“Think of a scientist. Any scientist. What are you picturing? A lab coat? Goggles? Bill Nye The Science Guy? I don’t blame you. That’s what we’ve grown accustomed to in America. But think again. This is me, Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant. I’m a Black woman. A mother. And also a large carnivore ecologist, studying big meat-eating mammals. I love hosting this podcast, which we like to brag has everything you want and nothing you’d expect from a science show—drama, mystery, whimsy, heart, humor. And let’s just say the truth is stranger than fiction.” -Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant.
You’ve seen the nature documentaries where shark fights are sensationalized to paint them as villains. You’ve seen the science magazine spreads featuring white men showing off African women adorned with beads. You’ve seen the sitcoms portraying nasally, socially inept, glasses-strewn researchers getting teased for being nerds.
What you probably haven’t seen is the diversity and intersectional identities of real life researchers, scientists, conservationists, and adventurers. The real people working to save animals, no matter what struggles come with the territory.
That’s what we explore on PBS Nature’s award-winning and chart-topping podcast Going Wild, which focuses on highlighting the human drama behind studying animals. Some wildlife experts and animal scientists have to travel far away for long periods of time—putting a strain on family life—all to sit perfectly still in swampy terrain surrounded by mosquitoes to nail the perfect shot. Some have to fight against systems and institutions in their own backyards for equal rights and opportunities to help animal communities. Some, despite their efforts, couldn’t save the animals in time. They experience this—and so much more—all while racing against the warming climate.
Let’s get to know some of these nature superstars who are fighting to keep the world a little more wild every day. Starting with, well, myself!
RWG: “Why are coyotes showing up all over the place? Spoiler alert: evolution! Dr. Christopher Schell is finding out more through his research on coyotes’ adaptability and, in the process, learning what it means to be adaptable himself as he raises his resilient, biracial children in the U.S. today.”
RWG: “You might recall the name Christian Cooper. His love of birdwatching led to a viral and infamous Central Park incident back in 2020. But there’s so much more to the headline! Including how his work as a Nat Geo host (and Marvel comics writer!) helped him become an everyday superhero and advocate for wildlife, and how a life spent birdwatching prepared him to thrive as a gay Black man in America today.”
RWG: “Take it from me and let some TED Experts inspire you with stories of nature all over the world, from the oldest living thing to the nature in your own backyard. I’m particularly a fan of Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (former host of the podcast How to Save a Planet, and a guest alum of Going Wild’s podcast) and her thoughts on choosing climate actions that “enliven” us through joyful purpose.”
RWG: “Reserva is a youth-funded (I repeat: youth-funded!) nature reserve in Ecuador, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Get to know some of these young people in this episode. Maybe there is hope for the future after all?”
RWG: “The Black Mambas are the all-female unit protecting the animals of Kruger National Park in South Africa. They’re doing it without bullets. They’re doing it without men. And they’re inspiring the next generation of protectors, too.”
RWG: “Being a Black naturalist is nothing new. In fact, some of the most well known African Americans in history used the calls of the Barred Owl to communicate with refugees and freedom seekers. In the case of Harriet Tubman, she also used the stars and constellations to orient herself and others.”
RWG: “This episode of Overhead at Nat Geo’s special, ‘The Soul of Music,’ offers a deeper look at the intersection of migration, music, and nature. In the fourth and final part of this series, Meklit Hadero (a Nat Geo Explorer and Ethio-jazz musician known for her transmedia storytelling project Movement) and music producer Jahawi Bertolli discus the ancient instruments known as rock gongs, and how their music is inspired by nature.”
Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant
Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant is a wildlife ecologist who researches how human activity influences the behavior of wild animals. Her wildlife exploration and media work has taken her to six of seven continents and over 25 countries. Rae is also passionate about science communication and is the creator and host of award-winning podcast Going Wild with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, and is the co-host of the legendary television show Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild, which recently debuted on NBC and Peacock.
A native Californian, Wynn-Grant attributes her interest in wildlife and conservation from the nature shows she watched on television as a child, and today she uses media to increase representation of Black scientists and explorers. She is a researcher at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California at Santa Barbara. Rae envisions a near-future where the outdoors is a safe, equitably accessible, and positively transformative space for all people. She is a scientist, conservationist, equity and justice advocate, and storyteller.