The Why & How Podcast

Two students in a recording studio.

Graeme Li (previously Josh Moran), agriculture student, hosts the Why and How Podcast where we look to answer big questions in agriculture, food, and the environment through casual conversations rooted in research. This university podcast is published by the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph. It is produced by Stephanie Craig and Jordan Terpstra. Recording and editing by Jakub Hyzyk and Kyle Ritchie. Listen to the Why & How on Apple Podcast, Google PodcastsSoundCloud or Spotify.

Episode 24: Why anaerobic digestion?

Anaerobic digestion is a biological process in which microbes break down organic matter to produce biogas. This process captures the biogas, which can be harmful to the atmosphere and uses it for energy. Dr. Brandon Gilroyed, a professor in the School of Environmental Science at the Ridgetown Campus, chats with Graeme about his research in this area, highlighting how it works and the environmental benefits. This is our last podcast episode for a little while, but we will be back soon! A transcript for episode 24 can be found here.

Episode 23: How does cannabis legalization affect rural B.C. communities? 

Before recreational cannabis became legal in Canada in 2018, some rural communities in British Columbia relied on the illicit market for economic well-being. Legalization disrupted these communities’ way of life. Tracey Harvey, a PhD candidate in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, is researching the implications of cannabis legalization on these communities. She talks to Graeme and Jordan about the history of the illicit market, her methods for conducting research, and how her research will help support these rural economies. A transcript for episode 23 can be found here.

Episode 22: How do we get research in the right hands?

Producing informative research is the goal of all our guests, but ensuring that groundbreaking research is actually used is the focus of Dr. Amy Lemay. Amy, who is a post-doc researcher in the Department of Plant Agriculture, is working to determine why Integrated Pest Management practices (based on research findings) have been so widely adopted by farmers. She explains the “sociology of science”, why knowledge translation and transfer is critical to research adoption and how she’s hoping her own research will help others translate theirs into common practice. A transcript for episode 22 can be found here.

Episode 21: How do the processed foods (we love) affect our health?

Ultra-processed foods are dominant in our Western diet, and this doesn't just include pop and chips. Many processed foods that consumers consider to be healthy (based on their ingredients) are negatively affecting our health. Dr. Mike Rogers, a professor in the Department of Food Science, explains the evolution of our diet and the impacts of processed food on our bodies. He also unpacks the complications of our current food system, which prioritizes technological innovation over understanding the impacts on our health. A transcript for episode 21 can be found here.

Episode 20: How is cow health connected to farmer mental health?

Using robots to care for dairy cows might sound a bit cold or even dystopian to some, but researcher Dr. Meagan King found a connection between automation and positive health benefits for both dairy cows and the farmers who care for them. In this episode, Meagan talks to Graeme and Jordan all about dairy cows and explains how her research in the Department of Animal Biosciences showcases the linkage between automation, strong herd health and benefits for farmer mental health. Note: Meagan received permission to visit and work with farms/farmers and followed policy set by the University of Guelph Research Ethics Board. The research discussed in this episode, and all animal research at the University of Guelph, is done in adherence to the University of Guelph Animal Care Policy and Procedures. A transcript for episode 20 can be found here. 

Episode 19: Why should we care about wild bees?

This past summer, hundreds of teachers across Canada played host to bee hotels in hopes of better understanding solitary wild bees. Sage Handler, a master’s student in the School of Environmental Sciences, tells Graeme and Jordan all about this unique approach to crowd-sourcing research data and why tracking wild bees is worthwhile. She also answers all of Graeme and Jordan’s bee-related questions. A transcript for episode 19 can be found here. 

Episode 18: How do your onions grow?

Onions, like all living things, need protection from pests and diseases. Sara Stricker, a PhD candidate in the Department of Plant Agriculture, sits down with Graeme and Jordan to explain how her research is protecting Ontario’s onions. Sara explains why onions are such a valuable crop, why they need protected and how it’s done. She also gives the inside scoop on completing a PhD and the University of Guelph’s 3MT Competition, which she won in 2020 by summarizing years of research into three minutes. A transcript for episode 18 can be found here.

Episode 17: How might neuroscience shift animal welfare standards?

Mice are one of the most commonly used animals in research, and Lindsey Kitchenham is on a mission to determine how their housing environments impact their welfare. She chats with Graeme about how integrating behaviour assessments and neuroscience will help us better understand how housing impacts mice brain development. She explains how her research, happening in the Department of Animal Bioscience, could have major ripple effects in the research world. Important note: In this episode, we discuss several sensitive and potentially upsetting topics, including the euthanasia of research animals. The research discussed in this episode, and all animal research at the University of Guelph, is done in adherence to the University of Guelph Animal Care Policy and Procedures, the provincial legislation and regulations of the Animals for Research Act, and the national guidelines and policies of the Canadian Council on Animal Care. This will be our last episode for a bit, while we figure out how to keep answering big questions in a safe and effective way. We hope all of our listeners are doing okay! A transcript for episode 17 can be found here.

Episode 16: How do you like them (Ontario cider) apples?

In this episode Graeme and Jordan learn about the Ontario hard cider industry, starting at the orchard and the apples. Derek Plotkowski, a PhD student in the Department of Plant Agriculture, talks about his search for the perfect apple variety for making cider. He explains why some ciders are sweeter than others, why “eating” apples don’t make good “drinking” apples and where to find some of Ontario’s best hard cider. A transcript for episode 16 can be found here.

Episode 15: How are Canadian farms evolving?

When you imagine a Canadian farm, what does it look like? Who is running it? How big is it? Hongyu (Will) Chen provides our new host Graeme, and Jordan, with insights into what Canadian farms look like. Will, a researcher in our Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, digs into Statistics Canada data to highlight trends in Canadian farm size, demographics, what’s thriving and what’s not surviving. A transcript for episode 15 can be found here.

