Joel Werner

Science Journalist

About

Joel

Radio producer.
Science journalist.

I make radio about science.
Talk to me.

Résumé

Tl;dr
I am a science journalist/radio producer from Sydney, Australia currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York.

Résumé
I started playing guitar when I was 15. A classmate scribbled down some chords his uncle had taught him the night before – chords to The Troggs’ “Wild Thing”. I learned to play it the only way a teenage boy with nothing else to do can: often and repeatedly. And I kept playing it until my parents, seemingly on the verge of insanity, offered to buy me some new sheet music if only I promised to stop playing it. I did and they did.

My undergraduate degree was a B. Psychology (Honors) from the University of Sydney. After graduating I worked as a research gun-for-hire across a variety of projects over a number of years; from sleep disorders, to pharmacy patient behavior, to modeling the future prevalence of dementia in Australia. I enjoyed research, but kept not finishing PhDs until one day I had to ask myself if I really enjoyed research. I did but had to concede that perhaps I could enjoy something else more.

When I stopped playing “Wild Thing”, I started playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It wasn’t long before I was playing in (terribly named) bands and recording the (oftentimes terrible) music of those bands. My first experience of multi-track recording was as a frustrated only child who’d just mastered his generation’s aforementioned anthem’s guitar solo – I was desperate to hear my chops played along to a rhythm guitar track. So, armed with a dictaphone and my parent’s hi-fi system, I recorded the rhythm part, pressed play on that tape in the stereo, pressed record on the dictaphone, and heard my wish granted. Something clicked for me that day.

My second degree was a M. Arts (Journalism) from the University of Technology, Sydney. By the time I wanted to become a science journalist, science radio was an obvious choice. I spent a few months working at community radio station 2SER before scoring a job as a reporter in the Science Unit at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship radio station, Radio National.

During my first year as the unit’s science/health reporter I thought it strange that the station didn’t have a program dedicated to environmental issues, so I pitched one. The pitch was commissioned, and Off Track was born. I set one rule for Off Track – that a show about the environment should be, as often as possible, recorded in the environment. A rule set on a whim that proved to be the defining characteristic of the show’s production style; dense, rich ambience given room to breathe.

Off Track is podcasting upright and outdoors. Its voices speak largely in the unbuffeted outside. Some background noise is artfully retained. Feet are heard stepping along streets, bodies push against the brush. Descriptions of each locale are offered in a deliberately casual manner, as if to an acquaintance uncertain of the way. Off Track isn’t just podcasting under an open sky; it’s a sharply produced and often beautiful piece of crafted audio.
– Taken from here.

I produced/presented two seasons of Off Track. 

During the last quarter of 2013 I produced/presented a four-part documentary for BBC World Service, Saving The Ocean. The series was broadcast around the globe on World Service, and around Australia on Radio National, in February 2014.

In 2014 I relocated to Brooklyn, New York where I now live and work as a freelance science journalist/radio producer. In my time here I have produced radio for the likes of 99% Invisible, and BBC Radio 4.

On July 4th, I launched my own monthly non-narrated mixtape, Your Own Voice. You can listen to episodes, or read an interview in which I talk about the idea with Rolling Stone Australia. Why not both? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I live as close as you can to Prospect Park without being a duck, and try to spend as much time there as possible – at best when accompanied by wife and/or hound.

Joel B. Werner
B. Psychology (Honors)
M. Arts (Journalism)

Listen

A selection of radio I produced. For a more comprehensive list, head to Archive.

Structural Integrity
The first story I pitched when I moved to NYC was to one of my favorite shows, 99% Invisible. Roman, Sam, and I tell the story of a brand new skyscraper that almost toppled into Midtown Manhattan in the late 1970s.

 

Hearing Colors
Over Summer 2014, I started my own occasional storytelling mixtape, Your Own Voice. This episode featured on Radiotonica part of ABC Radio National’s Creative Audio Unit.

