Next Gen NHPR
5:09 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Bushwhacking For Sound: An Intern's Tale

As an intern at NHPR, I get the chance to see how radio stories are made up close. Here’s what happened when NHPR’s Environment reporter invited me for a ride-along to help him do a little reporting about an event called BioBLITZ. - Austin

These woods play a big part in this outing turning into an adventure. Read on, and you'll understand.
These woods play a big part in this outing turning into an adventure. Read on, and you'll understand.
Credit Sam Evans-Brown for NHPR

As always, the day begins early for Environment reporter Sam Evans-Brown. We make the drive up to North Conway in time for the 9 am start of the BioBLITZ.

Hosted at the base of Cranmore Mountain, the event is designed to catalog 1,300 acres of land that the New Hampshire Nature Conservancy hopes to buy for $1.4 million. In order to better manage the property, the conservancy brought together some of New Hampshire’s most enthusiastic scientists to record data on the land and its species.

Upon arriving in Conway, Sam gets right to work. He meets up with Dr. Rick Van de Poll, renowned biologist and principal of Ecosystem Management Consultants in Sandwich, NH to speak about moths.

Sam and I are then whisked away to different groups, each group tasked with recording a different section of the property. 

Sam finds himself with a group of scientists travelling on ATVs. Their job is to survey the property’s wetland and forest communities. Sam tags along, microphone in tow, recording sound from various interviews with the scientists while capturing the group’s high-speed exploits on the ATVS. Sam's in his element as both an environment reporter and avid outdoorsman.

Sam's ATV ride view:

It’s important to note at this point that Sam looks every bit the part with this group. Sporting light pants, a long shirt and hiking boots, Sam blends in with the scientific crowd. I, however, do not.

Having been told “dress for the outdoors,” I arrive with my group at the trailhead sporting khaki shorts, a cotton t-shirt and running shoes. It's in my finest hiking wear that I set off on my adventure with Dr. Van de Poll, hopelessly tangled in wires from my microphone, headphones and Marantz.

"Ahh. Classic paronychia argyrocoma," says Van de Poll. Unfortunately, there is no Google Translate for plant names on my iPhone.

Van de Poll is a human encyclopedia. As we walk through the woods, he shouts out obscure Latin names of plants.

“Ahh. Classic paronychia argyrocoma,” says Van de Poll. Unfortunately, there is no Google Translate for plant names on my iPhone.

Over the course of five hours Van de Poll leads me through the heavily wooded mountains of North Conway. Rarely using a trail, we bushwhack our way through the woods, happening upon bear prints and a few rare plants. 

At one point, I make a grave mistake the botanist isn't afraid to point out. Take a listen to this sound clip below to hear what I did:

  After five hours with Van de Poll I have plenty of sound for the story. With hours left in their study, I decide that, in order to not keep Sam waiting, I must find a way back to civilization by myself, despite the team's urging me not to. These are the text messages that follow that decision:

A plan is hatched.
A plan is hatched.
Credit Austin Cowan NHPR
Slightly frantic.
Slightly frantic.
Credit Austin Cowan NHPR
Civilization!
Civilization!
Credit Austin Cowan NHPR

Finally, after an hour of blindly traipsing through the woods, I meet up with Sam and we head for home.

As I left the group to go on my adventure Keith snapped this photo, just in case I was never to be seen again.
As I left the group to go on my adventure Keith snapped this photo, just in case I was never to be seen again.
Credit Keith Garrett

After four hours of driving and another six of hiking, we return to the NHPR newsroom to compile our audio and write our script. Sam filters through the tape, finds what is useful and writes up a script. The entire day’s work will produce about four minutes of radio.

And that's what it takes for an NHPR reporter to put together a story and for an intern to help him do it.