Episode 14: How do labels and price affect our grocery decisions?

Grocery shopping isn’t simple. Price, nutritional content, convenience and our values all seem to collide in grocery store aisles. Laura Stortz, a master’s student in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, talks to Josh and Jordan about research she’s doing on nutritional warning labels and pay-what-you-can grocery stores. (Ps. This is Josh’s final episode as host; a big thank you to Josh for his work on launching the Why & How!)  You can check out the labels Laura used in her study here. You can learn more about The SEED here. A transcript for episode 14 can be found here. 

Episode 13: HOLIDAY SPECIAL!

The voices behind your favourite podcast chat all things Why & How over eggnog. Josh and Jordan give over the mic to producer Stephanie Craig, so they can share their thoughts on the first 12 episodes. They talk about the good, the bad and plans for the future. They answer listener questions and introduce the new podcast host for 2020: Graeme Li. A transcript for episode 13 can be found here.

Episode 12: How does soil impact the atmosphere?

Soil has superpowers. It can grow food and sustain life. But two researchers in the School of Environmental Sciences share their research on how it can also contribute to climate change. Kean Gao and Prof. Claudia Wagner-Riddle explain how different soil management practices affect our food security and our atmosphere.  You can learn more by following @SoilsAtGuelph on Twitter or visiting Claudia's website. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 12 can be found here.

Episode 11: How come free trade isn’t actually free?

There’s lots of talk about trade and tariffs, but what exactly is free trade? And is it good or bad for businesses, consumers and farmers? Brendan McDougall, a graduate student in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, sits down with Josh and Jordan to answer these questions. He explains all the basics (in an interesting way) and tells us about his graduate research. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 11 can be found here.

Episode 10: Why is it so hot in the city?

You've felt it. It’s hotter in the city. But why? Prof. Scott Krayenhoff of the School of Environmental Sciences explains why our cities are hotter than they should be, and what can be done to cool them down. Unfortunately, the solution is complicated by climate change. And keeping colder cities warm in the winter actually makes them more liveable. Thankfully Scott’s got some advanced computer models and equipment to try to figure out a solution. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 10 can be found here.

Episode 9: How can dairy genomics fight climate change?

Animal agriculture is often pointed to as a key contributor to climate change. But what if we could breed cattle that burp less and emit fewer greenhouse gases? Adrien Butty and Kerry Houlahan, graduate student researchers in the Department of Animal Biosciences, are working on just that. They chat with Josh and Jordan about how through selective breeding of dairy cattle (based on genomics) a solution could be just around the corner. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 9 can be found here.

Episode 8: How is research supporting First Nations fisheries?

Fishing is an important cultural and economic activity for many of the First Nation communities in Canada, but the governance of their fisheries is complicated. Chirag Patney, a rural planning master’s student, explains how he hopes his research will help shine a light on one community’s concerns when it comes to policies and programs that govern their fishing activities. You can follow @SEDRD and @UofGuelphOAC on Twitter for future updates on Chirag's research. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 8 can be found here.

Episode 7: Why is craft beer booming?

From stouts to sours and everything in between craft beer is everywhere with no signs of slowing down. New breweries continue to pop up on the regular. Dr. Shane Walker, a facility manager and brewer in the Department of Food Science, chats with Josh and Jordan about all things beer. Including his own experiences and misadventures when brewing beer in the classroom. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 7 can be found here.

Episode 6: Why are health trends stressing out chickens?

Omega-3s are good for human brain health, and Omega-3 enriched eggs are a terrific way for us to increase our intake. But feeding laying hens food rich in Omega-3's might be causing their chicks to be more fearful and stressed out. Rosemary Whittle, a PhD student in the Department of Animal Sciences, chats with Josh and Jordan about the initial findings of her poultry welfare research. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 6 can be found here.

Episode 5: How does plant-based “meat” change the menu?

Simulated meat products are seriously trendy right now. The futuristic idea of replacing meat with plants, is today’s food science triumph. Prof. Ben Bohrer of the Department of Food Science chats with Josh and Jordan about what these new products mean for our meat-eating habits and menus. You can follow Ben on Twitter here. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 5 can be found here.

Episode 4: How do plants throw shade?

You probably knew that plants love light. But did you know they prefer specific wavelengths of light? PhD student Nicole Berardi explains how plants interact with light and each other. Like how they repel and reflect light, causing changes in growth and yield. If you’ve ever wondered why your succulents are growing in a weird way, this episode is for you. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 4 can be found here.

Episode 3: Why are bees struggling? How can we help?

Everyone who’s interested in the environment has heard about the plight of honey bees. But this week’s guest, Dr. Alana Pindar, moves a magnifying glass onto the overlooked wild bees who live in our backyard and need our help. You can follow Alana’s research on Twitter here. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 3 can be found here.

Episode 2: How can test tubes make 10 million trees?

We explore the world of plant tissue culture and how it can create 10 million trees from a sample of one. Masters students Kevin and James explain the science and technology behind this cool plant propagation technique.  You can follow Kevin’s start-up on Instagram here. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 2 can be found here.

Episode 1: How can food treat cancer?

Our first guest, Alessia Roma, explains how nutraceuticals could treat diseases like cancer. She chats with Josh Moran and Jordan Terpstra about how her graduate research could change the way we think about fighting leukemia and “food science”. Follow Alessia on Twitter here. Funding for this episode was provided by the W.S. (Stan) Young Memorial Communications Grant through the OAC Alumni Foundation. A transcript for episode 1 can be found here.

Trailer: The Why & How Podcast

Show host Josh Moran, with the help of Jordan Terpstra, introduces the world to the new Why & How Podcast, which features the research of experts from the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph. A transcript for the trailer can be found here.