A new podcast that launches today, Research Question, profiles researchers at The University of Winnipeg, the questions they have, and what they’re doing to find answers.
The first episode provides insight into the research questions Dr. Craig Willis has about managing wildlife diseases in the wake of global bat-borne pandemics like COVID-19.
Researchers like Dr. Craig Willis are making vital contributions to scientific discoveries in Canada and abroad.
Dr. Jino Distasio
“I’m really pleased that the Bat Lab could be involved in the first episode of the Research Question podcast,” said Willis. “I think Kent, and the rest of the Oral History Centre team, have done a fantastic job helping us explain how our work on bats and white-nose syndrome can help conserve the important role bats play in ecosystems and the economy, and understand how human activities can lead to devastating events like the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The pilot project is a collaboration between the Oral History Centre and the Research Office. It is written, narrated, and produced by audio technician Kent Davies, with web editing and logo design by program coordinator Kimberley Moore.
“Kent and Kim are pretty well-known as being experts in their field, but within a small circle on campus,” said Brett Lougheed, who conceived the idea for the podcast when he became director of the Oral History Centre. “This is one way to spread their brilliance and develop the value of the Oral History Centre as a knowledge mobilization tool.”
A unique aspect of this series is that unlike many podcasts, it includes transcribed notes and citations. To Moore, this is key to ensuring it is both accessible and respected.
“Just because this is fun to listen to, it is still academic work and there’s a lot of thought that goes into it,” she said. “It’s also important for people to have an alternate route of engagement, to be able to read the material if they can’t listen to it.”
This new and exciting form of digital scholarship provides an entry point to help people understand the complex research taking place in the UWinnipeg community.
“There is no shortage of great research stories,” said Dr. Jino Distasio, Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “Researchers like Dr. Craig Willis are making vital contributions to scientific discoveries in Canada and abroad. Partnering with the Oral History Centre provides an innovative way to share this knowledge with a wider community.”
In January and February 2020, Davies interviewed Willis, as well as bat lab researcher Kaleigh Norquay. He was thrilled when Norquay offered to record some of her field research in process. This allowed him to juxtapose the interviews with an active scene, giving the listener a deeper sense of what it’s like to do research.
“I gave her a tutorial on how to use the recording equipment and she went above and beyond my expectations, recording every cave site and interviewing the bat lab research team,” said Davies. “Once I had that, I had my narrative structure.”
While Davies understood the importance of the research during his interviews, he didn’t realize how much the world would change in a few short months.
“When I was interviewing Dr. Willis, we were talking about COVID, but we had no idea it was going to be as huge as it turned out to be, even though he’s been warning about this for quite some time and a lot of researchers have been saying the same thing about how this was going to affect the whole world,” said Davies.
When campus closed and Davies began working from home in March 2020, work on the podcast didn’t stop. He had hours of recordings to edit into a half-hour show, and further work to ensure that the unused files were archived as part of a historic record of UWinnipeg researchers, including all the traditional elements of oral history; life history, storytelling, narrative, and qualitative research.
“It’s so time-consuming, but it’s so worth it at the end of the day,” said Davies. “It’s like a touchstone, a way into the research so that if you want to discover more about what a researcher is doing, we will be able to connect you to that.”