S1: Before we get started today, a little bit of business of interest to hi fi nation listeners. The Rutgers Center for Philosophy of Religion is announcing a summer seminar called God and the Space-Time Manifold, and they’re looking for applicants. The seminar will take place June 13th through 24th in 2022 and will be led by professors Dean Zimmerman, Brian Leftover and Katherine Rogers. The primary question of the seminar is how do scientific theories about the nature of time fit with different theological conceptions of God’s relationship to the universe? Over 11 days in June 12, philosophers of science and religion will be holding sessions at Rutgers in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The seminar is open to professional philosophers and grad students in philosophy. To find out more and how to apply, visit and time dot Rutgers Dot Edu. That’s God and time dot Rutgers Dot Edu. You can find a link to it, as well as how to contact the organizers in our show notes. The seminar is made possible by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation
S2: from the SlatePlus.
S1: The very first genetically modified animals intended to be released into the wild in the US have been hatching, flying around and mating with their wild counterparts for a few months now. It’s happening in the Florida Keys as part of an experiment in pest control.
S3: My name is Phil Goodman. I am in my third term as commissioner for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. I’ve been here 11 years.
S1: Phil Goodman has a challenging job for a retired chemist. He and a handful of other elected board members are tasked with controlling the Edison gypped high mosquito. There’s no other animal designed to be as deadly to humans as the mosquito. And there are few other mosquitoes designed to aggravate humans more than the modern AIDS CEGEP Typekit
S3: lives around people. It really prefers to use human blood rather than animal blood to develop its eggs. As a result, it lives in your homes, under your homes, near your homes so that the sprays that we spray by helicopter just don’t really penetrate. They’re also the way this mosquito lays eggs. It lays them in real, cryptic places so that even the light of Sandler sprays that we use just don’t penetrate those.
S1: Another problem with this mosquito is evolutionary adaptation. Explain to me as a chemist how this particular mosquito is resistant to the chemicals that you’re currently using.
S3: This starts back with DDT. Actually, DDT and the variants of DDT did eliminate this mosquito. But during the process, the mosquitoes built up a resistance to a certain chemical groups Promethean, which is one of the chemicals that we use for all of our other mosquitoes. This mosquito is just very resistant to it so that, you know, when it’s sprayed, it just has very little impact on it. It kills a few, but it doesn’t kill all of them. Here in the Florida Keys, we have four helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft, about 60 spray trucks. There’s about 45 types of mosquito species here in the Florida Keys, and we effectively control 44 of them with this, but 80 CEGEP, we’re only able to control about 50 percent of those mosquitoes. You need to be able to control 90 percent of them to be able to eliminate the threat of disease transmission locally in your community.
S1: That’s the other thing about the 80s aegypti. They carry some rather nasty viruses. In fact, they’re actually called the yellow fever mosquito.
S3: We’ve had dengue fever outbreaks and Zika outbreaks. Seven of the past 12 years between Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys. Our last outbreak in the keys was last year, where we had about 70 people that were infected with dengue fever before we got it under control. There are no vaccines or no therapeutic treatments. The only way that you can control the diseases is to control the 80 CEGEP time mosquito. Right now, you know, 50 percent of our chemical spraying is to kill this five percent of the mosquito population. So if we don’t have that population, we’ll be able to significantly reduce the amount of chemical spraying that we’re using from Slate.
S4: This is hi fi nation philosophy in story form recording from Vassar College. Here’s Barry Lam,
S1: where chemical technologies are running out, biological technologies are taking their place. Today’s episode is about two of the first genetically engineered species intended to be released into the wild in the United States. There are Oxitec, Ada, CEGEP, Die Mosquito and the ESF American Chestnut Tree. Both have been specifically designed to aid humans and restore environments we’ve corrupted through international travel and commerce, and with their introduction, genetic engineering is leaping from agriculture to ecology. And unlike genetically modified crops, these new gene edited species are meant to be introduced into the wild to procreate and interact with a natural environment as life was meant to do. Only it’s not life as we know it. It’s life as we’ve edited it. And so the moral questions are daunting. When should we do it or when should we just let the consequences of human activity on nature just run its course? Mosquito breeding biology 101. Male mosquitoes have a very short life cycle,
S3: but these male mosquitoes don’t live, but maybe a week, week and a half, maybe not even that long. A female mosquito lives about maybe three weeks.
S1: One of the useful features of mosquitoes is that only the females need blood. Only the females bite. And of course, only the females lay eggs. If you can make it so that when the females mate and lay eggs and the female larvae somehow die before maturity, the
S3: population collapses and there are no more AIDS aegypti.
S1: That’s the plan. Genetically engineer and AIDS Égypte high mosquito that has a gene making the females incapable of surviving to adulthood. The genetically engineered males hatch survive, they have the gene and then fly off looking for wild, uneducated females hiding in their crevices from humans.
S3: The best way to find an 80s CEGEP, a female is by an 80 CEGEP time male. They can overcome a lot of the things that are chemicals just can’t explore.
S1: Those males pass on the same female aborting gene. So the next generation has only males also. Eventually, the males don’t have any more wild females to mate with, and they die after their life ends,
S3: a life cycle is pretty rapid. Within about 13 14 weeks, there are really no females mosquitoes left.
