Plant Talk

Photo of Vikram Baliga standing in the greenhouse. Vikram Baliga is the creator of Planthropology.

There are more than 500,000 podcasts active on Apple Podcast. Researchers are using this new trendy type of communication. Vikram Baliga, a plant and soil science doctoral student at Texas Tech University, created his own podcast called “Planthropology.”

“The goal of this podcast is to get better at the public outreach of our science,” Baliga said. 

Baliga is a podcast listener himself and said he always wanted to start one. 

“I was having a conversation with a friend in the greenhouse and was like, ‘This was so nerdy, I think people would enjoy listening,’” Baliga said. 

The idea of a podcast came up again in a later conversation for Baliga. The new Plant and Soil Science department chair, Glen Ritchie, Ph. D., mentioned in his interview for the position that there needs to be a new way to get the scientific research out of the public. 

“He said, ‘podcast’ and it just stuck in my head,” Baliga said. “I feel like I had loose permission, so I did it.” 

With support from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Texas Tech, Baliga started his podcast “Planthropology” in the fall of 2019. 

“I interview researchers, educators, and people involved in natural science,” Baliga said. 

He said that he goes into the interview with a few basic questions but does not want to restrict the guests’ story. He focuses on the people instead of the research. 

Photo of Vikram Baliga recording an episode of his podcast.
Vikram Baliga uses the Adobe platform, Audition, to do minimal edits to his podcast “Planthropology”.

“People are complicated,” Baliga said. “Even if they take the same classes and everything, they all come at a problem from a different angle.”

Baliga said the wide variety of researchers and educators keeps the podcast interesting. 

“No two people have the same story.”

“No two people have the same story,” Baliga said. 

On average, each of Baliga’s podcast episodes gets about 2,500 listens. He said he tries to generally target outdoorsy people with interest in natural resources and sciences, but sometimes reaches others. 

Baliga said his podcast is based on scientific research. 

Photo of red and yellow flowers
These flowers can be found in the annual boxes that are located in the Horticultural Gardens.

“The science information is true and accurate, but sometimes people are not going to agree with it or even understand it,” Baliga said. 

When negative comments surface on his reviews, Baliga said he looks at them as exposure to natural science research.

“I know the material I am putting out there is factual and true information,” Baliga said. “I may change a mind or two, but even if I do not, they still hear the information, which is a teaching moment.” 

These negative comments can be a deterrent for individuals who want to start negative comments. 

“The biggest hurdle is getting used to having your own thoughts out in the world,” Baliga said. 

With 26 years of media experience, however, Baliga said it was easy for him to give his thoughts and to keep the conversations going with his guests. 

Photo of a cactus with headphones
In order to record a podcast a microphone and a pair of headphones are needed to get started.

For others, this may not be the case, but Baliga believes that people who let fear keep them from starting a podcast like “Planthropology” should try it out and do it. 

“It’s fun to do,” Baliga said. “It’s weird, and I am fortunate that I get to do stuff like this in a job like this.”