True (science) stories you’ve never heard before

Third Pod from the Sun is back, and we’re going weekly! We’re breaking things up into six-week mini-series and our first series is all about the true, personal stories from scientists, for everyone. Join us as we combat misconceptions about sharks, learn how to lasso lizards, hear from a Martian here on Earth, spark science joy via Tiktok, journey to Antarctica, and fight over food with some capuchins!

Interviews with:

This episode was produced by Shane M Hanlon and mixed by Collin Warren. Artwork by Karen Romano Young. Interview conducted by Ashely Hamer.


 Shane Hanlon:              00:00                Hi, Nanci.

Nanci Bompey:             00:01                Hi Shane.

 Shane Hanlon:              00:01                It’s good to see you.

Nanci Bompey:             00:02                Yes, in person.

 Shane Hanlon:              00:03                I know that’s the perks of us living close to each other and me having a studio in my basement.

Nanci Bompey:             00:10                Yes, that’s great.

 Shane Hanlon:              00:12                And it’s a new day for third pod as well. So we’ve been on a bit of a hiatus for the past bit in preparation for we’re going weekly.

Nanci Bompey:             00:24                Wow. That’s exciting.

 Shane Hanlon:              00:25                It is very exciting. A little daunting, but it’ll be good. It’ll be good. And we get to see each other.

Nanci Bompey:             00:31                Try to convince yourself. No.

 Shane Hanlon:              00:33                No, it’ll be fun. So, this week, actually we have a little preview of things to come starting in April, we’re going to be running back to back six part mini series on different themes. So some things to look forward to are, we’re going to be stories about extinctions.

Nanci Bompey:             00:49                Uplifting. Start right there with the…

 Shane Hanlon:              00:55                It’s not the first one. This is just some of the things we’re doing. We’re going to be doing stories from NASA. So talking to a lot of NASA scientists, and actually what we are starting with is we’re going to be pulling back to curtain to hear about, who is science. Right? I think oftentimes when folks think of science and scientists, they think of Einstein or now Fauci or something like that. And that’s fine. Like they are scientists, but there’s more than that. And there’s more to people who actually do science and do research. So over six weeks, we’re going to hear from a bunch of different folks from field biologists to policy walks, to Psycommerce, and more. We’re calling the series, True stories. Our interviewer was Ashley Hamer.

Nanci Bompey:             01:37                Great. Let’s hear it.

 Shane Hanlon:              01:42                Science is fascinating, but don’t just take my word for it. Join us as we hear stories from scientists for everyone, I’m Shane Hanlon.

Nanci Bompey:             01:51                And I’m Nanci Bompey.

 Shane Hanlon:              01:53                And this, his third pod from the sun.

David Schiffman:           01:57                I am Dr. David Schiffman. I am a Marine conservation biologist and I’m a faculty research associate at air Arizona State University.

Nanci Bompey:             02:07                What are some of your least favorite misperceptions about sharks?

David Schiffman:           02:12                The classic one is that the only good shark is a dead shark and sharks are blood thirsty killers. And if you dip your toe in a bathtub, a shark’s going to eat your whole family and that’s not true. And we’ve known that’s not true forever, But the pendulum has sort of swung too far in the other direction. Recently is now you have scuba divers who are saying that sharks are cute, adorable, innocent puppy dogs, and they just need love and hugs and kisses. And people do hug and kiss wild free swimming sharks. Don’t do that.

David Schiffman:           02:43                There, these are the only two options here, right? It’s like you wouldn’t, if you were hiking and you saw a bear, you wouldn’t try to ride it, but people do it with sharks all the time. And that, and then other people say they’re heroes and it’s nonsense.

Nanci Bompey:             02:57                Right? Got it. Just treat them with respect, but not…

David Schiffman:           03:00                It’s a wild animal.

Gina Zwicky:                   03:03                My name is Ginas Wiki and I’m currently a graduate research assistant at the University of New Orleans.

Gina Zwicky:                   03:11                Catching anoles is always a bit of a fraught task, because they’re really small and they’re really fast. So there are a couple ways as you can go about it. Some people are really, really good with just the grabby hands method and kind of as gently as possible reaching out and snapping them up. But many people also use catch poles, which have a little bit of string loop at the end, which is really funny because I can never understand how the anoles, don’t see you putting this little string around their neck and it looks like a fishing pole. So I’ll be standing nine feet away with just extended pole with a little piece of string on the end. And the lizard sits there like, all right, this is cool. No problem. And then you snap the pole, catch the lizard, take what samples you need and let them on their way, but they never see it coming. I don’t get it.

Nanci Bompey:             03:59                Wow. That’s amazing. You’re you’re last sewing lizards basically.

Tanya Harrison:            04:05                I’m Tonya Harrison and I am the director of strategic science initiatives at planet labs.

Nanci Bompey:             04:12                What is it that drew you to science in the first place?

