American evolutionary biologist Shane Campbell-Staton is host of the 6-part PBS documentary Human Footprint. He recounts some of the most interesting, funny and surprising experiences–like running down a river wearing a helmet and covered in fish slime. We wonder why some folks seem so disconnected from nature and who humans should be as a species. Check out Human Footprint on PBS, details below.

HUMAN FOOTPRINT, a new six-part PBS science documentary, premieres Wednesdays, July 5 – August 9, at 9 p.m. ET.

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The Heartbeat of Modern Duck Hunting


Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. Today in the studio, Mr. Shane Campbell-Staton of Human Footprint, host of Human Footprint, I should say. Shane, last time I saw you, you were in a camo jacket in a duck blind. How the heck are you?

Shane Campbell-Staton: I’m doing well, man. How about yourself?

Ramsey Russell: I’m doing fine. I’ve enjoyed the first 2 episodes. Very proud to have been a part of that project and very thankful that you all let me communicate the perspective of a hunter. Thank you very much for that.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. It was a pleasure to have you. I mean, our conversation, I think definitely the first time I’ve ever gone duck hunting, I think on this, you’re shooting this series, I went on a few hunting trips for different episodes throughout the series and before we started shooting, I’d never been hunting in my entire life.

Ramsey Russell: What do you remember most about the duck hunt? We only shot one duck, so you maybe remember a whole lot more. But what do you remember about going duck hunting?

Shane Campbell-Staton: So in terms of the experience, one, there was something really special about going out there, at the lack of a better word, ass crack of the morning and being out there, it’s cold, it’s a little bit uncomfortable, mosquitoes biting, et cetera. But just being out there and having a great conversation. And then the sun coming up and watching the day come in, watching the ducks as they start flying around, the anticipation, not knowing what’s going to happen, it actually reminded me a lot of field work that I do for my research in a lot of ways. But, yeah, I love being out there.

Ramsey Russell: You just said a word, what most people listen and appreciate about duck hunting, it’s a total experience. Getting out there in the morning, pitching the decoys, Char’s getting underfoot, she just wants to go fetch, get in place, maybe drinking coffee, talking, watching the sun come up, waiting on the waterfowl to fly and hopefully getting to have a conversation with them that brings them more closely into our decoys. That defines the heartbeat of modern duck hunting. Introduce yourself real quick, Shane.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. So my name is Shane Campbell-Staton, I am an evolutionary biologist. I am a professor of biology at Princeton University, and I’m also the host of Human Footprint TV series on PBS.

Ramsey Russell: Where’d you grow up?

Shane Campbell-Staton: I was raised in South Carolina, Sumter, South Carolina, and then I spent my late high school years in college in upstate New York.

Ramsey Russell: What would have been your relationship with nature that led you down this field? Led you to where you are now?

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. So it’s kind of different. I feel like when you ask most biologists how they got into nature, how they found their love for nature, typically they’ll tell a story about splashing around in tide pools or like going hiking or something like that as a kid, I was a latchkey kid. I was raised in the hood in Sumter, South Carolina, my mom, she worked 48, sometimes 72 hours shifts pushing a taxicab. So when I wasn’t in school, I was at home taking care of my little sister. And it was actually through television, that’s where I got introduced to the natural world, watching nature documentaries, watching dudes like Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin, telling these stories about these incredible animals in these amazing, just jaw droppingly beautiful places that I’d never thought I’d ever have a chance to experience. But for whatever reason, I got hooked and that turned into a career in biology somehow.

The World of Science Research

Ramsey Russell: You were telling me about some of your research projects. What are some of the research projects that consume your career right now?

