Nature Boost

Nature Boost podcast

Interested in exploring the outdoors, but unsure where to start? It’s as easy as stepping out your door! Join host Jill Pritchard from the Missouri Department of Conservation as she explores everything nature has to offer – from health benefits and wildlife viewing, to outdoor recreation and unbelievable conservation stories. Subscribe and get your own Nature Boost!

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Nature Boost Episodes

Episode 48: Saving Missouri's Hellbender Part 1: What the heck is a hellbender? Listen to this episode and find out! Missouri Herpetologist Dr. Jeff Briggler takes Nature Boost on an Ozark stream to check during breeding season for the eastern hellbender. This episode discusses the hellbender’s endangered status, the challenges both Ozark and eastern subspecies face, and MDC’s partnership with the Saint Louis Zoo to restore populations. Learn more about the hellbender by visiting or E48 Transcript

Episode 49: Saving Missouri's Hellbender Part 2: Missouri’s Ozark and eastern hellbender populations are endangered, but a special partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Saint Louis Zoo is helping these salamanders stage a comeback. In February’s episode, hear from Justin Elden, Curator of Herpetology and Aquatics at the Saint Louis Zoo, and Director of the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Ron and Karen Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation, as he shows us around the Zoo’s Herpetarium and talks about the challenges and success stories around this special breeding program. E49 Transcript

Episode 50: Solar Eclipse 2024: Nature Boost is celebrating 2024’s biggest celestial event – the solar eclipse slated for April 8 in southeast Missouri! We talk to MDC Media Specialist and self-proclaimed astronomy nerd Dan Zarlenga about how and why an eclipse happens, what to expect, and best ways to take pictures and videos of the event. We also speak to Urban Wildlife Biologist Erin Shank about what our native wildlife thinks of these events and the interesting ways they react when the moon blocks out the light of the sun. E50 Transcript

Episode 51: Here Come the Cicadas!: Missouri’s annual cicadas will be joined by their periodical friends this summer – prepare for a noisy season! What even are cicadas? Why do they spend most of their lives underground? What are the benefits of these little creatures? Learn the answers and dispel some cicada myths when Nature Boost is joined by MDC Forest Entomologist Robbie Doerhoff. E51 Transcript

Episode 52: Best Wishes to Sara Parker Pauley!: MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley is permanently out-of-office and retiring from the Department! Sara joins Nature Boost to look back on her time in conservation, the people who inspired her, and shares guidance for those interested in a conservation-related career.

