Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lab Grown Meat

I don't know if you've seen the news on this or not, but scientists in the Netherlands have been successful at growing meat in the lab. They basically work in a field called tissue engineering. That field of study works to produce tissue for human transplants. Growing meat to eat is a slight deviation of that application of course. After Haley and I had a bit of a heated discussion about it, we decided to do a quick introduction to it in this week's podcast:

Monday, October 22, 2012

The story of real life zombies.

This summer, we got the chance to visit East Africa. While we were there, I found an amazing plant called zombie cucumber. It smelt really bad, and had big spiky fruits on it. I decided to look it up and found out that it is one of the ingredients used by witch doctors to make people into zombies. Think that's crazy! I did. The story was in the inspiration for this weeks video though.  It's fitting for the times in any case.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oregon gets Wave Energy

I'm not exactly sure where the decision to put the first commercial scale wave energy project off the coast of Oregon came from, but I think it's a great step in the right direction. This buoy isn't the first of it's kind, though. It's just the first to get implemented. Since I once lived in Oregon, the idea for this was near and dear to my heart. Here is my video review of the project.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Plant Nerdery

I create podcasts on a lot of different science topics. This week I was given the opportunity to create a video about anything I wanted to (within reason). I've always wanted to do a piece about monocots and dicots, but couldn't ever figure out how to make it cool. Truth is, it is a bit of a nerdy topic. Kids learn it in school though, and it's impossible to find any good videos on the topic. 

Thus, I present ... our nerdy plant video of the day. I tried to show that plants really are cool.  I'm not talking this time about how they'll kill you or how you can get high. I do like those topics though. This time, it's all about the basics- monocots vs dicots. You learned it in school, but why did you learn it? It's important, that's why. If you're into plants, I think you'll like this short. 

To learn more about this topic visit our monocots vs dicots page.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ticks with a twist of lyme disease

Over the summer I found out that our new house, being so close to the woods, is crawling with ticks. At one point we found between 5 and 10 a night in our bed. It's a terrible feeling to have a tick bite you while you're dreaming. Needless to say, one of those ticks was carrying a pathogen. While I can't be sure it was lyme disease, since I didn't get it tested, I do know that it was something in the same category because I had all the signs. I got treated with antibiotics and I'm fine.  However, it made me start thinking about the disease.

A few weeks after I got treated for lyme disease, we went to Africa. Turns out, one of the preventions for malaria is the antibiotic, doxycycline, which is exactly what I had been on for lyme treatment. I basically continued treatment for another couple weeks there. In the meantime, we bumped into a researcher, Brian Allan, who studies ticks and lyme disease. Because of those two chance occurrences, we decided to make this short update:

If you're still interested in reading up on the ecology of this disease, we did a short writeup here:

Lyme disease Ecology

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tracking Baboons in Style!

If you've been following our work at Untamed Science, you might know we just went to Africa. You might also know that we were tracking baboons with a group of researchers. Yet, we weren't able to share a whole lot about what we were doing, because we knew we were going to release this video. So, after a month of work, here it its.

Read more about this research at our full link here:

After it's all said and done, I think the project turned out very well. I'm happy to say I completely enjoyed every one of the researchers on the trip and I wish every expedition could be as fun as this one.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Teaching Whitewater Kayaking

Over the last couple decades I've dabbled in and learned a lot of sports. I've been a dive master, hang glider, wakeboarder, snow boarder, cyclist, swimmer, runner, rock climber, roller bladder and skydiver.   With every sport, I've figured out more about how my body learns. I've been able to compare the different sports a bit and learn what I like. In doing so, I've come to realize that I am actually surprised that so many people have picked up whitewater kayaking.

Whitewater kayaking is a sport that has a huge learning curve. With pretty much any other activity I've done you can ease into the sport gradually. In doing so you pick up skills that will help keep you safe and having fun. Only a few of these sports, are more dangerous when you start. As you get better, they become safer. The first one that comes to mind is skydiving. The hardest part is landing, and making sure you know how to jump out of the plane. The rest is just fancy stuff. The second is whitewater kayaking. The reason's all come down to the fact that you have to get one difficult skill before you're at all safe - your roll. As long as you can confidently flip back over, you'll be fine - but it's a difficult task to accomplish in the midst of swirling whitewater.

This weekend I decided it would be fun to give Jonas and Louise a crash course in whitewater kayaking, a sport I've now dove into 100 percent. Our destination was the relatively easy Nantahala River in North Carolina. Here is a short one minute video, showing some of Jonas' crashes, and eventual swims.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our First Trip to Africa!

I'm not really sure if everyone who hasn't visited Africa shares the same mental image as I did before we landed in Nairobi to start our trip. Haley and I just arrived here in Kenya for our first time in Africa and while it has only been a few days, my image is slowly changing.

Haley on the airplane to Nairobi, trying to brush up on her animal ID's

Before I came to Africa, I imagined the entire continent as somewhat of a wild and dangerous war zone. In my head, I also imagined extremely impoverished conditions, where you have to worry about people with machetes chopping you up, deadly diseases eating your insides or lions eating you randomly as you walked around. I'm sure my impression came from multiple Hollywood movies (like Blood Diamond and Hotel Rwanda), and from the multitude of wildlife films I've seen over the ages.

In the taxi heading down a dusty road from Nairobi into the bush...

The truth is, I was wrong. Kenya is much safer than I thought. First, if you have at least one good connection that can hook you up with a ride from the airport, you can pretty easily navigate the entire country. Plus, the people in Kenya are about the nicest that I've ever met. The culture of hospitality is incredible. You're not treated like a "gringo," like you are in many other countries. They genuinely love that we're there in the country visiting. It's fantastic.