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah, I have a pretty broad research program. The sort of unifying concept of our research is trying to understand how humans act as engines of evolutionary change in other species. So trying to understand what we do, who we are, our history, our mistakes, how they change the trajectory of evolution for other species around the globe. So we study things like the effects of urbanization, building cities, we’ve been looking at the evolution of how urban heat islands, like these really warm urban environments, how they affect thermal tolerance in these small lizards, which are really temperature sensitive. Looking at the evolution of their heat tolerance in cities. We’ve been studying the impacts of pollution in several cases, looking at the evolution of cancer resilience. And the wolves that hunt in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, they live in the exclusion zone and have been there for like 7 or 8 generations now exposed to ionizing radiation, getting radiation from the environment, also getting radiation from their food as apex predators for everything that they eat also contains a concentrated dose of ionizing radiation. And we know that that radiation is a potent cancer causing agent which potentially sets the stage for natural selection. So we’ve been studying that process in wolves and we’ve also been studying gators in the southeast, in Florida, looking at the evolution of reproductive systems in these alligators in response to these estrogen mimicking contaminants that have been spilled in lakes because of chemical runoff and accidental spills and things like that.

The Legacy of Ivory Poaching

So we’ve been trying to understand how this period of intense poaching, ivory poaching has impacted the rapid evolution of tusklessness in the African Elephant.

Ramsey Russell: What about the elephants? You mentioned it in one of your episodes about the elephant tusk.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. So one of the major projects that we’re pursuing now is trying to understand the impacts of poaching on the rapid evolution of tusklessness in African elephants. So we started this project in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. And there was a war, the Mozambique and civil war. It was fought between the mid 70s to early 90s, about 16 years. And during that time, all of the large mammalian wildlife in Gorongosa National Park was decimated, reduced by 90% in that decade and a half. Many of those animals are targeted for meat to feed the soldiers on both sides of the conflict. But elephants were targeted specifically for their tusks. And most African elephants are tusked. So all the males are tusked and most of the females are tusked. But there’s a small number of female African elephants that are born without their tusks and they never grow them. But after the civil war, a little over half of the surviving females were completely tuskless in Gorongosa. So we’ve been trying to understand how this period of intense poaching, ivory poaching has impacted the rapid evolution of tusklessness in the African Elephant.

Ramsey Russell: I wouldn’t have thought that such a long living animal would have evolved so quickly.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. And I think that’s the surprising thing when we think about rapid evolution, typically small organisms, things like mice and cockroaches and things like that, that have really large populations, really short lives, and they reproduce really fast, they have a foot up when it comes to being able to change very rapidly in response to any stimulus in the environment, that could be a pressure. But those long lived animals, like megafauna, like, really large bodied animals that live a long time, they have relatively small population sizes because each individual takes up so much space per unit time, the pace of evolution, theoretically is much slower for those animals, and rapid evolution takes a bigger toll on those populations. But even though that is the case generally, we still see that in these instances of intense human pressure, even the largest land animal on the planet can evolve rapidly under the right circumstances and given the right tools in the outset.

The Concept of Human Footprint

And I know you feel this as a hunter because you put yourself out in nature, you insert yourself, you become a part of natural landscapes in your life very often. 

Ramsey Russell: How did human footprint come to be? How did you find yourself in front of a camera hosting a 6 part series about the human footprint?

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah, it was sort of a bit of a slow burn, because I consider myself a really story driven scientist. A lot of my research is very story driven. I got into science because of stories, because of television. And I always sort of had it in the back of my head that if I had the chance, I would at least try to contribute to broader science education and a broader discussion about the interlinking of how science and society are sort of interlinked in so many ways. And I’d worked with Neil and Nate, the directors and producers from Days Edge, who put the series together. I’d worked with them on a few different projects beforehand, and I had this idea of looking specifically at contemporary evolution. But in my mind, it was pretty narrow in the sense of being very animal focused and looking at the evolutionary products of human disturbance. And Neil and Nate, actually, they had been thinking about something really similar. And so we came together and we brainstormed and we put together a treatment, sort of a teaser for what the show could possibly be. And they put together a bunch of footage that we had shot before and a bunch of new footage, and they put their magic on it, and they took it to different companies. And PBS got really excited about the idea, and they eventually greenlit it. And they gave us a lot of freedom to do something that I can honestly say I have never seen before. And I think that was the big thing for all of us, is like we wanted to do something that was different, and I think we accomplished that.

Ramsey Russell: I think, so far, so good. It’s a very broad series. You’ve got 6 episodes, each episode gets into different things within that topic. How did you narrow it all down and put it all together?

