Level Up Human

Level Up Human S2E12 – Sally Le Page vs James Piercy

Simon and Rach chat to biologist and science YouTuber Sally Le Page and science communicator James Piercy.

We discuss periods, expanding skulls and a rebooted ear.

In the news

Female female aggression in fruit flies: https://bit.ly/LUHfruitflies

The new kilogram: physicsworld.com/a/new-definition-of-the-kilogram-comes-into-force/

Robots powered by the spines of rats: https://bit.ly/LUHRatSpines

The pitches

Sally wants selective ovulation, James wants a skull flap. There’s a suggestion from the audience for One Massive Ear and Simon is borrowing from the opossums which could hold the key to saving snakebite victims.

Mentioned this episode

Dragons’ Den: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006vq92

Lesbian lizard colonies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Mexico_whiptail

Parthenogenesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis

Decompressive craniectomy: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319755

Fontanelle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanelle

Barn owl hearing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SI73-Ka51E

Opossum’s natural immunity to snake venom: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/03/150323-opossums-snakes-snakebites-venom-health-world-science/

Stay In for Towel Day: https://www.savetherhino.org/get-involved/events/stay-in-for-towel-day-2020/

Support us

If you’re enjoying the podcast, you can support us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/leveluphuman

Leave us an iTunes review: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/level-up-human/id1096637285

…or join our newsletter: http://www.leveluphuman.com/keep-in-touch

With thanks to the Physiological Society.

How Podcasts are Found

One of the questions podcasters ask themselves is, ‘how do I reach more listeners?’

We check stats and tell everyone we know about our podcast. We post every episode to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and risk burnout as our reservoir of creative ways to say the same thing rapidly diminishes.

We investigate social media scheduling apps, and read about content calendars, and gradually lose the will to live.

But maybe there’s a smarter way to do this. In order to reach more listeners, it helps to think about how podcasts are found.

How do people who listen to podcasts find podcasts?

They ask for recommendations (this is why you should tell everyone you know about your show) and they search for podcasts on their favourite subjects.

So the first thing is to make sure that your podcast looks like a podcast about your subject.

The second thing is to make sure you’re listed by places where listeners get their podcasts.


I moved Level Up Human to Acast in June 2018, and I really like the platform.

Their interface is easy to use, they moved all our episodes from Soundcloud for us, and their stats are pretty comprehensive.

I discovered when I looked into it that 80% of Level Up Human listeners listen via Apple Podcasts.

Screen Shot 2020-05-07 at 11.55.23 This means that 80% of our listeners are listening on iPhones. The number of listeners we get through podcatcher services is next to nothing.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t sent our RSS feed to any of them.

:facepalm emoji:

So, if you’re in the same boat, here’s a list of podcatcher services to submit your RSS feed to.


SEO has got to be one of the most uninspiring acronyms of all time.

It conjours images of slumping over a keyboard for TOO LONG.

Too technical, boring, boring.

Safety Lights are for Dudes


SEO is for dudes.

But, it’s just possible that paying attention to how search engines index podcasts might help with discoverability.

After all, since an update last year, Google search results return podcasts now, and one of the ways they do this is by transcribing each episode using AI and machine learning, and picking out keywords.

Yes, really.

So this means it might be smart to work out what your show’s keywords are, and maybe say them in your introduction.

If I was Google, I would put more weight in the words used in the first couple of minutes of the show.

If your episode has good SEO, it could show up in searches for a topic you discuss, even if that topic isn’t listed in the show or episode title.

So what can podcasters do to boost Search Engine Optimisation?

Here are a few ideas.

  1. Choose a clear title

Choose a title for your podcast that explains what the podcast is about. If you already have a show title where that isn’t the case, consider adding a subtitle.

For example, I really need to call our show, Level Up Human: redesigning the human body.

2. Write a clear podcast description

There are search functions within Spotify and Apple podcasts. So if people are searching with keywords, make sure you use your keywords in your podcast description.

Not sure which keywords to use? Try using Google’s Keyword Planner to help you.

3. Say your keywords in the actual podcast

Not over and over and over again, obv, but at least once.

4. And yes, share on social media

It’s a lovely idea to promote on three or more social media platforms every week, but it’s also exhausting. If you’re a solo podcaster, it’s fine to focus on the one that performs best for you.

It’s possible to create tracking links for use on different social media platforms. Work out which channels perform best for your programme.

‘Urchin Traffic Monitoring’ or UTM is one step beyond the remit of this post, but if of interest let me know in the comments.

What else do you do to boost the discoverability of your show?

