What’s a podcast?

Simply put, a podcast is a radio show—delivered via the internet. Podcasts can be streamed or downloaded, allowing listeners to hear the show when and where they want. Many people subscribe to podcasts on their mobile devices, which notify listeners when new episodes are available. The diverse selection of podcasts available allows listeners to find shows that speak specifically to their passions and interests, and many listeners are deeply loyal to their favorite shows.

What’s HumaNature?

HumaNature tells real stories where humans and our habitat meet. As the world becomes less and less wild, many people are losing their connection to nature. This has negative consequences for human health, the environment, and the outlook for other species. Through intimate first-person stories, HumaNature reflects on the complex relationship humans have with the natural world—and allows listeners to reflect on their own connection to nature. The show’s cover art (above) depicts recurring themes: human against nature, nature against human, and harmony between human and nature.

Who makes HumaNature?

As the public radio station in one of the wildest states, Wyoming Public Media is uniquely situated to produce and distribute the show. Host Caroline Ballard, an East Coast transplant to Wyoming, didn’t used to be particularly outdoorsy, but since living in Wyoming she’s embraced a more rugged side of life. This puts her in the sweet spot to elicit and help tell the stories on the show: she understands the lifestyle embraced by many of the show’s guests but also has enough distance from it to give the stories broad appeal. And she’s a good listener, engaged, spontaneous, and insightful. HumaNature also has a talented fill-in host, senior producer Erin Jones, whose background as a writer and storyteller gives her an ear for vivid detail and narrative. The production team is overseen by executive producer Micah Schweizer, an award-winning journalist with a track record of creating and producing successful shows at several public radio stations.

Where can I hear HumaNature?

New episodes are released every two weeks on the show’s website and on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, RadioPublic, and other podcast distributors. The show also airs weekly on SiriusXM satellite radio and is broadcast regularly on Wyoming Public Radio. And more than a dozen public radio stations, including CBC Radio-Canada, WHYY, KUT Austin, KALW San Francisco, and New Hampshire Public Radio, have aired broadcast versions of the show.

What does HumaNature sound like?

Each episode runs approximately 15-30 minutes; enough time to tell one story in depth. The guest drives the story, while the host’s role is to elicit the story as an empathetic listener. She also helps narrate and move the story forward as needed. Stories are scored with music, like a film.

Who listens to HumaNature?

Our typical listener is educated and in his/her mid-twenties to early fifties. A significant number of our most dedicated listeners are women. Listeners hail from urban and rural areas: urban because podcast listeners tend to be more urban, but also rural because we’re based in Wyoming and tell stories that generally take place outside of urban landscapes. We have listeners in all 50 states and in 80+ countries; the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia top the list.

What’s different about HumaNature?

HumaNature is fundamentally different from other outdoor/nature shows, as our listeners attest:

  • We’re from Wyoming, not a typical big city podcast hub. “It doesn’t sound like other podcasts,” observes Poynter’s Melody Kramer. “It sounds like it comes from Wyoming and not from a studio in D.C. or New York.” Another listener weighs in: “This is the show the West has needed for a long time.”
  • We’re narrative driven, and “the episodes make you feel as if you are there, experiencing the events first hand,” explains one listener. “Like sitting around a campfire, listening to a friend tell a great story,” echoes another.
  • We’re not focused on high-adrenaline sports or niche subjects; well tell stories about the outdoors that are “interesting even if you don’t think you like the environment,” as a listener puts it. Another writes, “I love how HumaNature expertly melds experiences in the outdoors with deeper psychological and/or societal topics.” And this listener sums up the show’s broad appeal: “Not outdoorsy, no worries. You’re still going to LOVE this podcast.”
  • We put the guest (not the host) front and center through “short, vivid stories in the storyteller’s own voice. I love the unique first-person perspectives,” says a listener. “Amazing characters,” writes another.
  • We tell a story instead of talking about an idea. As The Bello Collective’s Ashley Lusk puts it: “You could listen to any number of podcasts on climate change, but HumaNature from Wyoming Public Media provides a more thoughtful meditation on why our environment is sacred.” In the end, people remember what they feel more than what they think. “These stick with you,” writes a listener. “All of the stories are absolutely captivating. [They] hit a variety of emotions from funny and inspiring to heart-wrenching and thought-provoking,” writes another listener. “Amazing.”
  • Our episodes are short. “I’m a fan of the shorter episode times,” says a listener. “Proof that a podcast doesn’t need to last an hour to really make an impact!”
  • We’re also in the minority of podcasts that are hosted by women, and women feature prominently as guests, too. “I appreciate all the outdoorsy women you feature in your show,” writes a listener. “It is a gem in public radio,” says another. “I love it.”