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah, the narrowing down, that was the hard part, that’s probably the hardest part. Because our human footprint is so vast, right? I mean, everything that we do, almost everything that we have ever done as a species has had these cascading impacts on the rest of the planet. And there’s all of these stories of incredible, weird, funny, tragic, just amazing stories that could be told. And it was a painstaking process, the treatment, I think there were like maybe 40, maybe even 50 different stories and I’m sure that list has grown since then that we wanted to tell. And all 3 of us, we got together and we voted on, if we have a top 5, what would the top 5 be? And we sort of went back and forth, and there was a lot of debate and argument, but eventually we narrowed it down to these 6 different aspects of the human footprint for the first season. And who knows if we’ll get a second season? Fingers crossed, hopefully. But I think that the stories that we’ve put together, each of the episodes, I think it weaves a pretty thorough story that explores as many angles as possible when it comes to each of these issues.

A Conversation That Must Be Had: What Should We Be Like As a Species?

Ramsey Russell: What do you hope to accomplish? What is the end game? What do you hope to accomplish by depicting the human footprint to viewers?

Shane Campbell-Staton: I think there are two things. One is to help people see and understand how fundamentally interconnected to the rest of the living world we are. And I know you feel this as a hunter because you put yourself out in nature, you insert yourself, you become a part of natural landscapes in your life very often. And I get to experience that as a scientist out doing field research, studying organisms and all these incredible environments. But for the person sitting at home in a city, in an apartment all of their life, they may not have that experience. There’s a lot of people all over the planet that feel disconnected. They feel like nature is out there somewhere, and then humans are here, and it’s just not true. And I hope that the series opens people’s eyes to understand how fundamentally interconnected we are to the natural world, those things that are more abstract about our culture. So politics, racism, economics, all of this stuff that is piled on top of our contemporary society, it all is abstract as it is, when you think about the natural world, it still has very tangible biological consequences, and understanding that the decisions that people make have consequences, and understanding what those consequences are and challenging people to think, what should we be like as a species? And the second thing is to have a conversation. I think even in these first 2 episodes, each of the stories that we tell are not simple stories, they’re complex, there are different sides, there are different viewpoints that we’ve tried to capture. And I think that’s important to bring those different viewpoints together, those different experiences together, those different relationships that people have with the world around them, bring those folks together and give them a voice so that we can all come together and have a conversation. I think, especially nowadays, we’re so used to talking into a vacuum, we spend a lot of time talking to people who agree with us on X, Y, or Z, or scrolling on whatever social media platform, and it ends up being the things that you look at the most are the things that you agree with the most, for the most part. But if we’re going to have a conversation, if we’re going to decide as a species, like what we want to be, what we want the world to be, you got to start bringing those perspectives together at some point. So I’m hoping that this series helps to sort of spark that conversation.

Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s a mouthful, and that’s a very good way of looking at it. Speaking of, who should we be like as a species, as humans, that’s what I left our conversation with. You and I had some very thought provoking. You’re not a hunter, you don’t identify as a hunter, obviously I do, but it was a very meaningful and good conversation in the duck blind that left me with a lot to think about, about us collectively moving forward. I know that you deal primarily with wildlife and nature, but just when did humanity go off the rails? Because it was just 150 years ago that we were all living hand to mouth. 150 years ago, the Dallas newspaper advertised or promoted recipes for mockingbirds and tanagers and the market hunting was going on at Chesapeake Bay, and people just ate wildlife to where now, just a blink of an eye later, myself and every other hunter on earth is criticized and badly. Maybe I should go eat a bunch of genetically modified chickens instead of shooting birds. When did that happen and why did it happen Shane?

From Hunter-Gatherers to Industrialized

This hunting, foraging, this sort of hunter gatherer lifestyle, having this balance of taking from nature, it just gets lost in the collective memory. 

