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NPR podcast hosts say growing up in Steamboat fueled a love of science

Aaron Scott, of the NPR “Shortwave” podcast, interviewed Nathan Steinman, son of biologist David Steinman, outside the Sulfur Cave in July 2022 while working on a recent story for the science-based podcast. David Steinman, who discovered a new species of worm in the cave, returned to visit with Scott and guided the exploration of the cave for a podcast episode released earlier this month.
David Steinman / Image Courtesy

As a kid growing up in Steamboat Springs, Aaron Scott would occasionally walk from his Fairview home past Howelsen Hill’s sulfur cave while heading into town with his friends.

Scott, 41, remembers a time trying to imagine the mysteries the cave holds as he made his way through it.

‘ said Scott, who is co-hosting NPR todayThe daily science podcast, “Shortwave. “We would have dared to enter each other, but neither of us was brave enough or stupid enough to do so.”



That was a good thing because the atmosphere inside the cave was a lethal mixture of hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Scientists say one or two breaths can pass a person, and longer exposure can lead to death.

But this summer, some 30 years later, with the help of a special respirator and protective clothing, Scott had the opportunity to explore the cave he had only imagined as a child.



Scott’s trip to the cave was led by Dave Steinman, a biologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science who discovered a new type of worm more than a decade ago..

“I can’t say it was a dream come true,” said Scott, who shared his nationwide podcast experience with NPR, who co-hosted it with Emily Kwong.. “It’s not as if I’ve spent years dreaming of what was in the cave, but it was a great pleasure to have this place, which was a mystery to me as a child, and then, as part of my work, I go exploring and discover that it is as wonderful a place as can be to dream about it.”

Podcast, “Worm Blobs From The Beals Of The Earth,” It was released on September 2 and is among the many different topics and issues on “Shortwave,” which explores new discoveries, everyday secrets, and the science behind the headlines.

“Every day I learn something and talk about someone out there to explore the world – it’s definitely a dream job,” Scott said. Half of the episodes are NPR science and environment reporters who will be on the show, and we do longer versions of the stories they write on “All Things Consigned” and “Morning Edition.”

While working on a story about tufted puffins for the “Oregon Field Guide,” Scott rode with an American fish and wildlife team while surveying seabirds along the Oregon coast. The trip took the group across the island which includes Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and now houses a giant colony of Steller sea lions.
Brent Lawrence / American Fish and Wildlife

“We kind of go deeper into the stories and we make extended versions of their recordings or we ask them to talk about today’s news — like the new James Webb Telescope photos, or we have something coming up trying to redirect an asteroid — that’s kind of the way we cover more news topics. Episodes ( The other) is that we go out and talk to scientists that we’re really passionate about, and host them individually.”

The cave was the latest adventure for Scott, who grew up and lived in Steamboat Springs. When his parents got divorced, he began splitting his time between Steamboat and the Pacific Northwest.


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He graduated from Columbia River High School in Vancouver, Washington, in 1999, and attended Grinnell College in Iowa, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a focus on gender and women’s studies in 2003. He He holds a master’s degree in broadcast journalism and science journalism from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

While recording a “Little Shop of Horrors” rehearsal at the Portland Center Stage for a story for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s art program, “State of Wonder,” Aaron Scott decided it was appropriate to interview only Audrey II. Scott’s journalism experience includes covering science and nature with the Science and Environment team at NPR, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the nature television program “Oregon Field Guide.” However, he also worked for a number of years producing OPB’s weekly art radio show, State of Wonder, and was the arts editor for Portland Monthly Magazine.
Aaron Scott / Image Courtesy

Scott said his curiosity drove his career in journalism, which included covering arts and entertainment, as well as the outdoors and nature.

“I’ve had the good fortune to be a jack of all trades—working for a magazine, working on multiple radio shows, working on a TV show that covers arts and covers science,” Scott said. “I think what really drives me is just curiosity, getting to know people who do really interesting things and pursuing their passion in the world.”

Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Scott was a producer and reporter for the science and environment team for Oregon Public Broadcasting and the nature television program “Oregon Field Guide”. Climb mountains with microbiologists, hike ancient forests with ornithologists, dive in distant rivers with conservationists, and otherwise wander the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest.