Why support HumaNature?

Your support will help provide the resources necessary to produce a show that serves as a global ambassador for Wyoming and offers a reflection of the complex relationship to the natural world we have in the West. As people lose touch with nature, your support will allow HumaNature to help restore that vital connection, story by story.

Your support will also invest in 21st century public radio: as mobile and on-demand listening grows (most Millennials don’t have a traditional radio, but they love podcasts), an investment in HumaNature positions Wyoming Public Media to capitalize on new technology, new listening habits, and new listeners—in Wyoming, across the country, and around the world.

Sample episodes:

Episode 20: Dogs Are People, Too

In 2007, more than 50 pit bulls were discovered at NFL player Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring in Virginia. Most people thought they couldn’t be saved. But a few people from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah believed that the “most vicious dogs in America” could learn to trust humans again—and even become family pets. One of the dogs, Little Red, was adopted by Susan Weidel, from Laramie, Wyoming. And Little Red’s journey—from Virginia to Utah to Wyoming—was documented by Darcy Dennett, a filmmaker from New York. Together, Susan and Darcy tell a powerful story of hope and redemption that allows listeners to reflect on the terrible and beautiful ways humans relate to other animals—and to learn what forgiveness looks like.

 

Episode 8: Row Row Row Your Boat…Or Not

It was supposed to be a leisurely float down the Snake River, but the tourists who booked a raft assumed (wrongly) that the guide would do all the paddling. When they were told otherwise, they mutinied. The raft got caught in a rapid, and the guide was thrown out. With no one at the helm, the raft began a perilous journey toward certain death at a dam downstream. Only the desperate and heroic efforts of another guide (the episode’s comedic storyteller, Charlie Thomas), who stole a kayak to pursue the runaway raft, saved the day and the tourists. It’s a zany, hilarious story about what happens when humans don’t take nature seriously.

 

Episode 17: The Ents Of Melbourne

What happens when you give a tree an email address? After suffering a historic drought, officials in Melbourne, Australia, decided to give citizens a tool to help keep tabs on the health of the city’s urban forest: each tree received an ID—and an email address. As Deputy Lord Mayor Aaron Wood recounts, people from around the world began writing love letters and soul-searching notes to the trees. So the trees (well, volunteers with the city forestry department) started writing back. It’s an endearing story about the innate love humans have for nature and an inspiring story about the power of good public policy.

 

Episode 31: What Her Cells Knew

When she was old enough, Lucy was let in on a family secret: her father carried the gene for Huntington’s disease. Lucy got tested and found out that she, too, would eventually become symptomatic. So she seized the moment: she quit her job as a lawyer and moved to Alaska, where she learned to climb walls of ice and to summit mountains. Lucy felt like she was living life at its fullest; she didn’t have to think about the fact that she would one day have Huntington’s disease. But on one climb, she encountered altitude sickness that mirrored the symptoms of Huntington’s. It’s a powerful story about how going out into the natural world can lead to deep personal reflection and self-discovery.

 

Episode 11: Hoofprints On The Heart

Jon Dunham decided to walk from Oregon to Texas. When he finally reached Texas, he figured…why not keep going? He stayed for a while with a family in Mexico, and when it was time to leave, the family gave Jon a donkey to help carry his pack. What follows is a touching story of love and companionship across the years and miles: Jon goes on a midnight raid to save his friend, the donkey faces down jaguars to protect Jon, and the pair even causes an international diplomatic incident. It’s a dramatic and moving story about the powerful bond between humans and animals. This story landed on two best of 2016 lists, alongside episodes from This American Life and Invisibilia. WIRED called it a “must-listen.” One listener said it made her “weepy for days.”