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah, so I think the start of this process, it started with industrialization. So first industrialized agriculture in the mid to late 1800s and then the advent of the industrial revolution where manufacturing ramped up, the cities began to be built like megacities. We saw it in London, some of the oldest cities in the US, like Boston and other places, we start to see these urban centers build up around this manufacturing. And what comes with that is like people moving into those urban centers for jobs. And we now, just a few years back, I think we just passed a threshold where one half of the human population, over one half of the human population now live in cities. So in a very short period of time, there’s this really rapid change in how the human race lives writ large. And I think what comes along with that, as we move animals around the planet, intentionally or unintentionally, as we replace wilderness with cities or with croplands or what have you, the idea of nature gets farther and farther away, right? And along with that is that connection with nature and what it means to live a life alongside nature. All of that gets farther and farther away in our understanding and also in our memory. And I think it’s difficult to empathize or see a point of view that you’re not typically exposed to. And I think that’s writ large. It’s one of the shortcomings of our species in general. So I think that with this rapid change in culture and way of living, those folks who have stuck with the “old ways”, these ways that we have lived before, like hundreds of thousands of years, or I would say, sorry, not hundreds of thousands, but like over 100,000 years ago, this hunting, foraging, this sort of hunter gatherer lifestyle, having this balance of taking from nature, it just gets lost in the collective memory. And I think with a lot of issues when it comes to things like hunting, but also when it comes to things like conservation, you get really divergent opinions. Because if you’re sitting in an apartment in New York City, it’s like, yeah, you like the idea of birds flying free in Montana, or you like the idea of wolves, roaming around Yellowstone and things like that. But if you’re living in Montana or you’re living around Yellowstone, your experience with nature, it’s much less that planet Earth view. It’s like, oh, look at all of planet Earth watching it on a documentary, it becomes something that’s much more real, much more tangible, much more down to Earth. And I think what comes along with that is just a divergence in opinion and a divergence in lifestyle, divergence in perspective.

Ramsey Russell: Because nature is out there somewhere else, that’s it.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: What were some of the funniest things you saw on this trip?

Shane Campbell-Staton: You mean making the episode?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, making the episode. The whale oil had to be one of them. It did smell like knowledge to you, apparently.

Shane Campbell-Staton: I’m sure there was a whole lot of knowledge there. But man, the smell in the whale warehouse, in the Smithsonian, oh, lord, it was singular, I’ll put it that way. I never smelled anything like it in my entire life. But in general, each of these acts, I think, taught me something different, each of the conversations I had, taught me something different. Talking in the whale act, this idea that whales powered a lot of the world for some time is a really weird thing to think about. It’s like the idea that instead of electricity, you flick on a lamp and it’s being lit by whale oil. It’s being used as a lubricant, it’s being used like all of these different things. People are dependent on whales, the largest animals on the planet and we’re killing for their utility in this way. Like these things that we use now, like petroleum or other synthetic materials to do everything, was dependent on whales at some point, that’s weird. And the fact that it was so needed and so wanted that it almost decimated not just one species of whale, but all of the species. The fact that we have that kind of power is it’s something to be in awe of, and it’s something to be terrified of, and it’s something to be proud of, all of these things all at once. And I think that story, I think, really brings that home. But so does the story of the Chesapeake and our conversation, I think, brought a lot of that out as well.

Ramsey Russell: Just how many whales were killed? Was it something like 10 times the biomass of all wildlife today? Something like that. It was astounding how many whales must have been in the ocean at one time.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. So when you’re talking about the whales that were removed from the ocean during just a few decades, in terms of biomass, the total mass of living tissue that was removed in the form of whales, if you took every living mammal on the planet today that’s walking around and you put them all together, the number of whales that was removed during that short period far exceeds the biomass of all of the mammals that exist on this planet right now.

Ramsey Russell: What was one of the weirdest things you came across?

Shane Campbell-Staton: Punt guns, man. I had never seen anything like it. I’d never heard of punt guns, I had no idea, I didn’t know anything about the history. But, man, seeing those punt guns, I was like, wow. I mean, it looked like something that you would take into war. And I think just like the size and power of those firearms, just staggering, just absolutely staggering to me. But at the same time, the tools that we use for whale hunting, just as staggering, if not more like grenade powered, like spearheads and things like that that explode once they’re in the whale’s body, it’s a lot. I think the thing I learned most is humans, we don’t do anything, just a little bit. We’re smart, we have an incredible amount of ingenuity and our technology is just far beyond. It gives us a power that’s far beyond anything that we’ve ever seen in the natural world.

