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How a chicken saved my life


At the beginning of the pandemic, we published an episode about “how to be a backyard birder.” Everybody was understandably freaking out, and we wanted to put something sweet, calming, and hopeful into the world.

In that episode, we heard from ornithologist Dr. J. Drew Lanham, who shared some great tips for beginners, like what to watch and listen for, and how to make binoculars from toilet paper tubes.

But what we didn’t get into was Dr. Lanham’s own remarkable story, including the moment when the humble chicken pulled him away from a life in the military and onto the path to ornithological stardom.

This episode comes from our friends at Going Wild, with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, a podcast from PBS that’s more about the people that study wild animals than it is about the animals themselves.

Their latest season also includes the story of a shark researcher struggling with the whiteness of academia, a herpetologist who pushed to change the language of the field, and Dr. Rae-Wynn’s own journey as a field researcher slash newly single mom.

Featuring Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant and Dr. J. Drew Lanham.


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Read “9 Rules for the Black Birdwatcher”, Dr. J. Drew Lanham’s breakthrough piece for Orion Magazine.

Listen to a South Carolina Public Radio interview with Dr. J. Drew Lanham after he won a MacArthur Fellowship.


Outside/In is hosted by Nate Hegyi and produced by Taylor Quimby, Justine Paradis, Felix Poon, and Jessica Hunt.

Going Wild is hosted by Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant. Production by Caroline Hadilaksono, Danielle Broza, Nathan Tobey, and Great Feeling Studios. Editing by Rachel Aronoff and Jakob Lewis. Sound design by Cariad Harmon.

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