  • Episode 36: Let's Go on a Winter Hike: There’s still much to explore in the outdoors during winter. Bundle up, stuff your pocket with Kleenex, and head out on a trail with Jill following a snowfall! Look for wildlife tracks, get in some steps, and enjoy nature in a winter wonderland. E36 Transcript
  • Episode 37: Winter Herp Survival: Many wildlife species are active during the winter, but where have the reptiles and amphibians gone?! Missouri Herpetologist Jeff Briggler is back to tell us how frogs, turtles, lizards, and snakes survive the cold months. He also tells us about the latest edition of MDC’s Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri illustrated guidebook. E37 Transcript
  • Episode 38: Missouri Conservationist and Xplor: MDC Magazine Manager Stephanie Thurber joins Jill this episode to discuss the Missouri Conservationist and Xplor for Kids magazines. Learn how you can subscribe to these amazing FREE publications, how the magazine has evolved through the decades, and the variety of topics covered. Stephanie mentions her favorite Xplor story in this episode, the Wood Duck Diaries. E38 Transcript
  • Episode 39: Give Turtles a Break!: Keep an eye on the roads this spring for one of our reptilian friends – box turtles! Turtles are coming out of their winter dens in search of food and a mate and are common seen crossing the roads. MDC Naturalist Shelly Colatskie also tells listeners about Missouri’s most famous turtle, Peanut, and how this red-eared slider is spreading awareness in the anti-littering movement. E39 Transcript
  • Episode 40: Morels Part II: Morel mushrooms are tricky fungi to hunt. Join Jill as she sets out on another quest to find the coveted springtime mushroom. Will she succeed? Or will she spend another year wondering if these mushrooms actually live up to the hype? Listen and find out. E40 Transcript
  • Episode 41: The Cave State: Learn why Missouri is dubbed “The Cave State” as Jill goes cave exploring with MDC Naturalist and cave expert Shelly Colatskie. Learn why the state hosts so many caves, how they form, and tips and resources on how to become a caver yourself! E41 Transcript
  • Episode 42: Summertime Q&A: MDC Naturalist Sarah Easton joins Nature Boost this episode to discuss common questions and concerns she receives from the public each summer. Topics include bird feeding, what to do if you find injured wildlife, ticks and mosquitoes, and more! E42 Transcript
  • Episode 43: A Night at the Muny: Join us for a night of theater at the Muny! Muny CEO Kwofe Coleman tells us what makes this outdoor theater so special, how the nature setting adds to productions, and why so many continue to attend shows year after year. Later, MDC’s Karen Hudson guides us around Forest Park and tells us about MDC’s partnership with the Muny. E43 Transcript
  • Episode 44: Lunch Date: Nature Boost meets up with MDC Conservation Educator Ginger Miller for a picnic lunch in Windsor. What’s on the menu? Listen and find out! E44 Transcript
  • Episode 45: Rockwood's Rock Climbing: Nature Boost learns the ropes this episode with Kevin McCarthy and Russell Errett from the BETA Fund. These two rock climbing enthusiasts helped establish the first rock climbing bluff offered on an MDC area at Rockwoods Reservation. Learn rock climbing basics, safety, how to get started, and hear about BETA Fund’s mission to conserve outdoor spaces in the Midwest for recreational rock climbing. Read more about the organization at E45 Transcript
  • Episode 46: Q&A with a Naturalist: MDC Naturalist Sarah Easton joins us again to answer common questions received during the fall and winter seasons. Topics include white-tailed deer, MDC’s Eagle Days, leaving the leaves, and how to recycle live Christmas trees for wildlife E46 Transcript
  • Episode 47: Seasonal Self-Care: Nature’s effect on our health is a topic we’ve discussed before, but it bears repeating! Primary Care Physician Dr. Jennifer Allen joins us to discuss why our bodies and minds need nature and why getting outside is especially important in the winter! E47 Transcript
  • Episode 24: Maple Sugaring: Got a sweet tooth? Then this episode is for you! January and February are great times to get outdoors and taste one of the forest’s sweetest gifts – maple syrup. Jill talks with Rockwoods Reservation’s Amy Wilkinson to learn how to tap sugar maple trees to make syrup. E24 Transcript
  • Episode 25: The Ancient Sport of Falconry: You ever see those hawks sitting along highways or atop the trees? Some people use them to hunt small game! Learn about this ancient way to hunt as Jill speaks with Master Falconer Meagan Duffee-Yates and accompanies her on a duck hunt with her peregrine falcon, Sidewinder. E25 Transcript
  • Episode 26: Plant Natives For Spring!: Get your yard spring-ready and plant natives! Get tips from MDC Native Landscape Specialists Alix Daniel and Cydney Ross and watch your yard bloom with color and wildlife this year! E26 Transcript
  • Episode 27: Forest Park Owl Prowl.: Nature is everywhere – including in downtown St. Louis! Join Jill as she takes an owl prowl with Naturalist Mark Glenshaw, who has been observing a Great-Horned Owl in Forest Park since 2005! Learn all about this species, and even how to spot owls in nature on your own! Be sure to learn more about the Forest Park owls by following Mark on Twitter at @forestparkowls E27 Transcript
  • Episode 28: Itchy & Scratchy Summer: In this episode of Nature Boost, we’re discussing deterrents many people face when it comes to a Missouri summer – poison ivy, mosquitos, and ticks. Jill speaks with Runge Nature Center Manager Kevin Lohraff for tips on how to enjoy the outdoors without letting these plants and bloodsuckers ruin your time. This episode also explores how these unpopular members of nature contribute to the ecosystem. E28 Transcript
  • Episode 29: Revisiting Paddlefest: In June’s episode, we’re revisiting a Paddlefest event held at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary near St. Louis. We talk to multiple participants, re-learn some basic paddling techniques, and even hear the history of the area from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. E29 Transcript