Level Up Human – Steve Backshall vs Kate Storrs

Level Up Human Series 2, Episode 11: Steve Backshall vs Kate Storrs

Level Up Human is a podcast panel show, on a mission to redesign the human body.

Simon and Rach chat to naturalist and broadcaster Steve Backshall and visual perception scientist Kate Storrs.

We discuss enhanced vision, limb regeneration, gecko hands, super kidneys and re-breathing.

Extracts from the episode, edited for readability are available here.

In the news…

Kate is tickled and baffled by a news story about Microsoft. They have patented to generate cryptocurrency by monitoring people’s brain activity.

Steve’s news story is entitled, ‘Venomous Frogs use Heads as Weapons.’

And Rach’s levelled up human is Bertolt Meyer, a DJ, producer and Professor of Organisational Psychology from Technische Universität Chemnitz who has hacked his prosthetic hand to hook it up to his synth.

The Pitches

Steve wants to borrow the abilities of the Iberian sharp-ribbed newt, a type of salamander which can regenerate limbs and organs.

Kate, on the other hands, thinks the human body should be able to see the polarisation of light

From the audience, we have suggestions including souped up kidneys and gecko hands.

Finally Simon has a suggestion from nature.

Which of our suggestions will make Rachel’s shortlist? Which will win? Listen to find out.

Mentioned this episode

Deep Neural Networks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_learning

Microsoft has filed a patent to mine cryptocurrencies using your brainwaves: https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/a32318654/microsoft-brainwaves-mine-cryptocurrency

Venomous frogs use heads as weapons: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280753150_Venomous_Frogs_Use_Heads_as_Weapons

Golden poison frog: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/g/golden-poison-frog/

Pig-nosed purple frog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2ZKePuOrUE

Bertolt Meyer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSKBtEBRWi4

Disabled or superhuman?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVZyVz8gBeQ

Axolotyl: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axolotl

Macrophages: https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/Macrophage-Function.aspx

Pluripotent stem cells: https://www.nature.com/subjects/pluripotent-stem-cells

Tissue-specific stem cells: https://www.closerlookatstemcells.org/learn-about-stem-cells/types-of-stem-cells/

Zebrafish can regrow their brains: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-11-zebrafish-regrow-brains.html

Planaria worms: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/11/science/11obhead.html

Steve bitten by black piranha: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPO6NwkM7so&list=PLtEFM-nSCj5ilDGnpe8Cf6CLtslFt1aCS

Honey bee waggle dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU_KD1enR3Q

Haidinger’s brush: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haidinger%27s_brush

Cuttlefish and high-definition polarisation vision: https://phys.org/news/2012-02-cuttlefish-high-definition-polarization-vision.html

Cuttlefish iridophores and chromataphores: https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/cephalopod-camouflage-cells-and-organs-of-the-144048968/

Mantis shrimp: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantis_shrimp

Bioinspired camera could help self-driving cars ‘see’ better: https://www.osa.org/en-us/about_osa/newsroom/news_releases/2018/bioinspired_camera_could_help_self-driving_cars_se/

Nautilus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nautilus

Bear Grylls: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bear_Grylls

The IT Crowd: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0487831/

The Exorcist III: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099528/

Trainspotting: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117951/

‘Scuba-diving’ lizard, Anolis aquaticus: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/bu-lc032019.php

Steve’s Home Schooling (9.30am, Wednesdays): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm-URP49TgSgyIU1rgh2m7A/videos

The Mirror Trap: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-mirror-trap-online-tickets-104125171190

Stay In for Towel Day: https://www.savetherhino.org/get-involved/events/stay-in-for-towel-day-2020/

Support us

If you’re enjoying the podcast, you can support us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/leveluphuman

Leave us an iTunes review: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/level-up-human/id1096637285

…or join our newsletter: http://www.leveluphuman.com/keep-in-touch

Follow us

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Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/leveluphuman

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/leveluphuman

Podcast Show Notes

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

Listening to a new podcast can be daunting.

“I hope this is good”

“What is this anyway?”

“Who is this person?”

“Who is this person?”

Podcast quality is widely variable. There are some shows I would listen to over watching a multi-billion dollar film. Others are almost unlistenable.

When I start listening to an episode of a new show, there’s a chance it will be on one of the unlistenables.

I’m nervous. I don’t want it it to be that.

There’s an equal chance I’m going to disappear down a rabbit hole listening to everything they’ve published for the last six months, and see a new episode dropping as my personal equivalent of Christmas morning. I’m a bit weird like that.

The point is, it could go either way.

Here’s where show notes can help.

