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Fieldwork Podcast


We all know hypothesis, experiment, analysis, and conclusion as the four steps of the scientific method. In laboratories, the experimentation phase is carefully controlled, and the results are usually the only surprise. But what happens when your hypothesis is about penguin behavior, the migration of crabs, or howler monkey family structure? What if you have to catch your study subject before you can actually study it? How do you maintain the rigor of the scientific method when the public is hostile, your research is controversial, or your personal beliefs contrast with your work? What if your wetsuit fails, a bear eats your instrument, or a tree falls on your truck? Field work is what happens when scientists go outside, and the cut-and-dried scientific experiment gets a little bit of dirt on its hands.

Season One, Coming June 2023


EPISODE 1: Anne Williford Thompson PhD

Anne leads the Microbial Ecology Lab. Anne is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Portland State University. Anne received her PhD from the MIT- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Biological Oceanography and has held positions at UC Santa Cruz, BD Biosciences, and the Institute for Systems Biology. As a microbial oceanographer, Anne's goal is to illuminate the ecology of microorganisms in the Earth’s vast open and coastal oceans and discover how they contribute to energy and carbon flow on our planet. Read more here: Home | Portland State University ( Outside of research Anne loves being in and on the ocean, sailing, surfing, and exploring with friends and family. 


EPISODE 2: Robin Kodner, PhD

Dr. Kodner is the head of the Kodner Lab at Western Washington University where she focuses on understanding microalgae community diversity and evolution over time, in both marine and alpine environments.  She ultimately hopes to understand how these communities functionally adapt to changing environments, especially as our marine and alpine environments in the pacific northwest are changing rapidly.  Robin's lab runs the Living Snow Project: Living Snow Project – community enabled science to track snow algae blooms across mountains (


EPISODE 3: Ralph Riley, PhD

Dr. Riley holds a bachelor’s degree in Forest Management from the University of Washington and a doctorate in Ecology from Stanford University. A former faculty member at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, Riley has extensive ecological research experience in North and South America and the Pacific. Riley will describe a research project he completed with the help of master’s-degree student Mereia Tabua Katafono. The first of its kind in Fiji, the study focused on environmental factors that influence the distribution of bryophytes growing on tree stems in the island nation’s tropical rainforests.



EPISODE 4: Alexandra Morton

Alexandra is a field biologist who became an activist who has done groundbreaking research on the damaging impact of ocean-based salmon farming on the coast of British Columbia. She first studied communications in bottlenosed dolphins and then moved on to recording and analyzing the sounds of captive orcas at Marineland of the Pacific in California, where she witnessed the birth, and death, of the first orca conceived in captivity.


In 1984, she moved to the remote BC coast, aiming to study the language and culture of wild orca clans, but soon found herself at the heart of a long fight to protect the wild salmon that are the province's keystone species. She has co-authored more than twenty scientific papers on the impact of salmon farming on migratory salmon, founded the Salmon Coast Research Station, has been featured on 60 Minutes, and has been key to many legal and protest actions against the industry, including the recent First Nations-led occupation of salmon farms on the Broughton.

Read more about Alexandra Morton and her book, Not on My Watch, here: 

Chapter Viewer | "Not On My Watch' by Alexandra Morton

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