Navigating the Workplace: Underrepresented and Invisible Identities

Navigating the Workplace: Underrepresented and Invisible Identities

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Deviating only slightly from the usual environment news and grooves, regular host Ben Sonnega attended a panel discussion at the U of M Alumni Center. The topic of the panel was titled, “Navigating the Workplace: Underrepresented and Invisible Identities”. The panel confronts issues of social justice and identity directly, but issues of environment and social justice are often intertwined, making this a pertinent discussion for our listeners. This episode pieces together major portions of the discussion, but is not the extent of it. The need to advocate for oneself has never been more relevant, especially in professional spaces as students graduate and move into the workforce, or accept an internship for the first time. Listen and learn from experiences shared by professionals and recent grads about navigating conversations on identity and some of the power dynamics that comes with it as a young professional or college intern. This episode also features music from artist Amadou & Mariam off of the album Wati.

Epsilon Eta: The UofM Professional Environment Fraternity

Epsilon Eta: The UofM Professional Environment Fraternity

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Originating in 2015, undergraduates at the University of Michigan interested in environment found a new home at the Epsilon Eta Fraternity. While there is no physical fraternity house designated on campus, It’s Hot In Here guests and current Epsilon Eta members Sam, Lizzie, Samuel, and Brett showed us that the fellowship and familial closeness of a fraternity was far from lost on them. They joined regular host Ben Sonnega to share their experiences with the fraternity, reasons for joining, and thoughts on a number of environmental topics. 

All four members shared a variety of experiences, but one central point that brought them together seemed to be the camping trips that the fraternity offers during the academic breaks. As social chair for the fraternity, Brett spoke on the organizing of these events, but all four guests alluded to the trips as shaping experiences in the career as an environmentalist.

If you are interested in checking out the fraternity more, click HERE to go to their website and HERE to get to their facebook page!


Don’t miss this fun episode filled with laughter, great environmentally geared tunes from artists like John Prine and Ziggy Marley, and powerful messages from young environmentalists!


Awareness Through Art: Bird Collisions and Safe Passage

Awareness Through Art: Bird Collisions and Safe Passage

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Returning refreshed from the holiday break, guests Brooke McWherter and Alice Elliot joined host Ben Sonnega in the WCBN studios to call attention to an issue often overlooked. Amidst challenges presented by changing habitats and habitat destruction, bird kills from collisions with windows can sometimes be forgotten. This is not the case for our guests.
Brooke got her Bachelors degree in Wildlife Biology before serving in the Peace Corps in Southern Paraguay as a conservation and education volunteer. While there she had the opportunity to explore the many ways we can work with and engage communities in various science topics from wildlife conservation, to geography, and even to talk about climate change. As a graduate student at the School for Environment and Sustainability, her research is on climate resilience in rural communities in Bolivia and the connections to local wildlife as part of that resilience. When she is not working on that she acts as co-coordinator for Art and Environment (or ArtEco) which works to promote intersections between art and science and the various ways they occur.
A Lilac Breasted Roller (Brooke’s Favorite Bird)

Alice grew up in Ann Arbor and has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. She’s currently a graduate student at the School for Environment and Sustainability studying conservation ecology and environmental justice. She co-founded Washtenaw Safe Passage with a friend of hers to help raise awareness about how many birds hit windows and the degree to which windows are harming avian populations. Along with this program, and her graduate research, she also participates in other groups like Science for the People and Washtenaw Solidarity with Farmworkers who are working for social and ecological change.

 Inspired by Alice’s work with Washtenaw Safe Passage, Brooke took up her own art project through ArtEco, with  Research Faculty Advisor Sarah Adlerstein Gonzalez. Painting on paperweight sized rocks, Brooke  rendered intricate and accurate depictions of Michigan birds that were found dead from window collisions  and then arranged them in a winged outline at the Shapiro Library. This installation; part arts and crafts, part performance art, part memorial,  reminded passersby to enjoy art but  also to interact with their environment and nonhuman creatures at risk within it. Sometimes, what we do not manage well, we mourn, and make into something that can be a force for greater awareness and change, magnifying the efforts of others.
Painted Rocks by Brooke
Bird Painted Rocks Display


The conversation included not only discussion of bird art but all forms of science and art connection such as this water percussion performance. If you are interested in natural science, the arts, and even the possible intersection of the two then this episode is for you!

