Our Podcasts are an exciting way for anyone and everyone to gain insight into the wonderful, and often weird, worlds of researchers, professionals and well known "curious minds".

What are the Linnean Society Podcasts?

Our podcast series explores the deep and broad world of nature throughout history. In each podcast, we hear from different speakers, from different fields of study, who tell their side of a story. So take a journey on a whaling ship, or along a coral reef; come and experience the horror of plants, or their psychedelic qualities; and roar loudly for fantastic female fellows while whispering the oh so secrets of seeds.

Whatever you fancy, have a listen to our Podcasts below or via SoundCloud.


#29: Gilbert White

It's Gilbert White's 300th birthday this year and to celebrate his contribution to our understanding and love nature, Stephanie West shares a short story with us about this great naturalist's work and some of the connections he made throughout his life.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Speaker: Stephanie West (UK Biodiversity Training Manager, Angela Marmont Centre, NHM)

#28: The "Obvious" Truth About Plant Sexuality

Professor Stella Sandford asks "Is it obvious that what is ‘obvious’ is always true?". In this Podcast Stella explores the history of the knowledge of plant sex to see if things really were as obvious as Linnaeus suggested.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Speaker: Prof. Stella Sandford (Professor of Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University)

#27: Linnean Herbarium

In this podcast, Mark Spencer tells us about the first time he worked with the plant specimens from the Linnean herbarium.

This podcast is part of a larger series that asks each of our curators to share stories with us about our precious natural history collection.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Speaker: Mark Spencer (Curator of Botany at The Linnean Society of London)

#26: The Giant Hercules Beatle

In this podcast, Suzanne Ryder tells us about a Giant beetle, Dynastes hercules!

This podcast is part of a larger series that asks each of our curators to share stories with us about our precious natural history collection.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Speaker: Suzanne Ryder (Curator of Insects at The Linnean Society of London)

#25: The Curious Case of Peter Artedi

In this podcast, Mark Spencer tells us about the work of Peter Artedi and his connection to Carl Linnaeus.

This podcast is part of a larger series that asks each of our curators to share stories with us about our precious natural history collection.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Speaker: Mark Spencer (Curator of Botany at The Linnean Society of London)

#24: Aristotle and Linnaeus' private library

Professor Stella Sandford visits Linnaeus' private library to find his book on Aristotle's writings about animals. In this podcast Stella explores the relevance and importance that Aristotle's writings on the history, parts and the generation of animals has for us today.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Speaker: Prof. Stella Sandford (Professor of Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University)

#23: The Hornet Robberly

In this podcast, Suzanne Ryder tells us about a deadly killer, The Hornet Robberfly!

This podcast is part of a larger series that asks each of our curators to share stories with us about our precious natural history collection.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Speaker: Suzanne Ryder (Curator of Insects at The Linnean Society of London)

#20-22: Linnaeus in Lapland (1-3)

In the summer of 1732, the Swedish botanist and physician Carl Linnaeus journeyed through Lapland. His travel account is not only often cited as the earliest first-hand account of Lapland by a naturalist and ethnographer, but also known as a founding piece of Swedish literature. With its lively first-person narrative, keen eye for empirical detail and animated portrayal of rural and nomadic life, it gives the impression of entering a new world. But Linnaeus was far from being the first to report on Lapland. Nor was he alone during his trip.

In this three part podcast series we learn about this journey through Lapland the discoveries made and the people that Linnaeus met along the way.

All of the objects discussed are on display in the Library at the Linnean Society until the end of April 2020

#19: Importance of Historical Collections

In this podcast, Suzanne Ryder explains the importance of museum collections and why the collections held by The Linnean Society are of particularly importance.

This podcast is part of a larger series that asks each of our curators to share stories with us about our precious natural history collection.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Speaker: Suzanne Ryder (Curator of Insects at The Linnean Society of London)

#18: F. Edwards, A Whaler's Lesson Learnt In Time

In the late 1800s, Frank Edwards, a Victorian gentlemen, found himself shanghaied aboard the whaling ship the Abram Barker. Frank kept a daily diary of his year out at sea, in which he gives a detailed account of the ship’s activities and his own personal struggles. Given to us by his descendants, the diary is now in the safe keeping of The Linnean Society of London’s collections.

This podcast outlines the historical views held about whales as ‘monsters’ and as a valuable Victorian commodity. It also delves into the worrying impact whaling has had on global whale populations, lingering even today, and what the uncertain future holds for these giant creatures of the sea.