Tanya Harrison:            04:18                There was sort of a coming together of bunch of things around the age of five that I think were all super influential. One was growing up, watching a lot of Star Trek. Another was the Magic School Bus lost in the solar system book. I actually have the copy from when I was like four or five years old on my bookshelf behind me still and randomly the movie Big Bird in Japan, which does sound like it would be space related at first. But in the movie, big bird ends up meeting Kaguya Hime who is the mythological princess of the moon in Japan. There’s actually a Kaguya mission named after this, princess that the Japanese species and she sent to the moon. And for some reason that caused me to just go out every night and I would stare at the moon and stare at the stars.

Tanya Harrison:            05:02                It just kind of evolved from there. And then I focused in on Mars specifically when the Pathfinder mission landed and the little Sojourner Rover drove out onto the surface of Mars. And I thought that’s so cool. I can’t believe that we’re driving robots on another planet. I want to work on that. And so I became super focused. I got to figure out what I got to do to work on these rovers.

Jaida Elcock:                  05:30                My name is Jada Elcock. I am currently a first year PhD student at the MIT woods hole oceanographic institution joint program. When I was out in the canyons tagging whale sharks, you can’t obviously pull them onto the boat because half the time they’re bigger than the boat because they’re the largest fish on the entire planet. So what you have to do is you have to get in the water with them or tag them somehow from the side of the boat. But the way we went about it is we got in the water with them and we put a tag on them by hand. So I got to put a tag on one of these animals and it was the coolest thing ever. I was in the water with this likely 35 foot shark that is a filter feeder. And I know is harmless and wants nothing to do with me and is simply existing in its base and is that’s a spec over there.

Jaida Elcock:                  06:17                And I’m sitting here like this is the largest animal I will likely ever see in my entire life. And it’s gorgeous. All these spot patterns are so pretty. Their spot patterns are unique for each individual as unique as a human fingerprint. I could take a picture of this. And then in 10 years, if someone takes a picture of this animal again, I can just tell you what animal that is. I have footage of it. That’s the coolest thing ever. And to just be existing in the water with this gigantic shark that I never thought that I would ever encounter my entire life because I grew up in the desert. I feel so at peace and connected with nature. Because I feel like we, as people feel so disconnected from nature so often because we’re online all the time and we never go outside.

Pacifica Sommers:       07:13                My name is Pacifica Summers. I am a microbial ecologist at the University of Colorado Boulder. I have been to Antarctica three times, always for the summer research seasons. And if you go early in the season or leave late in the season, the ice runways that you land on when you get to McMurdo station on the coast of Antarctica are solid enough that they can fly the C 17 jets. Those are reasonably comfortable. They’re reasonably large. They take about five hours to get there. If you are going, when it’s a little bit warmer in December near the summer, solstice, those ice runways cannot support the C 17. Then they, they need to fly you on a C one 50, the Hercules propeller plane. So it takes more like eight hours and you are crammed in their shoulder to shoulder and with your knees and are locking with the people across from you sitting on these mesh kind of webbing seats.

Pacifica Sommers:       08:09                The pro tip is to put your big red parka behind you to create some kind of a seat back and a little bit more comfortable situation in there. And the bathroom is a bucket behind a curtain. You climb over everybody’s knees to the end of the row and you step behind the curtain. And I was aware that it was a bucket behind a curtain, but what I didn’t expect was that there’s not a lot of floor space around that to really get situated if you’re a lady over that bucket. So there’s a ladder on its side. So it’s kind of standing on luggage and ladder pieces balancing over this bucket. And you’re on this propeller plane for like an eight hour flight plus or minus time on the ground on either side. So that was an experience.

Emily Williams:             09:03                My name is Emily Williams and I’m currently a PhD student at Georgetown University studying the migration of American robins. We had all of this food and equipment stored in the rafters of this wooded platform. So the platform itself, our tents were on, but then we had an overhang and then we stored a lot of our stuff in this overhang. It was a constant battle with Capuchin’s, which are smart from keeping them from getting into our stuff. We also had this wooden case that we kept eggs, which a lot of people think eggs should be refrigerated, but they don’t need to be refrigerated. We had eggs and this butter and this type of bread in there and we actually would have to keep it locked. So not just this wooden case had a lid and if you close the lid that wasn’t enough to keep the Capuchin’s out. Like they just opened the lid, go in there and steal your food.

 Shane Hanlon:              10:22                I don’t know about y’all, but I am super excited for our first season in our weekly series. And I hope you all too. Thanks to Ashley Hamer for conducting the interview NASA for sponsoring the series and Colin Warren for audio engineering.

Nanci Bompey:             10:37                We would love to hear your thoughts. Please review our podcast and you can find new episodes in your favorite podcasting app or at

 Shane Hanlon:              10:44                Thanks all. And we’ll see you next week.



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