Aquaculture in Madagascar

Aquaculture in Madagascar

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With a warm smile that filled the room, guest Nathaniel Maekawa entered the WCBN studios this past Friday to tell regular host Ben Sonnega about his experience as an aquaculture intern in Madagascar. Nathaniel is from Austin, TX. and is a senior at the University of Michigan studying Global Health and Environment, Medical Anthropology, and Sustainability. He enjoys writing, mountains, the ocean, and talking about dreams. Hopes to one day contribute to interdisciplinary projects that address equity, environmental conservation, and human health.

Nathaniel pictured center

His work in Madagascar was through the NGO Reefdoctor. In the words of the organization, the mission is to “marry conservation with social development by facilitating sustainable livelihoods and education as a countermeasure to over-exploitation. Our goal is to protect both marine and terrestrial habitats, and provide a self-sustaining pathway to poverty alleviation in the impoverished rural communities of Southwest Madagascar. We have worked in the Bay of Ranobe for 15 years, establishing long-standing harmony and effective partnerships with local communities”. This mission was reflected in the kindness and carefulness with which Nathaniel described his work with the Southwest Madagascar communities.

Nathaniel at a midnight sea cucumber sale.

Some of his work specifically included facilitating aquaculture development of sea cucumbers and creating his own version of an underwater scarecrow to ward off sea turtles looking for a snack (appropriately deemed the “scareturtle” on air).

Nathaniel’s shark mimic “scareturtle”

Find more stories and tunes from Nathaniel’s time in Southwest Madagascar on this episode of It’s Hot In Here!


Line 5 Retirement Party!

Line 5 Retirement Party!

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Scrolling through his email thread, regular host Ben Sonnega was startled to see the headline Line 5 Retirement Party! Is the pipeline finally being shut down for good? Time to investigate.

The Enbridge Line 5 is a controversial oil pipeline that runs directly beneath the Straits of Mackinac, and is an aging one now nearly 10 years passed its due date for replacement. A number of protests have taken place over the years, but Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette has not been critical of the pipeline. Michigan Senior Rachel Beglin is a student of the Graham Sustainability Scholars program at Michigan, and made it her business to lead on the creation of a documentary on Line 5. The documentary includes interviews and opinions from professionals in the field of science, politics, and community members near the pipeline in Northern Michigan.

Sadly, this is premature retirement party as the pipeline has not been shut down yet, but it is Rachel’s informed opinion that retirement for Line 5 is on the way very soon. Check out this episode for more info on the documentary, as well as delightful discussion of responsible pipeline advocacy around the country and how to get involved in the fight for clean water in your community!

COP 23: A Conversation on Bonn Climate Negotiations 2017

COP 23: A Conversation on Bonn Climate Negotiations 2017

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As tensions grow surrounding the U.S. pullout from the 2015 UN Paris Climate Agreement, keeping up to date on the latest negotiations is of the utmost importance. This week on It’s Hot In Here radio Climate Blue delegates to the COP 23 UN Climate Conference Tyler Fitch and Chris Karounos joined regular host Ben Sonnega to report back on the sights and sounds in Bonn, Germany. The negotiations have taken place every year for the last 23 years with the goal of creating a unified vision for acting on global climate change.

Tyler is a second-year Masters’ student in SEAS (School for Environment and Sustainability), studying social processes and outcomes of transitioning to clean energy. This year, he led a campaign to get the University of Michigan to sign on to the We Are Still In pledge.

Tyler pictured 2nd from the left

Chris is cofounder of Abaca Games and was a student co-creator of the open online course called Act on Climate. He studies Environmental Informatics and is a mycorrhizal fungus Nerd. Follow this link to sign up for early access to his climate change based video game coming in January!