 

Saving the ocean
A four part documentary produced for Discovery on BBC World Service, and Off Track on ABC Radio National. The series was recorded on location in Kiribati, New Zealand, and Australia.
Online: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

 

Henry Markram on modeling consciousness
Taken from an interview recorded at the 2014 Annual General Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

 

The Amplituhedron
A feature story produced for ABC Radio National’s Science Show. A version of this story also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science program.

 

The art and science of taxidermy
A story produced for BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science program.
Playlist includes two outtakes; Rachel Poliquin’s story of the worst taxidermy she’s ever encountered, and the ultimate tribute to TV series Game Of Thrones.

 

Following Fish Home
Tagging fish off Sydney Harbor’s south headland to investigate the efficacy of a newly installed artificial reef.
This program originally aired on Off Track.

 

Science at the border between life and death
It would otherwise be the perfect place to spend an afternoon picnicking. But dotted throughout the clearing are half a dozen pig carcasses.
This program originally aired on Off Track.

 

Breast cancer in Australia
A two part series produced for ABC Radio National’s Health Report.
Online: Part 1 Part 2

 

Celestial Chamber
An Off Track listener favorite – three mates spend each weekend exploring vast tracts of dense bushland northwest of Lithgow in NSW, Australia. And occasionally, they make stunning discoveries.
This program originally aired on Off Track.

 

Secret Creek Sanctuary
Proof that if you report on quolls, people will listen.
This program originally aired on Off Track.

 

How to trap a platypus
20+ hours wading through cold, dark creeks on a freezing winter’s night to trap a platypus for science. This program originally aired on Off Track.

 

Ocean of noise
That time I took a world leading marine conservationist to the Sydney Fish Markets. This program originally aired on Off Track.

 

The physics of Black Caviar
A story produced for ABC Radio National’s Science Show (27/04/2013)

YOUR OWN VOICE

YOUR OWN VOICE is an occasional non-narrated storytelling mixtape.

Each episode will present a new story told by a musician/artist – in their own voice.

The series is an experiment in sound design; audio stretched apart, and glued back together again.

Part mix tape.
Part noise art.
Part sound experiment.

All non-narrated audio storytelling.

YOUR STORIES, TOLD IN YOUR OWN VOICE

YOV-Logo-Banner

SUBSCRIBE

Read what ROLLING STONE AUSTRALIA had to say about the podcast.


EPISODE 03: Hearing ColorsNH-iTunes

Neil Harbisson was born with Achromatopsia (ACHM) – he sees the world in grayscale.

Yet he perceives more colors than normal sighted humans – and not just the colors that you and I perceive, but infrareds and ultra violets.

Neil is the world’s first cyborg to interpret color as sound.

The experimental music sequence features samples from PLEASE DON’T MESS WITH MY FRANKENSTEIN by Jared C. Balogh.

Also featured is a sample of the track ItrTtistc (Impossible To Reverse/Time That Is Still To Come), a composition out of the Infrasound Laboratory at the University of Hawaii.

For more information, please visit the Cyborg Foundation.

This episode featured on Radiotonica part of ABC Radio National’s Creative Audio Unit.


EPISODE 02: Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble (T.R.A.S.E)

In 1982, a teenage Andy Pop recorded an album in his bedroom.TRASE-art

Andy played a homemade synthesizer, and recorded using gear that he’d assembled from magazine kit modules. A handful of people heard the recordings before the tape was packed away, and forgotten about for thirty years.

In 2012, that tape got Andy a record deal.

This is the story of Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble (T.R.A.S.E).

Thanks to..
The Seaport & The Airport for throwing around the crossfade on Andy’s Influence mix.
Eleanor Kagan and Brad Mielke for responding to my plea for tape SFX.

BUY T.R.A.S.E music:


EPISODE 01: Wowee Zowee! The World’s Most Prolific Artist.

Steve Keene is, perhaps, the world’s most prolific artist. Over the past twenty years he’s created in excess of 250 000 paintings.

Keene obsesses over quantity. He works on 60-80 artworks at a time, surrounding himself with plywood canvas duplicates that he paints simultaneously – oftentimes across multiple works with the same dipped brush. Keene’s work is as much performance art as highbrow craft.