Aaron Scott is shown cruising through the coastal woods of the Oregon Coast, which really means crawling through the salmonberry forests, hence the helmets, while searching for the elusive marble morellite while working on a feature for the Oregon Field Guide.
Stephanie Gordon/Oregon Field Guide

In 2020, Scott reported and hosted the 10-part Oregon Public Broadcasting podcast titled “Timber Wars, who told the story of how a small group of scientists and ecologists forever changed the way we see forests and the natural world, as a way to celebrate the 30thThe tenth Anniversary of placing the spotted owl on the endangered species list.

Scott said the Timber Wars examined issues from all perspectives, and were incorporated into college classes across the country. It has also won numerous awards, including being the first sound work to receive the Victor K. McElheny Award from the MIT Knight Science Journalism Program.

“I think that science and part of nature for me can certainly be traced back to growing up in Steamboat and going with my dad,” Scott said. “He was a mining engineer by trade, so he always pointed out geological formations and could name every flower we passed.”

Even when he’s not working on NPR’s “Short Wave” podcast, Aaron Scott enjoys being out in nature. This photo was taken climbing the Dolomites.
Aaron Scott / Image Courtesy

Scott also remembers collecting tadpoles and salamanders at summer camp at Steamboat, and said the active outdoor lifestyle many people enjoy here fueled his passion for the outdoors and science.

“Summer camps as we grew up became more rock climbing, going backpacking, rafting, and kayaking,” Scott said. “Being able to explore all the natural wonders around Steamboat has instilled in me a love of the natural world.”

Scott began his journalistic career covering the arts in dark theaters, and while he enjoyed the role, he said he always found himself falling back on science and opportunities to get back to nature.

Aaron Scott appears here as he is photographed for NPR on June 6, 2022, in Washington, DC. Scott is the co-host of the “Shortwave” podcast, which explores new discoveries, everyday puzzles and the science behind the headlines, all in about 10 minutes each weekday.
Farah Sekiki / NPR

“I decided one day that I would spend enough time in the city, in dark theaters, that I wanted to go back to nature,” Scott said. “I wanted to get out and explore the landscape – the incredibly diverse landscapes we have here in America – and I wanted to spend time with the people who are there to study it, and try to learn more about it and our place in it.”

This led him to “shortwave” and back home. In late July, he interviewed a group of Georgia Tech graduate students whom Steinman had led to the Sulfur Cave.

However, Scott family tragedy struck a few weeks later when David Scott, Aaron’s father, died on August 12 while hiking near Lake Mica in the Mount Zirkle wilderness. Scott dedicated the Sulfur Cave ring to his father.

Aaron Scott spent a long day hiking up and down the canyons off the Zumwalt Prairie in northeastern Oregon, photographing several hunters searching for elk while reporting a feature for the Oregon Field Guide about the collaboration between the Nature Conservancy and hunters to drive huge herds of elk. Elk from delicate prairies to nearby forests.
Brandon Swanson/Oregon Field Guide

“My father was a forest ranger in my heart, and this certainly instilled in me a love of the natural world and then my curiosity not just to look at something and take a picture and pass, but to ask, ‘Why does that look like a road?’ Like, what are the geological forces that make it look like this? “

Scott said his father’s desire to live in Steamboat Springs, be close to nature and always stay in touch with his family, also left an imprint.

“He chose to live in Steamboat on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies above all else,” Scott said. “He declined promotions, he refused to transfer jobs because he wanted to stay here. It was a very valuable lesson because I feel like I did something very similar with Portland. I want to live in this city, in that community of friends and family that I have, and I know I will always be able to find on the job.”

Scott was glad he had the chance to come home this summer, and said he was looking forward to sharing the sulfur cave episode with his dad.

“It saddens me that he did not succeed in listening to the story of the brimstone cave,” Scott said. “When I knew I was going to do this story, I felt like it was a gift I could give him. He would let me into this area where he raised me, and I was going to do a story about it for NPR. It’s one piece of sadness knowing he won’t hear it.”



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