Chris pictured 2nd from left

These two busy gentlemen were kind enough to sit down and share some of their personal stories from the weeks spent in Bonn, as well as opinions on the state of climate negotiations at the international stage. The show also includes an interview with Secretary Kijiner of the Marshall Islands conducted by Chris while he there. The interview reflects general sentiments shared by both Tyler and Chris stressing that as we work towards international agreements, it is important to keep in mind these are real lives at risk; in particular for the currently sinking island nations. This is the sad truth of climate change. Those contributing the least to global emissions are commonly suffering the most immediate and severe consequences. Despite this heart-wrenching feeling, Chris shares how uplifting it was to speak with the secretary as he thanks subnational actors in the United States for standing in solidarity with the We Are Still In pledge mentioned earlier in Tyler’s bio.

Chris Interviewing Secretary Kijner
Chris and Dr. Aminu Zakari from Zimbabwe

Keep up to date with this pertinent and thought-provoking episode of It’s Hot In Here, rounded out with tunes from artists Car Seat Headrest, Kate Tempest, and Fiji selected by Tyler himself!



Sounds of Gratitude

Sounds of Gratitude

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This week on It’s Hot In Here radio, those lucky enough to enter the WCBN studios were greeted by the warm and rich tones of the cello and baroque flute warming up to play. On flute was Taya König-Tarasevich, who has studied music in Siberia, Freiburg Germany and Ann Arbor Michigan and now plays from New York City where she lives with her husband. On the cello was Ann Arbor native and Community High alumna Anna Steinhoff. Described by critics as “soulful,” and “the rhythmic heart of the ensemble”, she has studied music at Oberlin and Northwestern University. She is still currently based in the Chicago area. Also joining us on the mic is pianist Shin Hwang. Shin is a prize-winner of the 1st International Westfield Fortepiano Competition, and a versatile keyboardist who has won recognition in both modern and historical performance.
After completing his master’s degree at the University of Michigan with Penelope Crawford and Arthur Greene, he received the prestigious Fulbright Grant to study in the Netherlands at
the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. This is not Taya’s first time on It’s Hot In Here, and her past performance can be found here.

Taya on Flute
Taya disassembling her instrument

Unfortunately Shin could not bring the hefty fortepiano into the studio, but we still got to hear from Taya and Anna both together and solo.

Anna on Cello


Between these tidbits of musical delicacy, hosts Rebecca Hardin and Ben Sonnega discussed with the guests the significance of historically accurate instrumentation, some of their favorite pieces to play, and their personal relationships with the music of various composers. While Haydn brought a whimsical and upbeat feeling, Bach brought a feeling of truth according to the musicians. The three will be performing this Saturday at 7pm at the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor (608 E. William St). In the holiday spirit of giving thanks, this show is FREE. Taya mentioned that it only made sense to give a gift of thanks to the community of Ann Arbor to which they all have been a part of at some point. Don’t miss out on this!

Act on Climate: Steps to Individual, Community, and Political Action

Act on Climate: Steps to Individual, Community, and Political Action

00:00 / 59:49

Are you concerned about climate change? Would you like to learn about how you can address and respond to this challenge – whether as an individual, by collaborating with others, or through political actions? Click play on this episode of It’s Hot In Here to hear from the SEAS graduate students that helped design the Act on Climate MOOC now available on Coursera. The course uses food, energy, transportation and cities as frames for things impacting climate change, and uses true and inspiring case studies as the subject material for discussion. We heard from the students as well as local farmer, green realtor, and board member of local sustainability initiative The Agrarian Adventure, Jeff Tanza.

In this show listeners get a quick and dirty version of the course as we discuss all of the possible behaviors that an individual could take across these topic areas, and discuss some local events and happenings to follow-up with. This is where our friend Jeff played a particularly useful role as a member of the Ann Arbor community. We discussed his work with The Agrarian Adventure and getting kids to eat spinach happily (who would have thought), and the Veridian at County Farm eco-village. All this plus music about climate change selected by the guests!

The Agrarian Adventure is hosting a brunch fundraiser to support organic farmers sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge for growing food with local classrooms. Hear about kids liking Michigan cold-season spinach and becoming garden chefs, making sauerkraut with U-M students, the herb-smell challenge, and farmer trading cards – while enjoying heirloom vegetable hash and fair-trade coffee-infused waffles with Mindo chocolate sauce. Sunday 11/19, 10am-noon, 500 Little Lake Dr Ann Arbor.