A College DJ in the 1990s, Steve’s art draws heavy influence from music. A part of the indie scene in Charlottesville, Virginia, Steve is perhaps best known for his album cover artworks – including fan favorite Pavement album, “Wowee Zowee”. That music scene guided Steve’s approach to the creation and distribution of his work.

I spent a morning with Steve at his Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio to gain an insight into his creative process.

 

BUY Steve Keene art
BUY Pavement records

Archive

If Listen is the highlights, this repository ain’t exactly the lowlights but, you know..
A collection of radio stories, playlisted by idea..

Plants! Plants! Plants!
From the bottom of the ocean, to a rooftop hothouse – four stories about our other other green friends.

 

These are the people in your neighborhood..
Stories about people doing unusual things in their usual place..

 

All about microbes!
From bacteria that breathe away toxic waste, to slime mould with a memory, these stories are all about microbes.

 

The bird is the word
Everybody’s heard.

 

The science of cricket
The science behind everyone’s favorite excuse for spending a summer drinking beer in the sun. A five part series produced for ABC Radio National’s Summer Breakfast program.
Series theme song composed by Conrad Greenleaf.

Read

A selection of articles I wrote.

The Design Flaw That Almost Wiped Out an NYC Skyscraper
A version of the 99% Invisible story, Structural Integrity, published at the Slate.com blog.
READ

What’s ailing our science?*
None of the senior scientists at one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes hold a secure position.
A feature article written for News Limited’s national broadsheet, The Australian.
READ

Oh, there’s a platypus!
Twenty hours, through a cold, dark night, trapping platypus for science.
A feature article written for ABC Radio National online.
READ

Is screening mammography harming the healthy?
Early detection of abnormalities can over-diagnose breast cancer.
A feature article written for ABC Radio National online.
READ

Doctors say Angelina Jolie’s decision isn’t right for everyone
Genetic screening is an intensely personal decision.
A feature article written for ABC Radio National online.
READ

Will US decision to ban DNA patents have power to change Australia’s laws?
Who owns your genes? Not as easy a question to answer as you might think.
A feature article written for ABC Radio National online.
READ

* – This article was awarded the Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE) Student Journalism Award 2012.

Reviewed

A selection of peer reviewed papers I co-authored.

Williams KA, Emmerton LM, Taylor R, Werner JB, Benrimoj SI. Non-prescription medicines and Australian community pharmacy interventions: rates and clinical significance. Int J Pharm Pract. 2011 Jun;19(3):156-65. [PubMed]

Vickland V, Werner JB, Morris T, McDonnell G, Draper B, Low LF, Brodaty H. Who pays and who benefits? How different models of shared responsibilities between formal and informal carers influence projections of costs of dementia management. BMC Public Health 2011, 11:793 [PubMed; Full Text]

Vickland V, McDonnell G, Werner JB, Draper B, Low LF, Brodaty H. In silico modeling systems: Learning about the prevalence and dynamics of dementia through virtual experimentation. Alzheimer’s & Dementia 7 (2011) e77–e83. [PubMed]

Vickland V, McDonnell G, Werner JB, Draper B, Low LF, Brodaty H. A computer model of dementia prevalence in Australia: Foreseeing outcomes of delaying dementia onset, slowing disease progression, and eradicating dementia types. Dem Geriat Cog Dis. 2010; 29 (2): 123-130. [PubMed]

Werner JB, Benrimoj SI. Audio taping simulated patients in community pharmacy enhances reliability. Amer J Pharm Educ. 2009; 72 (6) Article 136. [PubMed; Full Text]

Benrimoj SI, Werner JB, Raffaele C, Roberts AS. A system for monitoring quality standards in the provision of non-prescription medicines from Australian community pharmacies. Pharm World Sci. April 2008 2008;30(2):7. [PubMed]

Benrimoj SI, Werner JB, Raffaele C, Roberts AS, Costa FA. Monitoring quality standards in the provision of non-prescription medicines from Australian Community Pharmacies: results of a national programme. Quality & Safety in Health Care. Oct 2007;16(5):354-8. [PubMed]

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