Waaaay back last January I got an email from Robert Krulwich: would I be interested in doing an interview for Radiolab about mycorrhizae? Heck yeah! I’d written about this topic prior to the show several times here at Scientific American, notably “Dying Trees Can Send Food to Neighbors of Different Species”, “Root Fungi Can Turn Pine Trees Into Carnivores – Or at Least Accomplices”, and “The World’s Largest Mining Operation is Run by Fungi”.
Nearly seven months later, my interview has finally made it to the podcast. That sort of development time is not unusual for magazine-length articles, but I had still sort of despaired that it was ever going to happen. But it did! And it’s great! Have a listen (Warning: explicit language, but not by me):
You always worry when you go on TV or the radio that you will end up sounding like an idiot or make some sort of huge blunder. Now that I’ve finally listened to it, I don’t think I sound like an idiot (whew!), and I didn’t make any huge blunders, but as I listened today, I realized that I did make two mistakes worth noting.
First, I called springtails insects. Although they used to be considered insects, springtails are now classified as a sister group to the insects and are technically “hexapods” or “arthropods” depending on what level of classification you’d like to use.
Second, I made an error regarding the results of one of the springtail studies. I said that “25% of [springtail nitrogen] ended up in the trees”. In reality, what the scientists found that about 25% of the trees’ nitrogen had come from springtails. Oops. Sorry! It’s hard to remember everything perfectly when you’re under the gun in a studio on the line with the boys at Radiolab.
In any case, it was a fun, if nerve-wracking and intense experience (I made detailed notes and studied for several days before the interview to make sure I was up-to-snuff on all the research) and I’d totally do it again. It was definitely odd after all these years of listening to radiolab on my iPod while exercising to suddenly be the one on the show and reading the credits. But I think they did a fantastic job and I hope you enjoy it too!