Podcasts, lesson #1

When new learning opportunities come along, I have a tendency to throw myself in the deep end. For the special issue on Citizen Science published by six British Ecological Society journals, including Journal of Animal Ecology, I decided to do a podcast. I have never done podcasts before. Or conducted interviews for that matter. Nevertheless, I decided to sit down and do a remote podcast interview with some of the authors. I’m so happy they all agreed to participate and the first episode has just been released. In this episode I speak with Ian Thornhill, lead author of the special issue editorial, which you can find here.

In case anyone out there is interested in diving into creating podcasts, here’s a few things that got me started, no fund required:

Recording: I used Zencastr. It comes in a Professional and Hobbyist version. During the corona virus pandemic, the free Hobbyist version comes with unlimited guests and recording time. The great thing about Zencastr is, that it records speakers on individual tracks. This makes editing SOOOOO much easier. A huge thanks to Julia Heinen for the suggestion.

Editing: I used Audacity, which is a free, open source, cross-platform audio editor and recorder. I found it super easy to use, and there are plenty of online tutorials. I took a screenshot and highlighted the buttons I used. File for importing and exporting sound. Effect for the nifty little tool “Noise reduction”, Play and Stop. The selection tool ‘I’ to select parts I wanted to delete, the time shift tool (arrow), to move sections back and forth. The silence audio selection to quickly get rid of random noise (like a siren). And lastly, I kept an eye on the playback level, which I felt was too high if it went past -12, so I often had to reduce the sound of my own voice. Possibly a hint that I should reduce the volume I speak at.

Sound effects: I couldn’t help myself and went searching for free animal sounds to paste into the beginning and end of the podcasts. I found FreeAnimalSounds to be quite useful, even if they didn’t have the exact species we were talking about in the podcasts.

British Ecological Society Member perks: If you happen to be a member of the British Ecological Society, they have some great tips on multimedia skillset development in the training hub.

Planning: Whenever I give an interview, I always ask the journalist if I can have the questions in advance. So, when I contacted the authors, I offered them the questions in advance too. This is a nice thing to do, it gives people a chance to prepare and think about their answers. Also, it gives them the option of influencing what we’ll talk about.

The sound of your own voice: Chances are, you hate it. I did too. It took me almost a month after recording the interviews before I finally got the editing done. Why? Because I was dreading listening to my own voice. The good news is, after eight hours of editing, I’m no longer bothered by it.

Finally, I’m a novice, so if anyone has suggestions for moving forward, do let me know. Investing in a proper microphone might be a good next step.