Lovepro via Flickr CC /

Cher, Chuck Norris, and Angelina Jolie all claim to be part Cherokee. Today, we’re asking why so many Americans believe they descend from the Cherokee people - among the most commercially popular Native American tribes. And, another indigenous population that once roamed the American plains…from the cave art of early humans to abandoned mustangs on a New Hampshire farm, explore the resilience, intelligence and fierce sociability of horses.

Earth Touch via Flickr CC /

Among the things we take for granted in today’s America is knowing the time …which makes transportation, business and national events possible. This, however, was not always the case. Today, from building sewers to standardizing time, we’ll talk about the invisible innovations that got us where we are today. Then, more than 30,000 African elephants are poached every year, mostly out of East Africa. In an effort to understand the illegal ivory trade, a journalist commissioned a tusk made of fake ivory with a GPS tracker inside. We speak with the man behind that tusk.

freddiefraggles via Flickr CC /

We’ve long heard that print media is going the way of the dodo bird. So, how are public libraries adapting to the changing nature of books? Some are banking on a new kind of print.  Today, 3D printing hits the local library.  Plus, we’ll talk with an AI researcher who will forever be remembered as the inventor of the emoticon. And with short, niche-y topics, young amateur hosts, and millions of viewers, we’ll find out how YouTube cooking shows are challenging the Food Network. 

7.30.15: The Soul of an Octopus & Music for Animals

Jul 30, 2015
DaugaardDK via Flickr CC /

With a beak like a parrot, venom strong enough to dissolve flesh, and eight writhing tentacles, the octopus is among the most mystifying and alien of creatures.

On today’s show, a naturalist reaches across half a billion years of evolution to find the soul of an octopus. Then, how far can the benefits of music therapy reach? One woman brings us the answer. 

Serge Melki via flickr Creative Commons /

From the loyal dog to the house cat to the horse, domestication has bridged the gap between wild animals and humans. On today’s show, the evolutionary advantages of domestication, and how we got from wildcat to the purring kitten of a zillion video memes.

Then, from playing catch in the backyard to taking junior to his first ball game, baseball is a bonding tradition, and cliché, for many American men. We’ll look at the father-son relationship through the lens of baseball.

Dave Crosby via flickr Creative Commons /

How do we know how many fish there are in the sea? How many birds there are in the trees?

When biologists come to us with the estimated number of bison on the Great Plains, it’s easy to imagine where that estimate comes from, but what about the number of newts in the forest?

Prosthetic hands for kids are often too heavy and expensive for practical use. On today’s show we’ll hear about a company called e-NABLE that has formed a network of volunteers from across the world to create 3-d printed, low-cost prosthetics with a kid-friendly aesthetic.

Then, for centuries, meditation has been used to quiet the mind and focus attention. Now, modern technology reveals the medical benefits of mindfulness.

Cats and dogs are living longer these days. And more old pets is giving rise to more options for pet owners looking for pet hospice and end-of-life care.

Sharon Sernik shepherds her two greyhounds over to the feeding bowls in her Merrimack kitchen. The dogs tromp past a room that was probably meant for formal dining — but is now more like a canine retreat, with scattered pillows on a bare floor for the seven household pets. 

"We’ve got a hydrocephalic dachshund and a twisted kitty."

Douglas Brown via flickr Creative Commons

Wildlife tracks in the snow indicate of a lot of coming and going in the nighttime world. Why are so many animals active, given their limited ability to see in the dark?

There's the obvious reason: division of resources helps avoid competition. A red-tailed hawk hunts the same fields by day that a great horned owl hunts by night. Night also offers some animals protection from their main predators. Mice lie low by day, but in the wild—and in my house—they come out at night.

kezee via Flickr CC

Bombs on bats and dolphin mine sweepers.  First, we learn about the Navy’s long-running acoustic warfare program...mimicking mammals for weaponry. Plus, we know where your cat lives. An artist uses all those adorable cat photos on the internet to pinpoint your location. And, want to make sure your face isn’t recognized on surveillance cameras? All it takes is a little make-up and creativity. Today we’re looking at the digital footprints we leave all over the internet.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

