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Terranova and the Hortus Talks

An interview for a podcast episode in one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world? Isn’t it a lovely place to speak about nature, plants, and landscapes of the past and the future?

What is this about?

On August 4th 2022, we (Anastasia (ESR3) and Catherine (ESR14)) had the exciting opportunity to speak about the Terranova project and our research at the Botanicus Gardern in Amsterdam!

The Hortus Talks is a podcast series as well as a botanical college tour, recorded in the greenhouse in the middle of the Hortus Amsterdam. Our host Gisbert van Baalen (from the Vogelspotcast, among others) talks to different experts on nature; for example biologists, scientists, makers, creatives, philosophers and writers. They all share their unique views with the audience, talking about a wide variety of botanical and nature concerned subjects. In the Hortus Talks we delve deeper – always with plants in the leading role. 

This episode was part of the second season of the Hortus Talks series led by Gisbert van Baalen and hosted by Stéphanie Drontmann at the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam. The theme of this season is “Planten op Reis” (plant migration), you can find out more on their website. Most episodes are in Dutch, but more are coming in English, including the one we participated in!

The surroundings of the the Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam.

Getting ready for the day!

For both of us, it was a first-time experience. After some initial contacts by email with the organisers, we had a preparatory meeting online to introduce ourselves, meet the organisers and precise what topics we can, and would like to talk about.


Recording day!

To be honest, we were both feeling a bit stressed on the day… Not only was it the first time we were being interviewed for a podcast episode, but also the special thing about this one is that there was an audience in the greenhouse with us. The concept of the Hortus Talk series is indeed to start with the interview (podcast recording), and at the end, the audience has opportunity to ask some questions.

We have been warmly welcomed at the Kaslokaal Greenhouse, had a walk in the beautiful botanical garden (if you are in Amsterdam, we highly recommend that you visit the place!). Then everyone found their seat in the greenhouse, and the interview and recording started at 7:30 pm.

Anastasia, Catherine, and Gisbert in front of the Kaslokaal Greenhouse.

We both found that it was a very pleasant experience, we felt that time flew during the interview. We explained what Terranova is about, who we are, what we do, what are our objectives are and the expected results. We shared insights about the development of the Terranova Digital Atlas and the MOOC (massive open online course). We also discussed how we expect to make impacts with our project, reach out to policymakers, other researchers, the general public, and help the transition for more sustainable landscapes.

During the recording, we took turns to answer Gisbert's questions about Terranova and our research.

Anastasia explained the importance of understanding how hunter-gatherers impacted past landscapes with the use of fire, and why this knowledge is valuable for us today and in the future. She also showed a fire kit (kindly provided by her colleague Andrew Sorensen) to the audience and explained how prehistoric people would use it to start a fire. As her study is not published yet, her latest results are still “a secret”, but it received a good attention and enthusiasm for the paper to be available.

Catherine shared what she has learnt so far from her research on farmland abandonment in Europe. She explained how essential it is to consider the context where abandonment occurs to assess what can be done on these lands, where abandonment can bring positive outcomes or where new management can be desirable. She also discussed how abandoned areas can contribute, under conditions, to some policy targets of the European Union, such as the 3 billion trees planting target, rewilding, land restoration and biodiversity recovery.


After the interview, we had an inspiring exchange of questions and answers with the audience, followed by some drinks and informal talks.

To listen to the episode you can go here: 
Let us know what you think!



Take home message

We are very happy that we got the chance to participate in the podcast recoding. It was very interesting to speak to the live participants (with the idea it will be shared to more once online). Sharing our research interest and progress is also motivating as we see that our findings get attention. This encourages us on our PhD journey and strengthen our willingness to make impacts in the world with our projects. There is a lot to gain by going beyond the usual conference or scientific community spheres. Sharing our research through other medias, like a podcast, is a great opportunity to open-up science to others, get inspired by others, and hopefully share our inspiration to others in return.

A glimpse of the botanical garden.

We wish to warmly thank again Gisbert and Stéphanie for having invited us. To find out more about the Hortus Talks podcast and their work, don’t hesitate to check out the Hortus podcast website and remember to visit the botanical garden in Amsterdam 🙂


Catherine and Anastasia


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