Michigan and the Climate Crisis: Interviews from MC2

Michigan and the Climate Crisis: Interviews from MC2

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This October the University of Michigan directly addressed one of the most pressing issues of today at the Michigan and the Climate Crisis conference. This week-long celebration of the University’s bicentennial was aimed at confronting the present and future of the climate crisis. The Hot In Here team was able to track down some of the speakers throughout the week for interviews. Some of these speakers include Sandra Steingraber, Stephen Mulkey, Michael Mann, and Wege Lecture guest, internationally renowned environmentalist, and founder of Bill McKibben.

Biologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. writes about climate change, ecology, and the links between human health and the environment. Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries and was adapted for the screen in 2010. As both book and documentary film, Living Downstream has won praise from international media.
Called “a poet with a knife” by Sojourner magazine, Steingraber has received many honors for her work as a science writer, including, in 2011, a Heinz Award. By donating the cash prize to the anti-fracking movement, she became, in 2012, the co-founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of more than 280 grassroots organizations. Steingraber has been named a Woman of the Year by Ms. Magazine, a Person of the Year by Treehugger, and one of 25 “Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” by the Utne Reader.


Dr. Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).

Mann is the author of several books including his most recent work, The Madhouse Effect, which features cartoons by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Tom Toles. Through satire, “The Madhouse Effect” portrays the intellectual pretzels into which denialists must twist logic to explain away the clear evidence that man-made activity has changed our climate.

From July 2011 through December 2015, Stephen Mulkey served as president of Unity College in Maine, a four-year liberal arts institution dedicated to sustainability science. He led Unity College to be the first institution of higher learning in the U.S. to divest its endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies and directed the creation of the College’s premier graduate program in sustainability science.

As a scholar of the interdisciplinary literature in environmental science, Dr. Mulkey is an active public interpreter of climate change and sustainability. His recent research focuses on the role of landscape carbon stocks in climate mitigation and on the academic structure of interdisciplinary programs in the environmental and sustainability sciences.

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who in 2014 was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’ His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books. He is a founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement.
A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently for a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of BooksNational Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, where he spends as much time as possible outdoors . In 2014, biologists honored him by naming a new species of woodland gnat— Megophthalmidia mckibbeni–in his honor.

Throughout the interviews, a single message seemed to emerge as host Harry Rice pressed each speaker for answers. As you listen, you will hear that there was a feeling that more collaboration between disciplines must happen if we are to “get science off the shelf” as Sandra Steingraber put it. This is a direct call to action for members of not only the scientific community, but to politicians and activists alike.

These thoughtful and powerful interviews are speckled with tunes to keep you moving from artists such as John Prine, The Tragically Hip, and more on this episode of It’s Hot In Here.

Changing Climates: Melting Glaciers in the Peruvian Andes

Changing Climates: Melting Glaciers in the Peruvian Andes

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The Hot In Here team spends a lot of time considering the far reaching impacts of climate change. From warmer temperatures, to rising seas, to pollution issues of climate justice, there is MORE than enough to address. Aiming to tackle this challenge one step at a time, we had the pleasure of having U of M Sociocultural Anthropology PhD Candidate Allison Caine join regular host Ben Sonnega and new host on the mic Ari Weil for an in depth look at her time spent in the Andes Mountains.
Andes Wetlands
Allison’s research investigates how pastoralists in highland Peru identify, evaluate, and respond to the regional impacts of global climate change. Living in delicate wetland ecosystems at the edges of rapidly retreating glaciers, these herders pick up subtle cues in animal behavior and grassland distribution that indicate rapid shifts occurring in their  landscapes. As temperatures increase, herders find themselves facing transformative changes in seasonal variation, extreme weather events, and the vertical displacement of ecological zones.
Andes Mountains
Allison lived alongside the herders for a year and participated in their daily lives, studying how they made sense of their world and the ways in which it was changing. She also followed seasonal migrations between pastures to track how herding practices are shifting to accommodate changes in the ecosystem. We talk about how Allison became an anthropologist and what it was like to undertake ethnographic fieldwork in a remote Quechua-speaking community. We also discuss what anthropology has to contribute to the study of climate change, particularly in terms of its impact on people’s daily lives.
Studio Selfie! (Allison, Ben, and Ari)
This plus music from a woman in the community Allison stayed in can all be found in this week’s episode of It’s Hot In Here!