Segal, a career audio storyteller, has never been content to simply conduct interviews from her desk.
On a cool May morning in the Canadian Rockies, Molly Segal awoke in a field research base camp outside Banff National Park. She was there accompanying a team of biologists on the lookout for grizzly bears. Over the next several days, the team took to the skies to search for a mountainside den under the thrum of helicopter blades, and drove to remote locations to check bear traps and rebait them with tempting pieces of elk. On her final morning, they sedated, radio-collared, and released a successfully captured bear. Through it all, Segal was there with her microphone, capturing every noise.
A career audio storyteller, Segal has never been content to simply conduct interviews from her desk. “I want people to be somewhere when they listen to the stories I produce,” she says. The kinds of stories she’s passionate about require her to go out into the world and construct a rich audio landscape. And that can mean hopping in a helicopter or two.
“I’ve always been a curious person,” Segal says. As a child in Toronto, she liked to write stories in her journal and frequent the Royal Ontario Museum on weekends. In high school, her curiosity led her to an editing role at the school paper. “Sometimes I guess you’re just drawn to things,” she says of her early love of stories. By the time Segal graduated from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a combined honors degree in contemporary studies and French, she knew she wanted to pursue a degree in journalism.
Initially, Segal was convinced that she would go into magazine writing. But the degree required her to take at least one broadcast workshop. She tried radio, and instantly fell in love. “The radio stuff just sort of caught me off guard,” she says. “I really liked letting people be part of the storytelling in their own voice, and it felt so intimate.” She dropped her magazine workshop and picked up radio documentary instead.
Segal has worked in radio ever since, first as an associate producer and reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), then as a podcast producer and freelancer in Banff, Alberta, where she has lived and worked for the past four years.
Banff, which is nestled into the Canadian Rockies within Canada’s oldest National Park, “definitely changed the kind of stories I was drawn to” Segal says. Stories of human-wildlife conflict are everywhere. When Segal notices a pattern, like several wolf deaths reported in the local news, she’ll cold call anyone who might be able to tell her more and take her on site. “I’m just nosy I guess,” she says of her reporting style. It’s a style that has allowed her to create lush, beautiful, auditory landscapes that can, say, place the listener right in the midst of a hunting wolf pack.
As a Knight Science Journalism Fellow, Segal hopes to delve into more human-wildlife conflict stories and revisit her interest in written journalism. “I’ve come in here with a set of things that I’m familiar with, a set of questions I have about various types of science or different research,” Segal says. “But I think what excites me more than access to what I know is access to what I don’t.”
This is the fifth in a series of profiles of the 2019-20 Knight Science Journalism fellows, written by students in MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing.