louis Public Radio to launch our first regular show in the Midwest! We debuted there in May as part of the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, and hope to follow it up with a show this October. Eli is a science and environment reporter with the radio station, and Zack is a local comedian who also produces STL Sketchpad.

Biochemist and science communicator Kellie Vinal will be leading the charge in Atlanta! For years, we’ve traveled down south every year for the Atlanta Science Festival and we’re excited to now have a permanent residence in this amazing science and storytelling community. Chemist and sculptor Meisa Salaita, who co-founded and co-directs the Atlanta Science Festival, will coproduce our debut show this fall, and Emma Yarbrough, a local performer and theater program coordinator at Emory University, will be working with Kellie for our spring festival show.

Please join me in welcoming them! I hope you will check out their shows as they debut this summer and fall.

And stay tuned for upcoming news about future shows in Toronto!

-- Erin Barker, artistic director

JOB SEARCH - Project Assistant

The Story Collider is looking for a part‐time project assistant to support a special series of storytelling workshops and live shows. Please apply and/or help us reach excellent candidates for this administrative position!

FAQS:

  Click on the image above to download the PDF of the job announcement & instructions for applicants. If you have any problems, email Jobs@StoryCollider.org and we'll troubleshoot. 

Click on the image above to download the PDF of the job announcement & instructions for applicants. If you have any problems, email Jobs@StoryCollider.org and we'll troubleshoot. 

  • This is a part-time contract that will be up for renewal for 2018.
  • This is administrative work, see the position description for further detail. 
  • The work schedule can be self-determined. We anticipate 10-15 hours of work per week and pay $25/hour. 
  • We are likely searching for someone in Washington DC, but will consider New York or remote work for the right person. 
  • We do not have formal educational requirements, but we do want to see proof that candidates can manage projects of this size and complexity. 
  • Application deadline is June 10. Instructions on how to apply are in the attached PDF.

The Story Collider Wants YOU!

The Story Collider is looking for new producers for shows in various cities, including New York, DC and Atlanta. This job has three pieces: 1) event planning and promotion, 2) storyteller recruitment and coaching, and 3) hosting live performances. There will also be opportunities to contribute to the broader organization.

Experience in storytelling is essential. Scientific background is preferred but not required. We deeply appreciate people who are fun, funny, hardworking, and brave. You must have great communication skills and respect for people from all walks of life. We’d love to hear about and help you develop marketing, audio production, and other event-related expertise.

This is not a full-time position. Producers are paid on a flat per-show basis. 

Interested? Take a listen to our podcast to see the kind of stories we produce and then email us at stories@storycollider.org. Let us know what you think makes a great story, and why you have a passion for true, personal stories about science. If your city isn't mentioned in the first paragraph above, feel free to let us know why you think it would be a great location for Story Collider!

Please note: We are no longer accepting applications for producer positions in New York, DC, and Atlanta, as of June 9, 2017. Thank you for your interest!

Joining the March for Science

When the March for Science invited us to sign on as an official partner last month, we weren’t sure what we wanted to do.

The March is a political but nonpartisan protest taking place this Saturday (April 22) in Washington, DC and more than 500 other cities at last count. It began unceremoniously, but we see it as having come together around the need to speak out against government actions that ignore or impede science, from slashing budgets for essential research to outright denial of climate change to attempts at immigration bans that would stifle collaboration.

 Courtesy American Astronomical Society

Courtesy American Astronomical Society

Many of us have been personally galvanized by recent political events, but our team hesitated. We worried (and continue to worry) about missteps from the March organizers on social media, and what we've seen and heard from critics and supporters alike. We wondered if we were straying from our core mission to find and share true, personal stories about how science affects people’s lives.

And then we thought about some of those stories we’ve gathered over the past seven years.

The environmental engineer who fought against government cover-up in Flint, Michigan, when he and his team discovered lead in the water.

The Muslim physicist whose neighbors reported him to Homeland Security.

The biomedical engineer who had to take out a loan “equivalent to feeding ten thousand hungry people for ten years” just to come to the United States for his education. The physicist whose perspective is forever shaped by her experience as a war refugee. And all of the other immigrant scientists we’ve worked with who came here to contribute to science.

The bioethicist who was sexually assaulted on the subway and couldn’t find a police officer who would take her seriously.

The geneticist who was harassed by Milo Yiannopoulos and his followers because she believes women have a place in science.

The transgender marine biologist who worried he wouldn’t be accepted by his colleagues.

The African American biologist who was called a “whore” because she wouldn’t work for free. And all of the other scientists who were told they weren’t good enough for science, or that they didn’t belong in science because of the color of their skin or because of their gender or ethnicity or sexuality, or because of their accent or where they’re from. The scientists who, as biologist Danielle Lee put it, have to “work twice as hard” for the same recognition.

And that was when we realized that, above all else, The Story Collider must stand with scientists. Not only because we genuinely care about each individual scientist we’ve worked with, but also because we know that things like racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and Islamophobia stand in the way of good science, which is proven to be most innovative when it’s diverse and inclusive.

There are three things that The Story Collider cannot, in good conscience, compromise on: respect for all people, respect for science, and respect for scientists. To remain silent now, a time of crisis for all three, would betray our values as an organization.

In the end, our board voted unanimously to become an official partner of the March for Science. In doing so, we’re proud to join over hundreds of other science organizations such as the American Geophysical Union (AGU), SACNAS, and AAAS. Many of our producers will be participating in their local marches. Our executive director and artistic director will be marching in Washington. We invite you to march with us, and to join us at our local DC venue, Busboys and Poets 5th and K, at 6 pm on April 22, for a post-march drink.

-- The Story Collider team

 

Celebrating the Stories of Women in STEMM

On March 27, 2017, The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine hosted a "Celebration of the Stories of Women in STEMM."

The Story Collider was honored to contribute to the event by creating two audio segments to frame the discussion panels. These pieces were designed to be evocative sketches. They weave together just a few of the countless moments of courage, perseverance, and insight shared on our stage.

This playlist pulls together the full stories - we hope you enjoy! 

Source: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/cws...

Our science, our stories

The Story Collider's tagline is true, personal stories about science. From time to time, we are asked "Where is the science in this episode? I thought this was supposed to be about science!" This is almost always in reaction to a story that focuses on experiences and feelings not directly tied to research. Here's how I explain our choices: 

First, The Story Collider believes that science is shaping all of our lives, perhaps now more than ever before. That means everyone has science stories and the right to tell them. This is why Story Collider has all kinds of people on our stages and podcast - scientists, of course, but also comedians, cops, patients, parents - and we're hungry to keep growing in this way. I've heard people call this "quietly subversive." I like that. Science belongs to everyone.

Second, we know that science is a human undertaking. A process that shapes and is shaped by flawed, funny, perfectly imperfect human beings. I care about the suffering scientists experience as they try to make careers or share their findings. I will not ignore the ways that race, gender, sexuality, disability, religion, age, class, ethnicity, and immigration status shape their struggles.

We believe sharing intensely personal and political stories of science is essential. It reassures those in pain are in that they are not alone, that they are not unheard. We hope it moves our audiences to think about how their own work and lives would benefit from solving problems that don't affect them personally. And finally, we hope these stories inspire those with power to act. 

This is a great moment in time for all fans of science to think carefully about what exactly they are fighting for. 

- Liz

Story Collider Staff Picks 2016

At the end of every year, each Story Collider staff member selects a story that resonated with him or her to feature for our end-of-the-year roundup. This year, each of us has selected a story that changed us, or opened our eyes in some way, big or small. We hope you enjoy!

Paula Croxson: How Cold Is Too Cold?

There are people who are built to run. They gracefully devour the miles with long, strong legs and are a marvel to behold. I know because I spend a lot of time watching them while I plod along in their wake. I’m a late-blooming runner, galvanized by an NPR interview in which running was described as a “sport for stubborn people.” I may not be graceful, but tenacious? Sure. And I think it is specifically because I will never be particularly fast that distance running has become seductive to me. I had just started training for my very first marathon when I heard Paula Croxson tell the story “How Cold Is Too Cold?” Her human anatomy lesson is what initially caught my attention, but her race-day story and inner monologue during her swim are what stick with me. During my marathon training, I slipped on ice once and fell spinning. I got lacerated by brambles and sunk in mud over my ankles many times. I got disoriented and euphoric, crying with joy and exhaustion. Every time, Paula’s story was a touchstone for me. Was I overdoing it? Was I endangering myself? Were these things to be proud of or embarrassed by? Knowing when to turn back is just as important as being able to put your head down and keep swimming. As Paula says at the end of her story, “Don’t get me wrong, [doing these swims] still scares me… but I can’t wait to do the next one.” As for me, well, my second marathon is in April.

-- Liz Neeley, executive director

 

Nathan Boll: What Else Is Out There?

“What if” terrifies me. I can’t even have a discussion on vacations too far ahead of time because I worry about scheduling, taking time off from work, planning logistics, etc. The “let’s move to X” exercise often employed by my partner when we’re feeling overwhelmed actually ends up being more overwhelming because my mind immediately goes to, “How would we pay for it?” or “What if we couldn’t find jobs?” or “What would we take?” With this mindset, I have to say that I surprised myself when thinking about memorable stories from 2016 and immediately thought of Nathan Boll’s story, “What Else Is Out There?” He didn’t worry about the small (what I feel is huge) stuff. Each time in his life when he wasn’t happy, he took action to fix it. His independence and spirit and willingness to put himself out there are an inspiration to me. His story reminds me that things will work out, so perhaps I should stop worrying about everything.

-- Shane Hanlon, DC producer and host

 

Kaća Bradonjić: The Nature of Space and Time

There’s a particularly difficult kind of story to pull off: one where the science and the story are separate, but comment on each other. It’s easy to make that forced or for the parallel to not really work. Kaća Bradonjić’s story is spectacular in how well it works. The story of a war refugee whose notions of time and space are shattered by the experience is perfectly complemented by the ideas of a theoretical physicist who studies the notions of space and time in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and of course the story is really made powerful by the fact that they’re the same person. I love stories of science directly impacting people’s lives, but there is extraordinary poetry in the parallels when it really works.

-- Ben Lillie, co-founder and director of special projects

 

MaryAnn Wilbur: Two Pregnancies

Those of us in the storytelling scene talk a lot about empathy. What does it mean to experience someone else's life vicariously? Professor Amy Shuman offers a warning: “Empathy is one kind of obligation, sometimes creating a possibility for understanding across differences, sometimes involving sentimentality, sometimes romanticizing tragedy as inspiration, but in any case deeply compromising the relationship between tellers and listeners.” MaryAnn Wilbur's story is one of the most literal examples I have ever seen of the potential problems with empathy: an OBGYN delivering a pre-term baby at exactly as many weeks as she is herself "secretly pregnant." Totally understandable thoughts of her own fetus are followed by an admonishing "This is so not about me." MaryAnn beautifully captures the paradox many of us in caretaking professions confront every day: "I'm charged with caring for humans, but I'm a human."

-- Christine Gentry, Boston producer and host

 

Maryam Zaringhalam: Cheating My Way to Smart

When I was in school, I always finished my math test first, and was very proud of the deep sighs of annoyance that my fellow students would give me as I walked to the front of the class to pass in my exam. I played this story for my students the other week while they were studying for their final. I regularly find my role as a high school teacher is to relieve anxiety instead of teach because they seem to believe that if they don’t pass their math test, they will end up destitute, alone, and unloved. I find myself regularly telling my students that the test doesn’t matter, their grades don’t matter, and they just need to learn how to breathe. It may seem irresponsible, but I want them to know that they can cheat their way through school because I want them to know that success in school and success after school are not analogous. Though it may feel like it, school is not just a level in a game that they complete, but rather school is a time in life when they are open to learning lessons. Maryam’s story really hits home that idea that the lessons she learned from the classroom were not the ones on the syllabus. It’s an amazing reminder to have as a teacher -- it relieves me from the awesome responsibility that I arrogantly place on myself, and also humbles me to remember that the lessons that my students learn are as much based on who I sit them next to as what I say to them. So therefore I want them to know that they can cheat their way into all the smart classes, but the reality is that in adult life they are going to have to do the work, so they might as well learn how to do it now. I wish I had known that I was learning useful lessons when I was that age -- I might have paid more attention instead of just focusing on finishing as soon as possible.

-- Nisse Greenberg, New York producer and host

 

Nneze Akwiwu: The First Female President of Nigeria

I first met Nneze Akwiwu by phone.  I was interviewing her for a public radio story about her chemistry professor at Spelman, John Dimandja.  She spoke eloquently about the role he played in getting her to believe in herself.  John told a story at our Atlanta Story Collider in 2015.  When we returned to do a show in Atlanta in 2016, I asked him for recommendations of storytellers.  He suggested Nneze.  I leapt at the chance to work with her again.  And her story -- about her journey to want to become the first female president of Nigeria -- really moved me.  Nneze’s semester ramped up fast, so we worked together on her story over the phone just a couple of times. We decided to position her last in the lineup for the show, and her story was the perfect way to conclude the evening.  It contrasted the hardships of growing up as a girl in Nigeria with Nneze’s dreams of leading her country into a new era.  After the show concluded, numerous people approached Nneze.  One person asked her to follow up about a job opportunity.  And within a month of us posting her story on the Story Collider podcast, it became one of the episodes listened to the most.  I’m so proud of Nneze -- for daring to dream, and daring to do it out loud.

-- Ari Daniel, Boston producer and host

 

Patrick Freeman: Elephant Time

As a physicist, I don’t think much about biology. I mean, I appreciate it as an invaluable part of science, and I know there’s tons of interesting stuff happening in the field, but it’s not something I feel much connection to. Patrick Freeman’s story, “Elephant Time,” changed that for me. Patrick talks about how, while doing field work on elephants, he got the news that his grandfather had died, and how being among these large, serene, beautiful creatures helped him deal with his emotions even during the chaos of being in the field. When my parents died, I found consolation in my own research, i.e., math. The orderly process of doing a calculation helped me find solace in the middle of a turbulent personal period. Hearing Patrick’s story of how he found comfort in a “messy” discipline -- conservation biology -- let me experience how another type of scientist processes grief. And although I’ll never find myself in the middle of an elephant preserve, the next time I need to work through some difficult emotions, I may just sit down with a glass of bourbon, think of Patrick’s story, and watch a few elephant videos.

-- Brian Wecht, co-founder and LA producer and host

 

Dan Daneshvar: Making the Death Call

Listening to Dan's story about making phone calls to families requesting the donation of their deceased loved ones’ brains for science research, I couldn't believe that someone would do such a thing!  It seemed wrong to donate something that isn't yours -- or to pillage your family member's dead corpse.  I couldn't imagine saying yes to a request like that for my mother or father's brain!  In looking at a person, you don't imagine all the inner workings going on inside their skin.  You only see them on the outside.  The idea of a brain outside a body, being studied and poked -- I didn't want to think about it at all.  Even Dan himself admitted to feeling torn about the appropriateness of making this big ask to total strangers and admitted that it doesn't get easier to make each phone call.  What changed my mind about what I would say if I were ever to receive this call was his sense of mission.  It gives him the energy to continue -- to study the effects of repetitive concussions in order to help those who will be affected by it in the future.  If he's successful, his research could help save a life.  Not only would I now say yes, but his story has also made me realize that the best thing that you can do with your own life is do something bigger than yourself that will help others, create a ripple effect of good, and hopefully outlive you.

-- Cassie Soliday, LA producer and host

 

Rachel Yehuda: Cause and Effect

I first heard Rachel's amazing story last winter as part of a six-week workshop The Story Collider did with Mt. Sinai's Friedman Brain Institute. Rachel is a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai who has made important discoveries about why some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and others don't, and how the effects can even cross generations. (You can tell she's important because she has her own Wikipedia page.) In her story, she returns to her hometown of Cleveland as a young psychiatrist in an attempt to study PTSD in Holocaust survivors in her community and finds they're less eager to hand over their "blood and urine" than she'd anticipated. Last winter, I was especially struck by this part of her story: "We used to have all these discussions about whether the Holocaust could happen again, in the United States. I really thought those were rhetorical questions. I guess I felt safe. But I could see that my friends who had Holocaust survivor parents were actually in some way preparing for this possibility... There was one family that cooked, ate, and slept in their basement, leaving two floors above unoccupied. I guess they still felt like they were in hiding." At the time, I couldn't fathom that anyone could really believe another Holocaust could happen today, in the United States -- so much so that they would still live with this fear. But since last winter, I've seen how hate can take root and gain strength quickly and unexpectedly, from the spray-painted swastikas that appeared overnight on our local Adam Yauch Park after the election to its more serious and insidious forms, and the way I listen to this story has changed. Like Rachel in her story, I've learned that the fears these survivors experienced are very real, and need to be heard and understood.

-- Erin Barker, artistic director

Remembering Raine, Ron & Stephanie

Two years ago, The Story Collider did a show with cancer patient community Smart Patients out in San Francisco that I was lucky enough to produce. I got to know six really special people who were fighting, or had fought, cancer, and work with them on their stories. Last year, I found out that two of those people, Raine and Ron, had passed away. Just this week, I found out a third, Stephanie, has passed away.

This is heartbreaking. I was fortunate to get to know these folks and to have them share their stories with me, and I will never forget them or their stories. Stephanie was a truly special and warm person. Her obituary describes her as "a quiet, but potent, lesbian-feminist activist." I can tell you from experience, she gave quality hugs.

We were only podcasted one of the stories from our Smart Patients show, "Fading Notes" by Emily Caudill (who is fortunately still with us), but you can watch the rest, including those from Raine, Ron, and Stephanie, on the Smart Patients YouTube channel. (You'll notice many of the patients were using notes, due to what they called "chemo brain.")

Sadly, they aren't the only storytellers we've lost to cancer. In 2010, Michelle Dobrawsky, one of our first storytellers on the podcast, passed away. 

-- Erin Barker, Artistic Director

Take Our Listener Survey!

Hello, science story lovers! 

We need your help to improve our podcast in 2017! If you get a chance this week, please take our brief listener survey and let us know what you think -- what kind of stories you'd like to hear more of, what kind of features we could add to the podcast, etc. We're so excited to continue bringing you science stories in the coming year, and I, for one, have a feeling that true, personal stories are now more important than ever. Click the button below to begin the survey.

Of course, one of The Story Collider's primary goals is to bring science stories to as many diverse audiences as possible, and we want to be sure that as we grow we're continuing to reach out to all audiences and demographics. For this reason, at the end of the survey, there are a few questions related to demographics. The results of this survey are anonymous and confidential, but please feel free to leave blank any questions you're not comfortable answering.

Thank you again for taking the time to contribute to The Story Collider!

-- Erin Barker, Artistic Director

Saying Goodbye to Our Podcast Editor & Welcoming Another

 Rose, reaching for the stars on the Story Collider stage in Brooklyn.

Rose, reaching for the stars on the Story Collider stage in Brooklyn.

The Story Collider is saying goodbye to our beloved podcast editor, Rose Eveleth, this month as she embarks on an exciting new opportunity producing the podcast based on ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series

Those of you who know Rose will probably understand what she’s meant to The Story Collider over the years. She’s been an excellent podcast editor, but even more than that, she’s challenged us and inspired us to be better at every step along the way.

Do yourself a favor and check out not only her upcoming work at 30 for 30, but her amazing podcast Flash Forward -- which, each episode, explores a new possible future scenario. I'm told it will continue on a monthly basis while she tackles this new project at ESPN. Below, you can listen to the one time we managed to drag her out from behind the scenes at Story Collider -- a charming story of learning to ask for help. It's safe to say that everyone at SC will miss Rose's influence, her guidance, and her pathological love of foxes.

Luckily, we’re welcoming a new podcast editor -- Zoë Saunders. Zoë is currently an intern for our good friends at public radio’s Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen and has a master’s degree in archaeology. She says she's excited to be joining the Story Collider team (she did! I swear!), and we're excited to be welcoming her to the team!

-- Erin Barker, Artistic Director

 

In Recent Podcasts: Drunk Driving and Niagara Falls

Here at Story Collider, we're busy preparing for our fall slate of shows -- which includes trips to DC, San Francisco, New Orleans, and more! -- and I'm just catching up here on some of our recent podcasts today. Two amazing recent storytellers from our podcast? Comedian Wyatt Cenac and Science Friday's Ira Flatow.

Wyatt Cenac: Drunk Driving for Science

You may recognize Wyatt from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, or from his new show on TBS, People of Earth, about a support group for alien abductees (which, I have to say, looks great), or from his recent standup comedy special, Furry Dumb Fighter. We were lucky enough to have him in our May show that we produced in partnership with public radio’s Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen. (You can still watch the whole show here!)

Wyatt shared a hilarious story about completing his high school community hours at a science center--”This was a place of science. I knew this because it was called The Science Place,” he says. At The Science Place, he became addicted to cracking their drunk-driving simulator, trying to find a gender, height, weight, and number of beers to enter into the computer that would still allow him to “get home safely.” “You’re telling me that a seven-foot-tall, 300-pound man can’t have beer?” Wyatt says. “I mean, I’m basically Shaquille O’Neal right now and I can’t have one beer?”

To Wyatt’s credit, according to a chart from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in this Business Insider article, Shaq could indeed have one beer. Also according to their chart, I am “impaired” after one drink and legally intoxicated after two. I have to say, given past experience, this makes sense.

Ira Flatow: The Sound of the Falls

Science Friday’s Ira Flatow appeared in one of our Brooklyn shows last summer, telling a story from his early days working for NPR, when he’d been assigned to find out what it sounds like to go over Niagara Falls -- using a recorder, not firsthand observation. He recounts his boss telling him, "I want to take a barrel and I want to throw it over Niagara Falls. But not just any sort of barrel. I want to put a tape recorder in the barrel so we can record what it sounds like to go over the falls in a barrel -- because very, very few people have survived to tell the tale of what that sounds like."

This turns out to be true! There is a Wikipedia page actually titled: “List of Objects that Have Gone Over Niagara Falls," and it's a bit of a grim read. (Can I please direct you to the entry from 1930, which includes the line “The turtle survived the ordeal”? I plan to end all future dinner party anecdotes with that line.) One thing I never thought of -- apparently fish swim over the Falls. "The volume of the Falls creates a cushion of air bubbles and water mixture at the base that softens the the surface of the plunge pool at the base of the Falls," and their bodies are built to absorb pressure, according to the website Niagara Falls Thunder Alley. Once, a tourist was grazed by a salmon that had been swept over the Falls.

So if you want to find out what it sounds like to go over Niagara Falls, you'll either have to listen to this story, or ask a fish.

-- Erin Barker, Artistic Director

In Recent Podcasts: Grandfathers and Hypothermia

Last week's podcast featured none other than Story Collider co-founder, Ben Lillie, aka my boss. What I love about this story is that it shows the importance of science communication on a granular level. We spend a lot of time thinking about science communication on a grand scale -- how do we educate the public, relay information to voters, become a more scientifically literate society? And all those things are important. But sometimes science communication can be as simple and as complex as a grandson wanting to understand his grandfather’s life. 

You can read about Ben's grandfather and his sailboats on his Wikipedia page here and find out "Whatever happened to the fun?" here. For more Ben Lillie magic, check out his previous story, "The Impostor Heart Attack."

Last week’s story came from neuroscientist Paula Croxson. Paula has helped Story Collider with our annual Brain Awareness Week shows, and told a story at a previous show about how her work helped her come to understand her grandmother’s neurological problems. The story Paula told with us this year is a little more lighthearted -- if still dangerous.

When Paula moved to New York from the UK, she wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. Looking for something familiar and comfortable, she began swimming, and this led her to sign up for her first open-water swimming race. Before listening to Paula’s story, I was unfamiliar with all the risks of ope- water swimming, particularly of hypothermia. “When you’re in the water the heat gets sucked away from you thirty times faster than it does in the air,” Paula says. The shivering can be a dangerous drain on a swimmer’s energy. “However,” Paula says ominously, “it’s not nearly as bad as when you stop shivering.”

Excuse me while I wrap myself in seven blankets.

Just wait until Paula tells you about “THE CLAW.”

Since listening to Paula’s story, I’ve read more about open water swimming and came across an article about the most dangerous open water swims that contained this passage, about Kim Chambers' swim across the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Kim Chambers... didn’t take warm showers for six months to prepare for the low temperatures. She was stung [by jellyfish] more than 200 times during her swim in 2014 and had to be hospitalised after she’d finished because of all the toxins in her body.

Yeah, I think I’ll stick to swimming pools. No offense, Paula.

See you next week!

-- Erin Barker, Artistic Director

The Story Collider Podcast Achieves 5 Million Listens!

We're proud to announce that, as of today, The Story Collider's podcast has been listened to more than five million times on Soundcloud. Thank you so much, science story lovers, for helping us reach this goal! We've loved sharing every one of these stories with you.

As we continue to grow over the coming year, we'll need you help. Please help spread the word further -- by tweeting about us, writing reviews on iTunes, liking and commenting on stories on Soundcloud, sharing your favorite episodes with friends, etc. As always, we depend on you guys to get the word out. With your help, we can bring science stories to new and bigger audiences, and show more and more people how science is a real part of all our lives. 

Thanks again, from the entire staff of The Story Collider!

 

In This Week's Podcast: Equinox Magic

This week’s podcast came to us from our sixth (!) anniversary show at our home in Brooklyn, New York, from veteran storyteller and LGBT health educator Elana Lancaster.

Elana's story is about his overwhelming frustration when a student teacher attempted to teach his grade school class that, every year the on the vernal equinox, it's possible to balance eggs on their ends, due to planetary alignment -- something that young science enthusiast Elana immediately recognized as a myth.

It’s a hilarious example of that age-old problem -- what do you do when you KNOW the science and the person teaching you DOESN’T? What do you do when you know you’re right and the other person is wrong, but NOBODY will believe you?

 I said, "You're wrong..."

I said, "You're wrong..."

Knowing nearly nothing about science myself, this is not a problem I have encountered often, though I know many people who have and it seems terribly frustrating for them.

In this case (SPOILER ALERT), Elana was of course right (shout out to astronomer Frank D. Ghigo for conducting the experiment that confirmed this in 1984!). Sure, you can balance an egg on the equinox, if you try hard enough, but you can also do this any old day of the year. Apparently there is a similar myth about brooms. (I never realized how creepy photos of brooms standing up on their own are!)

As a side note, Elana previously told a story with us about his partner’s transition that was, for me, transformative. There’s a moment, five minutes in, that I still sometimes think about and get serious feels from, even four years later.

Happy science story listening,

Erin Barker, Artistic Director

In This Summer's Podcasts: Pregnancies, STDs, Cow Insemination, and Heartbeats

I’ve been traveling quite a bit for the past few weeks, including an amazing trip, with our executive director Liz Neeley and co-founder Ben Lillie, down to Boulder, Colorado, where we worked with scientists from the multidisciplinary Biofrontiers Institute to hone their stories. I certainly learned a lot about many things, including but not limited to dolphin penises (they’re prehensile!) and fecal transplants (they’re a thing!).

 Hannting. My nightmares.

Hannting. My nightmares.

Now that I’m back at home in my office, facing down this hideous stuffed dog that my husband won at Coney Island four years ago and that has haunted my dreams ever since, I’m reflecting on our previous four podcasts, which I haven’t had a chance to blog about during my globetrotting.

 

MaryAnn Wilbur: Two Pregnancies

One of my favorite kinds of stories from scientists are those in which their work suddenly becomes real to them in a new way. Something happens that really drives home the importance and the emotional significance of what they’re studying. In MaryAnn’s case, she was an OBGYN treating a woman who was exactly the same number of weeks pregnant that she was -- and that woman was going into labor.

 

Jo Firestone: A Sex Education

For those of you unfamiliar with Jo, she is a truly awesome comedian -- the hardest working comic in New York, in fact, some might say. Others might say weird. I suspect both are true. In the story she told for Story Collider, she believes fervently that she has an STD in college. There’s just one problem with this conclusion: She’s never had sex. Listen to this one to learn the basics of reproductive science.

 

 

Aaron Wolfe: The Inseminator

Aaron Wolfe is an old friend of mine, from back when he his talented wife, Naomi, lived in New York City too. This time, he told a story on our Boston stage. He’s a really dazzling storyteller -- the way he speaks on stage makes you feel as if he’s speaking just to you. The only thing I don’t like about his most recent Story Collider story is that I happened to be eating a Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch when I first listened to it, as is my custom when perusing our audio files. Suffice to say this meal didn’t pair well with a story that I later titled “The Inseminator.”

For an Aaron Wolfe story you can listen to during lunch, check out his original SC story, about science disappointing him as a kid, as well as the stories he’s told for The Moth.

 

Skylar Bayer: The Hummingbird of Doom

Skylar Bayer, as you may know, has produced Story Collider shows in the great state of Maine, where she’s based, in the past, and so I naturally love any story she has to tell. This one may be her most powerful. The way she describes her heart problems in this story is so visceral, a couple of audience members had to leave the room to calm themselves down at the live show.

Other work by Sky includes her original Story Collider story, from back in 2013 when we first met at Science Online Oceans in Miami, as well as her appearance on The Colbert Report, on which she coined the immortal phrase, “Gonads. Scallop gonads.”

 

In This Week's Podcast: No Man Is an Island

This week’s podcast came to us from London, by way of the Pitcairn Islands. If you’ve never heard of the Pitcairn Islands, you’re not alone. Our storyteller, Henry Duffy, had never heard of them either until he signed up to work on a project on underwater cameras there.

“I thought, ‘Maybe it’s near Australia,’” he says. “It’s not near Australia.”

 Henry told his story at Round Chapel in London, at our first show in partnership with the British Science Association.

Henry told his story at Round Chapel in London, at our first show in partnership with the British Science Association.

To be fair, it's not actually near anywhere. The Pitcairn Islands -- which consist of Henderson, Ducie, Oeno, and the titular island of Pitcairn itself -- are in fact five hundred kilometers away from the nearest inhabited land. And only reachable by a boat that comes every three months. Talk about commitment to an assignment!

Not to mention, the island of Pitcairn is one of the world’s smallest communities by population. As of July, Pitcairn’s population was estimated at 49 people spread over just 23 households. (During his time, Henry estimates there were about 35 people living on the island.)

Fun facts about Pitcairn:

  • Pitcairn legalized gay marriage in 2015 despite having no known gay couples because there was “no reason not to.” Hard to argue with that, any way you look at it!

  • The Wikipedia page for Pitcairn contains such mind-blowing sentences as “All of Pitcairn's seven children were enrolled in school in 2000,” and “As of 2012, just two children had been born on Pitcairn in the 21 years prior.”

  • The residents of Pitcairn are mostly direct descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian consorts, who settled there in the late 1700s. In fact, many still have the original last names of the mutineers. The story of the mutiny on the Bounty is complicated and riveting, and highly worth falling down a Wikipedia black hole for. There's also a Mel Gibson movie about it, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • The language of Pitkern is taught alongside English in school. It’s a creole language that blends eighteenth-century English of the mutineers with the Tahitian of their consorts. 

Of course, to really understand what it’s like to live on Pitcairn -- for 97 days, no less -- you’ll just have to listen to Henry’s story. Stay tuned for more upcoming shows in the UK in partnership with the British Science Association!

-- Erin Barker, Artistic Director