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Today on the podcast we are discussing a particularly interesting viral media story that I’m guessing a bunch of folks out there in the audience may have come across recently.

Researchers Evan Buechley and Ethan Frehner from the University of Utah’s Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology Lab recently published a scientific paper about an interesting and previously undocumented behavior of a very common species here in the North American West – the American badger.  Evan and Ethan captured time-lapse footage showing a badger bury an entire cow carcass.

Now not only did they publish a scientific paper about the discovery of this behavior of badgers, but they also released a clip of the time-lapse video footage showing this badger bury the carcass over the course of several days.

The video, and the entire story went viral.  The original video clip uploaded to the University of Utah’s YouTube channel now has well over 1 million views, and the story has been covered by the New York Times, National Geographic, NPR, Science Magazine, USA Today – and countless other mainstream news outlets.

So Evan and Ethan have been busy giving interviews and talking about a species that they didn’t even intend to be the subject of their research! 

Luckily for us – Evan is a close friend of mine – we worked together as California condor field biologists 10 years ago, and Evan actually joined us for an early episode of the EOC podcast – episode 16 about his research on Egyptian vultures in Ethiopia.

So I was able to convince Evan to join us again for today’s episode – but I also wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the reasons why this story went viral.  As scientists and science communicators, we’re constantly striving to reach people beyond our inner circle with important research and information about science and conservation, and this story presents an unique example that we can learn from.

To aid in this learning process I also invited Dr. Brad Okdie, who studies the psychology behind viral media at Ohio State University.





#BuryThatCow t-shirt campaign!  (proceeds go to scavenger research!)

Ethan and Evan’s research paper in Western North American Naturalist

Original “Badger Buries Cow” video on University of Utah’s YouTube channel

Follow Evan Buechley on Twitter

The University of Utah’s Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology Lab

Brad Okdie’s Relationships and Technology Lab at Ohio State University

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