Co-produced and directed by: Ross Ziegelmeier and Leonie Berwick

Voice actor (Frank Edwards): William Ewart

Speakers: Ruth Edwards and Mark Peter Simmonds OBE

Choir: Owl Parliament

#17: The Museum of Lost Species

Last summer, Linnean Learning visited the Green Man Festival in Wales to showcase the Museum of Lost Species. This fictional museum contains the life stories of different species that have become extinct due to human activity. We asked happy festival goers to listen to the stories and tell us how it made them feel.

This podcast contains the stories of the Bramble Cay Melomys, the West African Rhino and the Rabbs Fringe-Limbed Tree Frog, as well as the reactions of the people at Green Man Festival.

Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

Script written by: Joe Burton

Voice artist: Elisa Jones

#16: The Coral Reef Heroes

Coral reefs are crucial for both the survival of humans and marine organisms. However, due to climate change, coral reefs are now under threat and are on the brink of collapsing. This podcast takes us on a journey around the world to find out more about these amazing organisms, their importance to the planet and what is being done to try and save them.

Speakers: Zack Rago, Prof. James Crabbe, Prof. Peter Harrison, Prof. Madeleine Van Oppen

Presented by: Ross Ziegelmeier

#15: Movile Cave

In this podcast Dr Rich Boden walks us through this mysterious cave and explains why it is so important in helping us to understand the history of our planet’s chemistry.

This podcast was produced for an escape room activity for the 2019 Burlington House Summer Courtyard Late: "Experience life in Movile Cave, Romania. Be careful, if you don't successfully answer the series of clues, you may be locked in forever...."

Speaker: Dr Rich Boden

#14: Plant Horror

In this podcast we will try to uncover the origins of our fear of plants. We will begin with our most basic fear – the fear of being hurt by some of the most dangerous or just plain irritating plants. We will then move into the intangible fear of the imagination as we explore the horrors that wait for us if carnivorous plants where to grow the size of men. We will then hear from a scientist about the evolutionary origins of these feared plants and how they are becoming extinct.

Speakers: Marina Hurley (ecologist), Dr Dawn Sanders, Dr Emily Bourke

#13: Rediscovering Nepalese Plants

The Linnean Society of London is home to the astonishing collection of Francis Buchanan-Hamilton. This work is on the flora of India and Nepal, which includes brilliant watercolours painted by Indian artists. In this podcast we learn about how Dr Mark Watson is now making use of this collection to inform is research. Dr Mark Watson has over 30 years of experience in floristics, plant systematics, botanical nomenclature and biodiversity informatics.

Speaker: Dr Mark Watson

#12: Spiky Future Foods

Global warming affects every aspect of our lives including the food that we eat. Our attempts to slow the impact of global warming may not be enough and therefore we need to start looking towards the foods that we may have to eat in the near future.

In this episode we go from the highly trendy neighbourhoods of Dalston, London, to rural South Africa and back again to London, Kew Gardens, to explore the potential of succulents as a future food. Speakers include; Gynelle Leon, the owner of the first cacti and succulent dedicated shop, called Prick; Dr Olwen Grace, senior research leader on desert plants from Kew Gardens; and Ernst Van Jaarsveld Master Botanist at Babylonstoren farm, South Africa.

#11: Mad Honey

For many years the people of Nepal have been harvesting mad honey, named so because of the effects it has on the human body when consumed. Although this honey and its effects on human physiology have been known for many years, the ecological purpose of the pollen that causes these effects, is less clear.

In this episode we go on a journey to Nepal with Abdullah Saeed to discover this mad honey for ourselves. Professor Phil Stevenson also joins the conversation in order to explain how his research is helping us to understand the true purpose of the pollen.

#10: Climate Change Threatens Beds (Coralline Algae) of Biodiversity

Coralline algae are important habitat formers. Rhodoliths/mäerl are unattached forms of coralline algae that interlock to form extensive beds that support high levels of biodiversity.

This ability to interlock is dependent on their 3D structure. However their structure is highly influenced by the environment and therefore environmental changes that would affect the ability of coralline algae to maintain their 3D structure would ultimately affect the ability of coralline algae to form these complex habitats.

In this podcast we are joined by Prof Juliet Brodie, Dr Leanne Melbourne and Dr Frederica Ragazzola who are investigating the effects that climate change is having on these organisms, in addition to what can be done to save them.

Dr Leanne Melbourne who features in this podcast has just completed her PhD at the University of Bristol on the effect of climate change on coralline algae. She will also be giving a lecture on the 5th of December at the Linnean Society where she will be explaining her research and findings in much greater detail.

