Sunday, July 19, 2015

Q&A with WERU's Sarah O'Malley

Sarah O'Malley is the longtime host of WERU's World Around Us, a weekly (Saturdays at 8:30AM) science and nature short feature show.  Sarah is a Maine native, having grown up in quiet North Castine where she fondly remembers summers spent running around in the woods and biking the four miles into town.  Sarah attended George Stevens Academy in nearby Blue Hill.  Sarah currently resides in Sedgwick with her two dogs, two cats, chickens, and her mountain guide husband, Dick Chasse.  Sarah’s extended family still live in the Castine area, and she has the good fortune of enjoying being an aunt to niece, Caitlin and nephew, Will.  Regular listeners might recognize Caitlin from her guest stints on World Around Us.
Sarah teaches Ocean Science at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.  Her interest in the natural sciences grew from a love of the outdoors.  Not particularly interested in sports growing up, Sarah’s primary focus was on the arts (see Sarah's blog post  She dabbled with outdoor recreation in high school, where she was active in the Outing Club, and participated in Summer Adventure hiking trips.  In college, Sarah studied Natural History and became more involved with outdoor leadership.  Sarah pursued a master’s in Science Education as she grew to enjoy the subject matter enough to foresee making a career of it.  Besides teaching at the Academy, Sarah also works with the Maine Master Naturalist Program, which develops a corps of naturalists across the state.  Sarah describes the corps as people qualified to lead nature walks and help connect the people of Maine with “the amazing natural environment we have.”  "Why," says Sarah, "so many of us live here!"

Sarah says that she develops ideas for features on World Around Us by letting her mind wander or by researching interesting topics in the science news.  She explains, “I finally figured out that if you develop a series of shows on the same topic you can get a lot more bang for your research buck, so I've done several series.”  A couple of her personal favorite features were “A Robin’s Life Work” and “Gender in Nature.”  Sarah says the best compliment she got about World Around Us was at a party when a friend described the concept of the show to another friend as “always being about sex.”  Sarah says, “At the time that was true.  I was always talking about sperm and eggs and sex in nature and how different organisms reproduce.  Recently the show has been a lot less about sex (Sarah just completed a twenty-one episode series on climate change), but now that spring is here I'm going to try
to get back to the birds and the bees!"

  1. Favorite genre of music? I love electronica and hip-hop, though I know very little about it. Da Vibez (Fridays 8-10PM with Sam West & DJ Marquard) is probably my favorite show on WERU, as surprising as that might be for people to believe!
  2. What is your earliest music memory? Giggling over the real zipper in the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers LP album cover. When you unzipped it, you could see the tighty whiteys underneath! Also listening to The Grateful Dead's American Beauty, The Beatles' Revolver, and endlessly lip synching to the entire Michael Jackson's Thriller album in front of the mirror with my sister.
  3. What was the first LP or CD you bought? Men at Work's Business as Usual on vinyl.
  4. What was the first band you saw in concert? Taj Mahal at the Stone Church in Bar Harbor closely followed up the next year by an Amnesty International concert in Philadelphia with Bruce Springsteen as the headliner. 
  5. What hobbies and interests do you have outside of music? Trail running, reading, farming and growing food, writing, and photography. 
  6. Where have you traveled? Europe, Ireland, Ecuador, Spain, Lesotho, Alaska, and throughout the United States. One place I keep going back to is Utah, particularly the Canyonlands National Park area. My next trip will be to Iceland! 
  7. Favorite book(s)? The Urban Bestiary by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, The View from Lazy Point by Carl Safina, and Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux 
  8. Favorite movie? Pride and Prejudice 
  9. Favorite holiday and why? Winter solstice because I love the slowing down and drawing in of that time of year 
  10. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? To be able to fly! 
  11. If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be? I'd go back to South Africa, specifically Namibia in southwest Africa and Botswana in southern Africa, Japan, New Zealand, India, and Argentina. 
  12. What would people be surprised to know about you? I hate swimming! I'm a sinker. I have no interest whatsoever in scuba diving, and I am basically afraid of the water. And, yes, I teach ocean science. 
  13. What three words would best describe you? How about one? Overextended! 
  14. Any special talents? I can tie a cherry stem into a knot in my mouth without using my fingers. 
  15. Who has inspired you? Anyone out there doing selfless work to alleviate suffering and help the truly needy. People like Paul Farmer, who is an American anthropologist and doctor who works to provide healthcare in developing countries. 
  16. What makes you laugh? Just about everything! 
  17. Biggest misconception about you? That I am a crunchy granola vegetarian and must drink a lot of coffee. I guess because I am so lively in the morning. In fact, I raise my own meat and do not drink anything caffeinated. 
  18. Are there any issues you feel passionate about? That the rules of nature apply to us humans too. Our bodies are evolved to move and not be sedentary. 
  19. Do you have pets? Two dogs and two cats. My house is ground zero for dander. 
  20. Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you? My dream job is one where I can bring my dog to work and wear flip flops every day!

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