Sex In The Wild: The Cliffnotes

Jul 22, 2014
dicktay2000 via Flickr CC

Dr. Joy Reidenberg caught us up on the new PBS series she hosts, Sex in the Wild. She brought some crazy stories and fun facts with her, the best of which we’ve compiled here. We’ll add a quick warning: Dr.

blieusong via Flickr CC

Today, we have a conversation with an anatomist behind a new PBS series that puts the lens on mammals who reproduce under extreme circumstances, like dolphins. And if you think it’s tough for mammals to find a mate, try finding one in the vast ocean when you’re a nearly microscopic crustacean. We’ll look into the mating rituals of copepods. And then, a different sort of nature when Chuck Klosterman tells us more about the traits of villainy.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

Jimmy Emerson, Flickr CC

New Hampshire lawmakers have passed legislation that includes household pets in orders designed to protect victims of domestic violence.

Wednesday's vote sent the bill to the governor. It expands the orders to include pets in cases involving stalking and domestic violence. The bill would allow judges to grant custody of any domestic pets or farm animals to the victim and issue an order barring the abuser from harming or disposing of the animal.

Supporters argue abusers sometimes take their anger out on a pet or attempt to intimidate victims by targeting a pet.

Human Behavior In Bonobos

May 7, 2014
Alaina Abplanalp Photography via flickr Creative Commons

Frans de Waal is a distinguished biologist, university professor, and author who specializes in primate social behavior. For years, he’s been bucking prevailing ideas about the nature of human morality and ethics. Over decades of research, he’s found evidence of altruistic and empathic behavior in a number of species, concluding that there is a biological foundation for human morality that emerged from our animal origins.

Spring Sunlight

Apr 11, 2014
Dave Anderson

Daylight floods a rural NH valley. A rooster crows in the village. The morning songbird chorus features mourning doves, red-wing blackbirds, a cardinal. The symphony will soon swell with grouse drumming, wood thrush flutes and a crescendo of warbler songs.

Strong sunlight of lengthening days is the catalyst that controls circadian rhythms influencing production of hormones - in birds, wild mammals and people.

wanderingnome, stuart anthony & ckpicker via flickr Creative Commons and via

Today on Word of Mouth, lions and tigers and bears - in cages. We're delving into the exotic pets debate. Then, on to a truly wild animal, but one whose population is dwindling. In the second half of the show, we hear from a man who spent seven years - yes, seven - transcribing the entire King James Bible by hand. Finally, Virginia sits down with Humaira Awais Shahid, journalist and human rights activist fighting for women's rights in Pakistan.

Listen to the whole show and click Read more for individual segments.

The Exotic Pets Debate

Apr 2, 2014
via Lauren Slater / National Geographic

From kangaroos bred in captivity to trained tigers, exotic pets come from all walks of wildlife…and ownership of wild animals is increasingly becoming a hot debate.  Exotic pet owners defend their right to care for critters from venomous snakes to angry chimps. Animal rights advocates meanwhile, are doing what they can to stop the purchase of exotic pets and place current ones into safe, accredited sanctuaries.  Both camps appear to share a love of wild animals. Lauren Slater  joined us to talk about the exotic animal ownership debate. She wrote "Wild Pets: The Debate Over Owning Exotic Animals" for National Geographic. Listen to Virginia's interview with Lauren Slater here.

Taylor Quimby

Does your cat sound like a wailing woman? Your goat like a screaming man? Your dog like an unzipping tent? Or does your beloved pet make some other odd, funky, or hilarious sound? We want to hear it! Here's how to share your weird pet noises with us:

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Check out the graphic below to find out what white-nose syndrome is, how far it is spreading, and why it is such a concern for animal conservationists.

Vernal Equinox Means Equal Night

Mar 21, 2014
Abigail via flickr Creative Commons

The Vernal Equinox has arrived! For one brief moment, everywhere on planet Earth, day and night are equal: 12 hours from sunrise to sunset and sunset to sunrise.

The length of daylight compared to dark, is known as photoperiod. Seasonal changes in photoperiod  trigger a lot of changes in plants and animals. Many plants are known as short-day species; they flower after the summer solstice when days are getting shorter. Plants that bloom in spring are known as long-day species.