#8-9: Small Fears and Consciousness I and II

With Halloween nearly upon us, we take a look at our fears and the natural world. In this two-part series, “Small Fears and Consciousness”, we are joined, in Part One, by Dr. Jeffrey A. Lockwood. He is the author of The Infested Mind: Why Humans Fear, Loathe, and Love Insects. In this interview he explores, in great depths, as to why it is that we fear these tiny creatures so much. If Dr. Lockwood’s closing comment, regarding the consciousness of insects, is one that sparks your imagination be sure to listen to Part Two.

In Part Two, we are joined by Louis B. Rosenberg, CEO of Unanimous AI and Dr. Clint Perry, research Fellow at Queen Mary University London. In these interviews we investigate the underlying neural mechanism of learning in bees, in an attempt to unravel the phenomena of consciousness and create a safe and secure Artificial Intelligence.

#7: Seed Packet Secrets

The carpological collection is a complement to Smith's herbarium, which has plants collected by Smith and donated to him by important naturalists of the late 18th and early 19th century: Carl Linnaeus the Younger (son of Carl Linnaeus), Robert Brown, John Ellis and Joseph Dalton Hooker, amongst others. It contains many type specimens. The carpological collection contains the parts of a plant that could not easily be pressed on a herbarium sheet: seeds, fruits and branches.

In this podcast Maria Zytaruk explores the seed packets of this collection and explains how it adds an extra layer to the historical understanding of 18th–19th century botany. Further reading about this collection can be found here: www.linnean.org/the-society/news/…ogical-collection

#6: Magic, Myths, Medicine and the Lost Remedies

Myths, magic and medicine each offer a very different way in which we can make sense of the world, but are they actually really all that far apart? In this podcast we explore where these schools of thought overlap. This podcast features Valerie Thomas, Medical Herbalist; Julian Harrison, specialist on medieval manuscripts and Lead Curator of the exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic; and Professor Monique Simmonds OBE who is a botanist and deputy keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Speaker: Valerie Thomas, Julian Harrison, Monique Simmonds Produced by: Ross Ziegelmeier

#5: Murder Mystery

In forensic cases, flies and beetles give clues about the “time since death”, the location, as well as season of when a crime has occurred. In this podcast, we invited Dr Mark Benecke FLS, to tell us about some of our specimens that he uses to uncover facts from crime scenes. Dr Mark Benecke FLS is head of International Forensic Research, Consultant and an Officially Certified and Sworn-in Expert for Biological Stains in Criminal Cases.

#4: The Space Potato

We (humans) are inextricably bound to the flora on earth, yet our futures seems to be among the stars! So, in order for us to survive in space we are going to, ironically, need to take earth with us, but how?

In this podcast we learn about how plants put us among the stars and will enable us, in the not too distant future, to explore galaxies far, far away.

Speakers include Dr. Sandy Knapp, Head of the Plants Division of the Natural History Museum; Lucie Poulet, Research Associate and PhD candidate at the Institute of Space Systems; and Angelo Vermeulen, a space systems researcher, biologist and artist.

#3: Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects

In his new book, Jack Ashby FLS journeys through both the evolutionary history of animals, and the ways people interpret them in museums. Animals in museums are not only representatives of their entire species, but they also tell us something about the time in which they were collected. They provide windows into the past as well as data for the present.

Museums are one of the key windows we have into the natural world, but they are human inventions. In this podcast join Jack Ashby as he selects three specimens from our collections that explain mimicry, cheats and warning colours.

#2: Lady Pleasance Smith

Lady Pleasance Smith had a sharp intellect and a wide-ranging network of family, friends and acquaintances throughout her long life. She was known for her generosity and philanthropic work. Pleasance outlived her husband James Edward Smith, founder of the Linnean Society of London, by nearly five decades, and from the time of his death in 1828 until her death in 1877 at age 103, Pleasance wrote and received a high volume of letters, many of which reveal her avid interest in the arts, humanities, sciences and the natural world.

Writing letters was a vital part of everyday life in Victorian times. It was the best way to quickly pass on important news and conversation. Although the letters penned by her are missing, by reading through this collection consisting of over 550 surviving letters from almost 100 different correspondents, we are able to take a glimpse into the past and piece together a picture of who Lady Pleasance Smith was.

#1: The First Female Fellows of the Linnean Society of London

Just over 100 years ago the Society admitted 15 ground-breaking Fellows—all women. Coinciding with our 230th anniversary, we thought it was a good time to celebrate these first female Fellows, and their contributions.

In this podcast we learn a little bit about who these women were and explore some of the issues facing women today like imposter syndrome and the work/life balance of women in the field of science. The speakers include established scientists such as the society’s president elect Dr Sandy Knapp and Professor Athene Donald.