Ramsey Russell: Unless it comes to catching those snakes down in Florida. It’s unbelievable. Because I don’t think we’re ever going to get rid of them Shane. Like, the one you all walked up on, that was just up, but you all spent all day trying to find that thing, well there he was, but you couldn’t get to him.

The Cycle of Human Interference: The Ripple Effects of Human Behavior

So our behavior changed the evolutionary fate of these fish. But then the presence of those fish fundamentally changed the culture of the people whose living comes from that river as well. 

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. Like, when it comes to invasive species, I mean, that’s the other thing, right? The other thing that we do big is we move things around globally. We move other species intentionally and unintentionally in massive numbers. So you look at ecosystems that are dwindling, that are sort of teetering on the edge. A lot of times, a big player in that story is a species that’s there now that wasn’t supposed to be there, something that we moved there really recently. And either that is an invasive species that we move from somewhere else on the planet, or many times it’s domesticated species or formerly domesticated species that find their way into the wild either by happenstance or on purpose.

Ramsey Russell: 90% of the wildlife biomass has decreased with the snakes in the Everglades, that’s just mind blowing.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: You all were just talking about the animals, you all weren’t even talking about the amount of plants that have become so invasive.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. And if you look southern Florida, I mean, there’s so many invasive species in southern Florida now. The small lizards that we study, the anoles, they’re native to the Caribbean, Central South America. And there’s one species that’s native to the US, that’s the Carolina anole or the green anole. You spent any time in the south, you see bright green lizard with this strawberry red throat fan, like, doing push ups and stuff on your house or on your porch, that is the only species of anole that’s native to the US. But in southern Florida, there’s I think, like 12 or 14 species of anole there now that have come from all over the place.

Ramsey Russell: When you all were riding with the one lady that was catching the snakes, I was surprised that you all didn’t get into the iguana thing going on down in Florida. Did you all have any dealings with that at all?

Shane Campbell-Staton: So I saw a few iguana when I was there and I think it’s always tempting to veer off when it comes to stories, because each of these things, it’s such a good story in and of itself. But when it comes to Florida, it’s like we had to tell a story, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to know that there’s so much to say. I think as a storyteller, it’s always hard. It’s kind of like having to choose your favorite child, like something like that. There’s all these stories to be told, but finding an exemplar, like finding an example that allows you to tell parts of the whole story, whether you’re talking about iguanas or peacocks or whatever, choosing one example that sort of exemplifies what is happening in a place at a given time and all of the different angles, I think that can be a really hard process, but a really important process. And I think, thinking about southern Florida, the invasive pythons, that story, it shares so much with every other invasive species there.

Ramsey Russell: The whole thing about human footprint, humanity changes the world around them, the world around them shapes them. And there’s so many iguanas down in south Florida now that there are commercial enterprises emerging to hunt iguanas with air guns. Can you believe that?

Shane Campbell-Staton: Oh, yeah. I absolutely believe it. For many invasive species, there are culinary markets that are popping up with the invasive carp in the Mississippi, trying to figure out a way to actually consume this overabundance of this one kind of fish. But the same is true. Think about wild boar, different lion fish, all these organisms, people have tried using, having them as food as the solution, because we eat so much. But even in those cases, it still, at least yet, hasn’t solved the issue.

Ramsey Russell: Shane, was there any moment when you all were out there doing this field work that you asked yourself, what in the hell have I got myself into? Because when you put on that football helmet, held a net running down the boat with those cars, if that wasn’t it, I don’t know what is.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah, the redneck fishing tournament, that was definitely a cultural experience for me. I definitely have never experienced anything like it. And I think I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous going into that one. But being there and having conversations with local fishermen, hearing people’s stories and people’s relationship to the natural space, people’s relationship, how their lives have been changed by the invasion of this foreign species, it was fun. It was fun, and it was complex, and it was kind of sad, but also kind of goofy. These fish launching themselves out of the water, smacking people in the face. I got slammed in the face at least once by a really large Carp myself. But it was fun, and it was like a cultural experience, which is kind of odd when you think about it. So our behavior changed the evolutionary fate of these fish. But then the presence of those fish fundamentally changed the culture of the people whose living comes from that river as well. So that feedback, it goes both ways.

Ramsey Russell: What did you learn about yourself?

Shane Campbell-Staton: On this journey, it was really easy for me in the beginning to feel like I was the expert in this whole story. Because I spend so much time studying the biological impacts of what we do as a species. But each of these topics, talking with folks that come at each of these subjects from different angles, it showed me how narrow my perspective was. And I feel like I learned so much from so many people that had different expertise, which was key. Like our conversation Ramsey, I think about that conversation, I think every week since we’ve had that conversation, I thought about that conversation at least once. And for me, it was seeing your passion for nature. Obviously, you have a deep and intense passion for hunting. But that passion for nature, that holds that up, that forms the foundation of that, that’s something I feel every day and it just manifests in a different way for me. And I think it made me realize how there’s this unifying, underpinning feeling, this biophilia, this draw to nature, this want to be a part of nature and to claim nature as your own, it’s something that’s fundamentally human in a lot of ways. And it manifests in very different ways based on your upbringing, where you come from, your culture, your family history, et cetera. But that thing that drives you to hunt is the same thing that drives me to do science. Some people choose to pick flowers, some people choose to pin insects, some people choose to garden, some people choose to have a lawn that they curate and manicure every week. But each of these things, it’s different manifestations of the same underpinning feeling like this want to connect with nature in an intense way, more than just looking at a picture more than just the passive taking in of scenery. But to be a part of it.

Hunting As a Natural Gateway to Conservation

Motivation to preserve that thing that you love. And we see that in the history. Hunters have been pretty diehard conservationists for a really long time. 

Ramsey Russell: How did your feelings towards hunting change?

Shane Campbell-Staton: That is a good question. Let me think about that for a second before I answer. Yeah, so going into this, I can honestly say that I was more or less ignorant to what hunting culture is just because I’d never experienced it before, it was something that was just foreign to me. And I think typically when I’m faced with those things that I just don’t know anything about, I intentionally tried not to form any opinion whatsoever until I have some information to go off of. And I think throughout this series, in a bunch of different episodes, I’ve gone on hunting trips, like in the invasive species episode, hunting boar, in the dog episode that will air next week, I go on a hunting trip with this young inuit hunter. We go out seal hunting, and obviously the hunting trip that we did together. And I realized that with two things. One is that hunting, again, it’s just a different way of expressing this thing that is so intense and dear and close to me, it’s just being expressed in a different way. Two, hunting is a natural gateway to conservation because in order to get up so ridiculously early in the morning and go out there and get eaten up by mosquitoes, and to have these moments of interaction, there has to be a passion, an intense passion and joy that’s associated with that. And with that intense passion, enjoy, it also comes motivation. Motivation to preserve that thing that you love. And we see that in the history. Hunters have been pretty diehard conservationists for a really long time. And I think sort of seeing how that plays out in individuals, like seeing your passion for it, seeing how native Hawaiian hunters have a passion in terms of their relationship with wild pigs, looking at how the relationship between humans and dogs have been so fundamental to how that passion and necessity plays out in the arctic, all of these different viewpoints, it just made me realize how diverse that passion can be expressed, essentially. And I think hunting is one of those expressions. Now, a lot of people have a lot of opinions about it, some people will love it, some people will hate it. But it’s really easy, I think, for us to make things black and white. I think we really gravitate towards stories that are like good guys and bad guys. And we look for, okay, who’s going to be the good guy and who’s going to be the bad guy? But humans, we’re not that simple, we are complicated, we’re complex. And each of these issues that we’re dealing with, hunting included, it’s complex. It has a complicated history, it has complicated impacts on the planet that we live in. And ultimately, what is needed is a conversation.

Ramsey Russell: Amen. One thing you and I talked about in the blind is how my biophilic tendencies are expressed in hunting, taking of a duck’s life. Yours are in research. You’re immersed neck deep into it, catching lizards, catching alligators, but it’s the same thing. And whether you’re a biologist or a farmer or a hunter or someone living in a concrete jungle where nature is just out there somewhere, there’s no getting out of this life without leaving some form of impact, some form of human footprint. Is that right?