Logan Shannon

While it may be March, it’s still very much wintertime. If you’ve been cursing the snow and ice and desperately longing for spring, you’re not alone. But let’s look at the bright side - all that frozen water offers certain opportunities that just aren’t available in the spring. And I’m not talking about expensive and time consuming snow-sports, I’m talking about wildlife tracking. To give you an introduction to tracking, We  headed for the woods of Barrington, New Hampshire with Dan Gardoqui, one of the founders and directors of White Pine Programs, a nature connection non-profit in Southern Maine.

Bill Ohl, Hatmanu florin, & whittlz via flickr Creative Commons and Pearl and the Beard

Today's Word of Mouth broadcast delves into the hows of character creation. Then we speak to the creator of everyone's favorite chat feature. You know, the one that says "So-and-So is typing." (Thankfully he doesn't leave you hanging on those three little dots...) We leave acting and writing for a musical treat with the band Pearl and the Beard. Finally, it's all about the cute with the author of a new book about interspecies relationships.

Listen to the full show, and click Read More for more on each segment.

Taylor Quimby

While working on an upcoming story, producer Taylor Quimby got this audio of his dog, Angel-Rose, begging for attention.  He thinks she sounds like a tent zipper.  What do you think?

Sarah Thomas

The Word of Mouth Saturday broadcast is your shining beacon of awesome at the end of a snowy week. Whether you're wearing headphones under your winter hat or you're listening in a snow-covered car, we have the segments that delight and enlighten. You may even forget we have six more weeks of winter! Listen to the full show, and scroll down for links and more.

Meet Ben Kilham, 'Bear Whisperer'

Oct 29, 2013
Lauren Gesswien / Courtesy of Ben Kilham

From ThoughtCast comes a story about the bear whisperer of Lyme, New Hampshire, Ben Kilham, and the abandoned black bear cubs he has rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.


As the curtain falls on another season of superhero blockbusters, Hollywood is already hard at work re-booting  "Batman," "Captain America," and the "Fantastic Four" franchises.  More than sixty high-profile superhero films have been released since the surprise success of "X-Men" in the year 2000.

Joe Hanson points us to a more enduring source of awe-inspiring acts: nature. Hanson is a biologist who writes and hosts the PBS. video series “It’s Okay to Be Smart.”

Travis S. via flickr Creative Commons

Fifteen-thousand years ago, nearly 100 species of large animals known as ‘megafauna’ roamed the amazon forest before going extinct. A team of researchers from oxford and Princeton University studying the ‘megafauna’s’ effects on the ecosystem discovered that they were crucial in maintaining soil fertility.  Chris Doughty is currently a lecturer in ecosystem ecology within the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, and lead author of a recent study: “The Legacy of the Pleistocene Megafauna Extinctions on Nutrient Availability in Amazonia.”

via Monadnock Lyceum

Life is not a commodity, but a community.  Animals are not our possessions, but our elder siblings, guides and teachers in the larger family of which Homo sapiens is merely a junior member.  Reverend Gary Kowalski shares the journey that led him to appreciate nature as the primordial sacrament and to rediscover the ancient knowledge evident to indigenous people (reconfirmed by the findings of modern biology) that other species are not so different from ourselves, but share in the emotional depths and psychic capacities that make us most fully human.

Courtesy Sarah Kirsch

Sarah Kirsch rescued her dog, Angel, from the Concord-Merrimack County SPCA, and enrolled Angel in a program to become a therapy dog through that organization. Now certified, Angel makes regular visits to nursing homes.

The presence of a therapy dog can have a significant impact on the residents.

Kirsch and Angel were directed to one resident, Pearl. Though she seemed to be unresponsive, her roommate informed Kirsch that she really did like dogs.

Sean Hurley

Animals have long played a part in human therapy and healing; from dogs trained to assist the disabled, to all manner of animals making visits to hospitals and nursing homes. For one Vermont woman, it’s a horse that’s helped her heal; not from physical ailments, but from the emotional and spiritual scars of abuse. Sean Hurley brings us her story.