49 Voices: Riley Woodford of Juneau

Riley Woodford of Juneau Photo by Kavitha George, KTOO – Juneau)

This week we’re hearing from Riley Woodford in Juneau. Woodford is a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Listen now

WOODFORD: I came up here in 1981, when I was 20, and hitchhiked for two months around the state. Checked out much of the state. I landed in Anchorage and went to Tok and up to Fairbanks and down to Denali and around back to Fairbanks and all the way through Whitehorse to Skagway and down to Juneau. It was a great experience, and it completely convinced me that this was the right choice. So the day I graduated from college in 1985, I moved here.

The Department of Fish and Game hired me to write about science and write about wildlife research and the work we do at Fish and Game… and to edit our magazine, our monthly online magazine, Alaska Fish and Wildlife News… and to do a radio show, Sounds Wild — a very short, 90-second nature and science program about Alaska.

People said that’s too short, but I had a really good feeling that 90 seconds would be perfect for public radio. I called Ketchikan and Anchorage and all the different public radio stations one by one, and asked them individually if they’d take it and all the program that I approached, they listened to it and they talked to the staff and said, “Yeah, we’ll take it.”

So it’s been on about 30 stations all over the state for close to 15 years now.

Ideally, my perfect idea for a show is one that’s about the sound. So if I play something like a beluga making noise or a bird singing, I will talk about the bird or the beluga. But if you want to do a show about invasive species, like northern pike or large mouth bass, they don’t make much noise. And so, you kinda have to work around that. So I’ll get sounds of people fishing and then talk about fish, or if I want to doing something about sea urchins or sea cucumbers, I’ll record my children tide-pooling down at the water playing and saying, “Look at this! Look what we found!” And then you can work into something from there.

All kinds of stuff. Boy, we cover everything I can think of. I’ve probably done close to 900 shows.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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