I was also wrong about having to worry about animals around every corner. The sad truth is that for the most part, there are only animals left in protected reserves. Fortunately there are a lot of these around. To help keep the animals in, they use giant electric fences. Inside those, the wildlife threat is a different topic all together. I'll get to that with the next post!

A rare wild dog spotting our first day in the field. These are one of the rarest predators in Africa!

Until next time, Akuna matata,


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cycling Europe

For three weeks in June, we cycled from Genoa, Italy to Gothenburg, Sweden. In total that amounts to nearly 2100 km. A long trip for sure, but one in which we were able to see a huge portion of Europe. Along the way, we made a few species profiles and updates. Here are the highlights.

Video Update #1 - Italy
Italy was extremely cool. We started the trip on the coast and immediately went over the Appenine mountains. From there we cycled the flat rice paddy fields near Milan. Soon though, we hit the Alps!  All of Italy, only took us 3 days to bike through.

Our first species profile: Brassica oleracea ...


Video Update #2 - Switzerland

Switzerland was one of the most beautiful that we've ever seen and definitely the highlight of our trip through  Europe. Of particular interest was the huge mountain passes, like Gothard Pass in southern Switzerland.

Video Update #3 - Germany

At some stage, the entire trip started to take a toll on everyone. I made this video update to help show what it was really like on the trip. We're not super-human, but we do like telling it the way it was. In this case, it was a difficult section of the trip, accompanied by a lot of rain and cold conditions.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wicked Plants - Weeds of Mass Destruction

My name is Rob Nelson, and I've been interested in marine science my whole life. Fish were my world. However, sometime in college I remember thinking that I know nothing about plants. They became one of my newfound passions, leading me to film and document them for over 10 years now. 

I can tell you that there are some amazing plants in this world. In the plant kingdom, most of us imagine passive green leafy-beings. I know I did. Not many of us think of them as invaders, murderers or traps. Yet, the plant kingdom contains just as many killers and oddities as one can find in the animal kingdom. In fact, I'd probably argue there are more. You see, plants can't move, so they only defense is in the toxins they produce. While I want to profile all different types of this world's wicked plants, I think we need to start simple. In this week's science podcast, we've started by profiling the invasive plants...

I made an entire webpage about this of course. Check out our page on the Top Ten Most Unusual and Wicked Plants. 

Caught in a Tornado

A couple years ago, when we were filming our middle grades science series for Pearson Publishing, Haley and I were tracking tornadoes with storm chasers in Oklahoma. After a month of driving countless miles through the plains, we still hadn't really seen a good twister. So, we took a week off. I wasn't checking the weather and decided to go for a nice little jog at my parents house in Dallas. Low and behold, the tornado sirens started going off. I looked up and there was rotation in the clouds! I ran into the house, grabbed the camera and took off with Haley to look for a tornado. Unfortunately, we didn't read it quite right and got stuck in the middle of the twister. Here is this week's podcast, that talks about what each level of tornado damage actually means.

And if you're still interested in this, you should check out the unedited Flower Mound tornado footage, describing exactly what happened.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The First Year of Parenthood

In the last year and 8 months, I feel that I've had to quickly adapt to life as a parent. Now, don't get me wrong, I've always thought I'd probably have kids. I just never thought much about the day it would come. In fact, our first kid, August Falcon Axil, came as a surprise when Haley took a pregnancy test during one of our Untamed Science shoots. She wasn't feeling all that great and low and behold, we found the answer!

Baby August enjoying a cake
August enjoying his first cake!
Since the day in October of 2010 that we found out, we've been through all the stages of pregnancy, and the whole first year of being parents. Let me just say, it made my life much more difficult. I wouldn't want to do it without him though. We bought a house, fixed it up, rebuilt our studio, and spent countless hours awake to a crying baby. But, every-time I look at him he makes me laugh. 

No longer am I the same self-guided person. Now I have a family and I'm really starting to like the fact that I'm a Dad!  I think I can really get used to it. I feel I have a lot to share. Here is a short video I made for Haley and August over the course of the last year, that I think recaps the whole experience well!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Conservation in the Deep Sea

If you think about it for a second, the majority of livable space on the planet is actually found in the deep sea. If you've ever watched a documentary about the deep sea, you've probably also heard a scientist exclaim that we know little about it. I'm sure James Cameron would agree, given he's put the deep sea back in the news as of late.

Recently, we were able to take a trip to the lightless zones of the ocean in a home-made sub. On the trip, we passed a drifting fishing net (something that if they got tangled in, they wouldn't be around today for this podcast). This fishing net was the inspiration for this week's podcast on ocean conservation.

In this episode, Haley explains the main threats to the deep sea, with the largest problem now being ocean trawling. Hopefully, this sheds a bit of light to a problem that seems not well understood by much of the public.

In addition, we actually have really great page on the deep sea with two other great videos (our submersible video and the six gill shark piece).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baby August's First Snake

We wanted to give August an early chance to not hate snakes. I think it worked. I just hope the snake doesn't start to hate August.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Presenting on the deep sea

We were guest lecturers today at the new NRC in Raliegh! Here we are outside the giant dome... That got struck by lightning when we were presenting! To see the videos we've done on the deep sea, check out this page ...

Friday, April 27, 2012

When you're visited by a photographer ...

This week happened to see our good friend Jim Brady, who decided he wanted to take a few arial photos as we jumped on the tramp. I must say that when you actually get a real photographer, it shows. I would never have thought to set up 3 flashes, opposite the sun and shoot towards the shadows of the trees. I included the setup and a few select shots. Kind of cool... (

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

August's First "Worst Picture Ever"

So we just got August's passport photos taken at the Post Office. We all know that government IDs contain the worst pictures ever. Well, August helped prove that this morning again. With so many cute photos of him floating around, I thought I'd share his wonderful new American Passport photo.