ALD21 Podcasts: Good Natured, Sofia Castelló y Tickell & Julia Migné

Good Natured, Sofia Castelló y Tickell & Julia Migné

Good Natured is a Conservation Optimism podcast, where you can listen to uplifting chats that shine a light on conservation challenges. In each episode, Sofia Castelló y Tickell & Julia Migné interview an inspiring conservationist (including a penguinologist. Yes, really.). Their guests come from a variety of backgrounds – artists, scientists, business owners, and activists – and engage with conservation in a variety of ways. They talk about their challenges and successes, and their hopes for the future of nature. 

Recent episodes include: 

  • conservationist Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh talking about conserving chimpanzees, the importance of mentorship, and being a woman in the field;
  • penguinologist Tom Hart on the dynamics of polar ecosystems and creating a sense of home in remote places; and,
  • plant ecologist Sara Lil Middleton about seeing beyond the “green carpet” to understand grasses and climate change and her work to promote equality and diversity in the biological sciences.

You can follow their work here:

Twitter: @SofiaAtSea, @JuliaMigne and @ConservOptimism
LinkedIn: and

ALD21: Dr Marian Croak, Engineer

Dr Marian Croak

Dr Marian Croak is the developer of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and the technology behind “text to donate”. She holds over two hundred patents, of which 125 relate to VOIP.

In the early days of the internet, Croak realised just how revolutionary it would be. She also realised that it was inefficient for her employers, AT&T, to run both a traditional phone network alongside a new digital network for the internet when the internet could be used for both. She and her team experimented with “packetizing” voice, converting the sound into a digital signal that could be carried over the internet.

Croak struggled to convince colleagues that this was an important step forward, as many of them considered the internet to be a fad that would soon fall out of fashion. But she was eventually successful and now VOIP is used on a daily basis by millions to conduct phone calls over the internet.

The use of SMS messages as a way to donate to crisis appeals, or “text to donate”, was also her idea. In 2010, this invention helped to raise $32 million for survivors of the earthquake in Haiti. The “text to donate” technology is also used as “text your vote” for American TV shows such as American Idol.

Croak started her professional career in 1982, working in data services at Bell Laboratories, which was acquired by AT&T in 1984. She joined Google in 2014 and today she is the vice president of engineering for access strategy and emerging markets, where she leads several projects to improve internet technology all over the world.

She has received several awards and serves as a board member for many non-profit organisations. It was announced in 2021 that, together with ophthalmologist Patricia Bath, she will become one of the first two black women to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

You can follow her work here:


Further reading

ALD21 Books: The Fossil Hunter, Shelley Emling

Shelley Emling

The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World, Shelley Emling

At a time when women were excluded from science, a young girl made a discovery that marked the birth of palaeontology and continues to feed the debate about evolution to this day.

Mary Anning was only twelve years old when, in 1811, she discovered the first dinosaur skeleton – of an ichthyosaur – while fossil hunting on the cliffs of Lyme Regis, England. Until Mary’s incredible discovery, it was widely believed that animals did not become extinct. The child of a poor family, Mary became a fossil hunter, inspiring the tongue-twister, “She Sells Sea Shells by the Seashore.” She attracted the attention of fossil collectors and eventually the scientific world. Once news of the fossils reached the halls of academia, it became impossible to ignore the truth. Mary’s peculiar finds helped lay the groundwork for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, laid out in his On the Origin of Species. Darwin drew on Mary’s fossilised creatures as irrefutable evidence that life in the past was nothing like life in the present.

A story worthy of Dickens, The Fossil Hunter chronicles the life of this young girl, with dirt under her fingernails and not a shilling to buy dinner, who became a world-renowned palaeontologist. Dickens himself said of Mary: “The carpenter’s daughter has won a name for herself, and deserved to win it.”

Here at last, Shelley Emling returns Mary Anning, of whom Stephen J. Gould remarked, is “probably the most important unsung (or inadequately sung) collecting force in the history of palaeontology,” to her deserved place in history.

ALD21: Raye Montague, Naval Engineer

Raye Montague

Raye Montague was an American engineer who revolutionised naval ship design, proving that computer aided design could produce first drafts of ship specifications in hours rather than years.

Although Montague had wanted to become an engineer from childhood, her home university, the University of Arkansas, did not accept black students on their engineering program. Instead, she completed a degree in business and moved to Washington, DC, starting her career in the US Navy as a typist. She attended night school to learn computer programming and engineering.

Montague’s desk at the Naval Ship Engineering Center was positioned next to the UNIVAC I computer, and she learnt how to program it through observation. When the UNIVAC I programmer was off sick one day, she stepped in to run the computer. She persuaded her boss to promote her to computer systems analyst, but was forced to work the night shift.

The Navy had spent six years unsuccessfully trying to design ships using computers and in 1971, this task was given to Montague. She took the contractors’ program, tore it down, analysed and revised it so that it met her requirements, and then rebuilt it to run on the Navy’s computer. This meant more night shifts.

She was then asked to design an actual ship, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, a task that usually took two years. She brought her team together on a Saturday morning and set the computer running. At midnight she went home for a rest, only to be called back to the office. The program had finished the design in 18 hours and 26 minutes. For this feat, Montague was awarded the Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1972.

She was the first woman to become program manager of the Navy’s Information Systems Improvement Program, with the civilian equivalent rank of naval captain. The Navy started using her system to design all of its ships and submarines. She later worked on ships such as the Seawolf-class submarine and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Further reading

ALD21 Podcasts: Look Up!, Bryony Lanigan & Patricia Skelton

Look Up!, Bryony Lanigan & Patricia Skelton

Join Bryony Lanigan and Patricia Skelton from the Royal Observatory Greenwich for Look Up!, as they discuss the night sky and recent news in the wide world of astronomy and get top tips on what to look out for in the night sky each month. 

Recent episodes have covered: 

  • the sample returned from asteroid Ryugu by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft and the fallen radio dish at Arecibo Observatory;
  • preserving our heritage in space, and some newly published research about the motion of stars in our galaxy; and,
  • Mars missions, a newly-found most distant solar system object, and a new theory about the formation of supermassive black holes.

You can follow their work here:

Twitter: @ROGAstronomers
LinkedIn: and