5 Q’s with Niki Wilson

A long time science writer and MC of Jasper Dark Sky Festival, Niki co-hosts Anthropomania podcast alongside Jay Ingram and Erika Siren. We asked her five questions to get a peek at life behind the podcast.

You’re from Jasper, Alberta. What’s the best thing about living in a National Park?

It’s pretty magical sharing your “backyard” with wild things. Just yesterday I was walking along a muddy trail and came upon some fresh black bear tracks. Water was still seeping into the footprints, which made me think the bear wasn’t too far ahead of me. I made some noise to let it know I was around, and wondered if it was just passing through or if I might encounter it again over the spring and the summer.

Bear tracks in Jasper, AB Photo: Niki Wilson

Last year I became familiar with a couple of the bears using the area, occasionally seeing them from a distance. One of them was a mother black bear and her cub, who I once spotted in a tree (through my binoculars). She was sleeping (or trying to), and the cub was crawling all over her. It was pretty fantastic.

Name the most ‘Anthropomania-esque’ experience you’ve ever had?

I’d have to say that for me, this is a recurring event every spring, summer as I watch certain people try and get a perfect wildlife selfie. These are not the respectful tourists that are keeping their distance and understandably trying to get a photo, but rather those that are so intent on a selfie with a roadside bear, elk, sheep or whatever that they are literally holding their phone out in front of them while backing up towards an animal with no regard for the safety of the wildlife, themselves, or other people. 

Stock Photo

There’s also a group of “professional” photographers that are so intent on getting the money shot that they harass wildlife. They are known locally as the wildlife paparazzi or “wildlife paps”. Parks Canada has a great team working on these issues, but ultimately they’ve had to remove things like their bear report from the internet to try and reduce this impact on wildlife. It’s bonkers what some people will do for Instagram.

What’s it like to co-host Anthropomania?

I did a little bit of podcast work many years ago, but this is the first time I’ve hosted a podcast that is professionally produced (e.g. not just me in a blanket fort blabbing on about science to whoever will listen). It’s been an amazing learning experience working with Lightscope, and I’ve come to realize just how much work it is to make a podcast with excellent overall production value. It’s been a bit of a learning curve but I think we’re getting better with each episode — everyone works very hard. There have been many amazing belly laughs with the entire crew, and I think that is an excellent sign.

What was your favourite part of  our most recent Episode 3 Smarty Plants?

I love this episode. I was lucky enough to be the one who interviewed Shalan Joudry, a Mi’kmaw narrative artist and conservation ecologist you’ll hear at the end of the show. I could have listened to her for hours. I’ve been thinking a lot about what she said about the language we use to talk about plants and animals, and how it shapes our relationship with them. It’s prompted me to be more conscious of my own intentions when I’m describing the natural world.

Photo: Jasper Tourism

Other than Anthropomania, what podcasts are you listening to these days?

I’ve got a few favourites, including Hidden Brain, the Happiness Lab and Revisionist History. I also enjoy Swindled and Under The Influence once in a while. So many pods, so little time. Actually, too much time, LOL. #Pandemic

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