Every Lifestyle Leaves Its Own Footprint

We fundamentally altered things and they will be forever altered. But we need to decide exactly what it is we want this world to be moving forward because that’s what it’s going to be.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Oh, absolutely. And that comes from decision, and it also comes from indecision. Choosing not to make a decision about something can have just as drastic of an impact. I mean, that’s just how ubiquitous we are as a species and how ubiquitous our impact is. I think in all of the ways that we live, the diversity of lifestyles, each of them has its own footprint. And I think that’s something that we need to understand and realize.

Ramsey Russell: When you look at a lot of the impacts expressed in your document series, does it make you feel like we really are contributing humanity, contributing to another extinction that some people have called the Anthropocene?

Shane Campbell-Staton: Yeah. If we’re going to get real about it, our impact, like our story in this chapter of Life on the Planet, it hasn’t been a pretty one. We are a species that in some ways, we’re too clever for our own good in a lot of ways. And we just operate differently when it comes to the environment. And if gone unchecked, we will certainly be the cause of the 6th major mass extinction event on the planet. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. But in order for it to not be that way, we have to make some really intentional decisions. The reality is, one way or the other, the future of our planet is going to be what we make it like, what we as a species make it, what we make it in terms of what we value, in terms of how we decide to limit ourselves, these are the things that are going to determine what the world is. Because the reality is, even if you could rewind the clock, right now, you could put everything back to where it was before we got here, you still wouldn’t have the same thing. Because our footprint, we’ve already changed it all. It’s like you drop a cup on the floor and it shatters into a bunch of pieces, you can put those pieces back together again and make sure that there’s no holes or anything, you can still drink out of the cup. But you look at the cup, the cup is not the same as it was before. And I think that’s the situation that we’re in right now. We fundamentally altered things and they will be forever altered. But we need to decide exactly what it is we want this world to be moving forward because that’s what it’s going to be.

Ramsey Russell: Thank you, Shane. I’ve really enjoyed our meeting tonight. Folks, you all been listening to Dr. Shane Campbell-Staton, host of Human Footprint. Be sure to check it out on Wednesday nights, PBS television 08:00 PM central time. And if you miss it on TV, go download the PBS app and check it out. I think it’s a great, interesting documentary that all of you all will greatly enjoy. Thank you, Shane.

Shane Campbell-Staton: Thank you. It’s always a pleasure, Ramsey.

Ramsey Russell: And folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, see you next time.


Podcast Sponsors:, your proven source for the very best waterfowl hunting adventures. Argentina, Mexico, 6 whole continents worth. For two decades, we’ve delivered real duck hunts for real duck hunters. because the next great hunt is closer than you think. Search our database of proven US and Canadian outfits. Contact them directly with confidence.

Benelli USA Shotguns. Trust is earned. By the numbers, I’ve bagged 121 waterfowl subspecies bagged on 6 continents, 20 countries, 36 US states and growing. I spend up to 225 days per year chasing ducks, geese and swans worldwide, and I don’t use shotgun for the brand name or the cool factor. Y’all know me way better than that. I’ve shot, Benelli Shotguns for over two decades. I continue shooting Benelli shotguns for their simplicity, utter reliability and superior performance. Whether hunting near home or halfway across the world, that’s the stuff that matters.

HuntProof, the premier mobile waterfowl app, is an absolute game changer. Quickly and easily attribute each hunt or scouting report to include automatic weather and pinpoint mapping; summarize waterfowl harvest by season, goose and duck species; share with friends within your network; type a hunt narrative and add photos. Migrational predictor algorithms estimate bird activity and, based on past hunt data will use weather conditions and hunt history to even suggest which blind will likely be most productive!

Inukshuk Professional Dog Food Our beloved retrievers are high-performing athletes that live to recover downed birds regardless of conditions. That’s why Char Dawg is powered by Inukshuk. With up to 720 kcals/ cup, Inukshuk Professional Dog Food is the highest-energy, highest-quality dog food available. Highly digestible, calorie-dense formulas reduce meal size and waste. Loaded with essential omega fatty acids, Inuk-nuk keeps coats shining, joints moving, noses on point. Produced in New Brunswick, Canada, using only best-of-best ingredients, Inukshuk is sold directly to consumers. I’ll feed nothing but Inukshuk. It’s like rocket fuel. The proof is in Char Dawg’s performance.

Tetra Hearing Delivers premium technology that’s specifically calibrated for the users own hearing and is comfortable, giving hunters a natural hearing experience, while still protecting their hearing. Using patent-pending Specialized Target Optimization™ (STO), the world’s first hearing technology designed optimize hearing for hunters in their specific hunting environments. TETRA gives hunters an edge and gives them their edge back. Can you hear me now?! Dang straight I can. Thanks to Tetra Hearing!

Voormi Wool-based technology is engineered to perform. Wool is nature’s miracle fiber. It’s light, wicks moisture, is inherently warm even when wet. It’s comfortable over a wide temperature gradient, naturally anti-microbial, remaining odor free. But Voormi is not your ordinary wool. It’s new breed of proprietary thermal wool takes it next level–it doesn’t itch, is surface-hardened to bead water from shaking duck dogs, and is available in your favorite earth tones and a couple unique concealment patterns. With wool-based solutions at the yarn level, Voormi eliminates the unwordly glow that’s common during low light while wearing synthetics. The high-e hoodie and base layers are personal favorites that I wear worldwide. Voormi’s growing line of innovative of performance products is authenticity with humility. It’s the practical hunting gear that we real duck hunters deserve.

Mojo Outdoors, most recognized name brand decoy number one maker of motion and spinning wing decoys in the world. More than just the best spinning wing decoys on the market, their ever growing product line includes all kinds of cool stuff. Magnetic Pick Stick, Scoot and Shoot Turkey Decoys much, much more. And don’t forget my personal favorite, yes sir, they also make the one – the only – world-famous Spoonzilla. When I pranked Terry Denman in Mexico with a “smiling mallard” nobody ever dreamed it would become the most talked about decoy of the century. I’ve used Mojo decoys worldwide, everywhere I’ve ever duck hunted from Azerbaijan to Argentina. I absolutely never leave home without one. Mojo Outdoors, forever changing the way you hunt ducks.

BOSS Shotshells copper-plated bismuth-tin alloy is the good ol’ days again. Steel shot’s come a long way in the past 30 years, but we’ll never, ever perform like good old fashioned lead. Say goodbye to all that gimmicky high recoil compensation science hype, and hello to superior performance. Know your pattern, take ethical shots, make clean kills. That is the BOSS Way. The good old days are now.

Tom Beckbe The Tom Beckbe lifestyle is timeless, harkening an American era that hunting gear lasted generations. Classic design and rugged materials withstand the elements. The Tensas Jacket is like the one my grandfather wore. Like the one I still wear. Because high-quality Tom Beckbe gear lasts. Forever. For the hunt.

Flashback Decoy by Duck Creek Decoy Works. It almost pains me to tell y’all about Duck Creek Decoy Work’s new Flashback Decoy because in  the words of Flashback Decoy inventor Tyler Baskfield, duck hunting gear really is “an arms race.” At my Mississippi camp, his flashback decoy has been a top-secret weapon among my personal bag of tricks. It behaves exactly like a feeding mallard, making slick-as-glass water roil to life. And now that my secret’s out I’ll tell y’all something else: I’ve got 3 of them.

Ducks Unlimited takes a continental, landscape approach to wetland conservation. Since 1937, DU has conserved almost 15 million acres of waterfowl habitat across North America. While DU works in all 50 states, the organization focuses its efforts and resources on the habitats most beneficial to waterfowl.

It really is Duck Season Somewhere for 365 days. Ramsey Russell’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast is available anywhere you listen to podcasts. Please subscribe, rate and review Duck Season Somewhere podcast. Share your favorite episodes with friends. Business inquiries or comments contact Ramsey Russell at And be sure to check out our new GetDucks Shop.  Connect with Ramsey Russell as he chases waterfowl hunting experiences worldwide year-round: Insta @ramseyrussellgetducks, YouTube @DuckSeasonSomewherePodcast,  Facebook @GetDucks