As I stand in my kitchen, speculatively listening to an episode of a podcast I haven’t heard before, I’m looking at the show notes.

Hoping they’ll shed some light on what exactly I’m listening to.

Good show notes can hold the hand of your listener, introducing yourself, sitting them down in a comfy chair, making them a cup of tea.

And it’s worth remembering that whilst podcast listeners likely have an auditory learning style, most people learn visually as well. Your podcast show notes can tell them what your vision for your show is in one sentence.

That’s why our show notes start like this: ‘Level Up Human is a podcast panel show on a mission to redesign the human body.’

Here are some more potential benefits.

  • Writing show notes improves the SEO of your podcast. Podcasts now show up in Google search results. I’m no SEO expert, but notes sprinkled with keywords must help your podcast show up in relevant searches.
  • Hook new listeners. Your show notes can provide as much of a hook as the first 60 seconds of your show. Tell us in the first sentence why this episode is worth our time.
  • Help your fans. Podcast listeners multi-task. They’re not going to take their hands out of the washing up to write down the name of the book you just mentioned. Link to it for them.
  • Help yourself. It’s much easier to search your back catalogue for a quote or a clip when your show notes tell you what’s in each episode.
  • Call to action. At the end of every episode, you can ask your listener to support you on Patreon, write a review or join your mailing list. Why not put handy links to these things in the show notes?

Show notes don’t need to be lengthy.

You don’t need to transcribe the whole programme, although there are some podcasters who do this.

If you’re interested in transcription, I highly recommend auphonic’s transcription editor, the smartest way to create podcast transcripts I’ve found so far (drop me a comment if you’ve discovered better.)

It’s important to find a balance between the benefit to you and your listener vs the time it takes to write them.

On the notes for my science podcast, Level Up Human, I’m putting brief notes on acast and extended show notes for our Patreon community.

This includes short transcripts and a lot of links.

If you’d like a template for writing your own show notes, you can download one here:

Podcast show notes template

What podcast do you make? What do you include in your show notes?

Why Podcasting is AWESOME

Level Up Human recording at the Blue dot festival. Holly Shiels, Sarah Jones, Simon Watt and me!

I just want to take a second to talk about podcasting. I launched a podcast called Level Up Human with Wellcome Trust funding in 2015, and 5 years later, we’re still going strong.

It’s my opportunity to learn about evolutionary biology, to talk to an audience of loyal fans, and to hang out with my buddy, Simon Watt.

Level Up Human is a podcast panel show on a mission to redesign the human body.

Here’s our latest episode.

So today I want to talk about why, if you don’t listen to podcasts, you should!

Why Podcasts are AWESOME

The best thing about podcasts, in my view, is that they are great for busy people.

You can listen to podcasts whilst you commute (when that’s a thing again), whilst you do housework, when you’re driving, jogging, cycling, or even swimming if you get yourself some snazzy active headphones*.

This review by Robin Capper, one of our listeners from New Zealand

There are podcasts of all kinds of different lengths. I love Tim Ferriss’s loooong form podasts, and some with much shorter episodes like Meg Cusack’s Courage Makers podcast.

If you’ve never listened to podcasts, here’s how to start.

And if you’re a creator, podcasting is BRILLIANT. Here’s why.

Why podcast?

If you’re a creator, chances are you either write, podcast, or make videos. Here’s why podcasting is one of the greatest creation platforms ever.

Low start-up costs

Podcast start-up costs can be absolutely minimal. You can record on your phone, you can use free editing software like GarageBand or Audacity, a free podcast hosting service like PodBean, and you’re away.

The danger, of course, like all things, is that once you get into it, you will want to upgrade your gear. I trained in sound editing using Adobe Audition, and I absolutely love it. Mostly because it’s familiar.

You can spend thousands on fancy microphones, computer hardware and home studios, but at least to get into it, you can keep the costs absolutely minimal.

Edit anywhere

Once you’ve recorded your audio, you can take your laptop to a cafe, or the park or the beach to do your editing.

You don’t need a team of people to make it work. It is very nearly as easy as blogging.

Build a connection with your audience

The written word is great, and everything, but there is an extra level of intimacy in speaking directly into your listeners’ ears.

You can talk to them about all kinds of things, even things you mightn’t discuss with your best friends, because it’s essentially a private conversation.

Communicate science!

I work with science podcasters, and one of the best things about podcasts is that it allows researchers to speak directly to the public who fund their work.

They get to explain how their research is going, what they hope to discover, and how this will change lives. Without the need for a camera crew, or loads of expensive equipment.

During the lockdown I’m offering free podcast training and help, so if you’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for a little while, get in touch.