  • Episode 30: Geese Banding: Tag along on geese banding efforts in mid-Missouri and learn why and how MDC biologists place waterfowl identification bands on Canada geese. E30 Transcript
  • Episode 31: Monarch Mania: Butterflies are insects, but many of us think of them as something “more.” Perhaps it’s their beauty or the fact that they don’t bite or sting that makes people like them so much! Learn about the iconic monarch butterfly, their impressive migration journey, and what you can do to help support their population. E31 Transcript
  • Episode 32: The Twins of Cape Girardeau Nature Center: It’s getting close to Halloween season, and what better way to celebrate than learning about one of Missouri’s most unique snakes? Join Jill as she speaks with MDC Naturalist Alex Holmes about the two-headed black ratsnake at the Cape Girardeau Nature Center. E32 Transcript
  • Episode 33: Bats of Missouri: Feeling batty this month? Learn all about one of Halloween’s most iconic mascots in October’s episode. Jill speaks with MDC Bat Ecologist Jordan Meyer about types of bats found in Missouri, what they’re up to this time of year, and what to do if you happen to find one on your property. E33 Transcript
  • Episode 34: Talkin' Thanksgiving Turkey: Celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday by learning more about the wild turkey. Wild Turkey Biologist Nick Oakley gives some fun facts about this gamebird you can bring to your dinner table. E34 Transcript
  • Episode 35: Audubon Christmas Bird Count: Celebrate our birds this holiday season through the Christmas Bird Count. US Fish and Wildlife Migratory Bird Biologist Sarah Kendrick tells us the history of the bird census, how to join, and how the data helps declining bird populations. Learn more about the Christmas Bird Count at E35 Transcript
  • Mini Boost - Bird is the Word!: State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick joins Nature Boost for round 2 on Missouri’s birds. She tells us why many populations are sadly in decline, but gives us tips on how we can each do our part to help reverse those numbers. Sarah also gives us good tips on winter bird watching, and why the cold season is a great time to pick up the hobby! MB01 Transcript
  • Tracking Copperheads - Bonus Episode: Most people stay clear of snakes, but one team of researchers is on the hunt for one of Missouri’s most elusive species: the eastern copperhead! Jill interviews researchers at Powder Valley Nature Center and learns about their tracking efforts to better understand copperhead populations around the Kirkwood area. Bonus 02 Transcript
  • Episode 14: Morel Hunting: Join Jill as she sets out on a quest to find the elusive morel mushroom. She’s joined by MDC State Botanist Malissa Briggler, who gives her expertise on when and where to find these tasty morsels as they pop up during early spring! E14 Transcript
  • Episode 15: Nature Photography: Jill interviews MDC Photographer David Stonner. E15 Transcript
  • Episode 16: Camping: Jill speaks with Springfield Nature Center Manager Rudy Martinez, who gives listeners tips on gear, food, activities, and great places in Missouri to set up camp. E16 Transcript
  • Episode 17: Native Creatures: The Indigenous Mammals and Birds of Missouri: As Missouri celebrates its bicentennial in 2021, an art exhibition at the State Historical Society of Missouri is shining a light on the animals that inhabited the area at the time it became a state 200 years ago. Join Jill as she speaks with Curator of Art Collections Joan Stack about the images from John James Audubon and Charles Schwartz, and how changing landscapes throughout the years have impacted native wildlife. The exhibition runs through July 16. E17 Transcript
  • Episode 18: Family Camping Tradition: Head out on a bluff trail and into the crystal-clear waters of the Huzzah with the Newenhaus family from St. Louis. Their camping tradition spans sixty years, and they are sharing their adventures, and what keeps the generations together and returning every year. E18 Transcript
  • Episode 19: Fishing: Discover nature through fishing! Learn the basics from MDC’s wildlife artist and avid bass angler Alexis “AJ” Joyce. Learn about best times to wet a line, how to handle fish, and why MDC’s Mo Outdoors app is a great fishing companion! E19 Transcript
  • Episode 20: Floating the Missouri and Mississippi Confluence: Floating Missouri’s streams is a fantastic way to unwind and get a nature boost. In this episode, Jill joins certified paddling instructors Bob Virag, Craig Heaton, and Perry Whitaker for a float on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Get tips from the experts to make the most out of your next float trip, and even hear the story about how one of these guys attempted to break a kayaking world record! E20 Transcript
  • Episode 21: Missouri's Fall Color: Fall is finally here, but have you ever wondered why leaves change color? Jill gets the scoop from MDC Community Forester Ann Koenig, who explains how leaves turn and the best time to see fall foliage in Missouri. Be sure to check out MDC’s Fall Color Forecast to learn more at E21 Transcript
  • Episode 22: MDC K-9 Ride-Along: MDC’s Protection Unit recruited the help of five four-legged officers over the last year. Learn how these canine officers help conservation agents in investigations and outreach programs as Jill rides along with Agent Susan Swem and her partner K-9 Astro. E22 Transcript
  • Episode 23: Winter Eagle Watching: Discover nature this season through eagle watching! Join Jill as she speaks with MDC Resource Scientist Janet Haslerig about why winter is the best season to view bald eagles in Missouri. Jill also shares Christmas tree care tips and ways you can recycle your tree after the holidays. E23 Transcript
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