S1: Oxitec is the name of the company granted an experimental use permit by the EPA. There are lots of other companies doing the same kind of work, but everything about this particular trial in the Florida Keys suggests that Oxitec is aiming to have the lightest possible touch. They’ve engineered into their mosquitoes what you might call a failsafe. It’s a self-limiting gene. Let’s say you’re worried that one of these engineered mosquitoes has some unknown, unpredicted features as a result of the engineering, and you’re afraid they’re just going to keep passing it on to the next generation. Maybe you’re afraid the last male doesn’t die, but escapes the Florida Keys to a place where there are more females. They keep passing down this trait until eventually it’s worldwide. The self-limiting gene makes it so that the engineered gene isn’t passed down forever for all generations. Rather, at the second generation, it gets passed down to only half of the offspring. And in the next generation, only half of that either. All of the females are dead at that point, and the population of males dies, too, leaving no more genetically engineered mosquitoes left. Or if there are still females around at a certain point, the wild males will not have the engineered gene at all. The latter possibility means the Oxitec mosquito isn’t designed to drive the species to extinction. It’s only meant to suppress the population.
S3: We want to get the population down to very low, but whether we can eliminate or not that that that remains to be seen. And it’ll come back. You know, it’s brought in on bananas coming in and out. People are driving their car, they bring them mosquitoes and so you’ll never get rid of it in the world. Nor will we eliminate this mosquito completely.
S1: Once the technology has been perfected, implementing it is easy. Take a container full of genetically engineered mosquito eggs. Add water weight for the males to emerge. Looking for a mate? The more males you release, the likelier the wild females will mate with a genetically engineered saboteur designed to abort their female offspring in the experiment happening in the Florida Keys. The one variable that wasn’t foreseeable is often the hardest one to manage the human one.
S3: Well, there were threats of vandalism. There was threats that if they found out where these sites are located, where we were releasing them, that they would pour chemicals or bleach into the systems and harass the people there, we’ve had death threats that the people were against this program. Locally, they lost really all the technical arguments they had. They lost all the environmental arguments they had. So then they resorted really to character assassinations, to our board and to our mosquito control. So it’s really gotten pretty, pretty nasty. I could tell you that people that making all these claims and statements about mosquito control and what we’re doing wrong, they’ve never been to a mosquito control meeting. They don’t know anything about mosquito control. They just don’t like genetically modified anything. And, you know, I don’t think anything you can ever say to them is going to change our mind. But we, you know, to to miss this opportunity to solve this problem for the wrong reasons would be terrible.
S1: Now that the trial is underway and has been underway for a few months now, has that kind of thing dissipated?
S3: Oh oh yes. We feel like we were elected by the people here to make these hard decisions. I think we’re acting very responsibly on this, and hopefully one day we will be able to say that the Florida Keys really is a mosquito borne disease free.
S1: So how is it looking? How is the trial looking?
S3: Everything is looking just as we anticipated, the mosquitoes are mating in big numbers.
S1: What’s the timescale looking like when you’re no longer doing trials, you’re actually implementing mosquito control through Oxitec.
S3: This is all in the hands of the EPA. They make the decisions. They could like the data so much that they would approve this locally. I think that’s probably a long shot that probably will not happen. They will probably expand to California next year. You know, we’ll be running more trials next year, similar to what we did this year. You know, and it’s very likely that maybe in 2023 that the EPA would give their approval.
S1: There are a lot of things on the EPA’s plate at this very moment, and it’s not just about mosquitoes. In the 10 years it’s taken just to let a genetically modified mosquito fly around Florida, another genetically modified organism was being studied and perfected in the north, and it was created to respond to a very different kind of human made catastrophe. The next time you walk around in the woods in the eastern United States, take a look at the underbrush between the large, mature trees you’re looking for a sprout with narrow leaves and jagged, almost spiky edges. Those sprouts are ghosts of a mass extinction event of staggering proportions.
S2: The chestnut was one of the dominant trees, one of the four most dominant trees in the forest.
S1: This is Evelyn Brister, professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology.
S2: There were billions of chestnuts, and then there was a blight that was introduced in the early part of the 20th century, and it spread very quickly, killed four billion chestnuts in the matter of a few decades.
S5: We call it functionally extinct. This is
S1: Andrew Newhouse, a scientist at SUNY College of Environmental Science and
S5: Forestry. Because the blight that wiped out the trees doesn’t kill the roots and American chestnuts can sprout from the roots.
S2: There are bacteria in the soil that prevent the fungus from infecting below the soil line. And so one of the interesting things is that we have these stumps that just don’t die. They keep coming back for like zombie chestnuts that send up sprouts, and the sprouts sometimes grow to look like trees. They can even get 20 or 30 feet
S5: tall, but they don’t typically live more than five or 10 years.
S2: It takes 15 years or more for chestnuts to become reproductively mature, and the sprouts become infected before that time and they die back.
S5: Historically, American chestnuts live for hundreds of years, and by the time they got to 70 80 years old, they would be producing many, many thousands of nuts every year.
S1: And so if they never grow large enough to reproduce, how is it that they’re not fully extinct? Is it because the roots are very long lived?
S5: The roots can be very long lived, but also once in a while, a few of them grow big enough to reproduce. That’s typically on a very limited scale.
S1: It took thousands of years for the American chestnut tree to reach a population of four billion, becoming a keystone species from Appalachia to the Northeast.
S2: Chestnuts are huge trees. They grow straight and tall. They’re a wonderful timber tree. They provide masks for wildlife. They provide not for humans to eat. So they’re very culturally central to settlers and to Native Americans.
S1: Sometime in the late 19th century, someone brought a Japanese chestnut tree over to America, probably as a novelty or a hobby. There was a lot of that at the time. Exotic plants and animals being brought recreationally from east to west. Once they got here, there were a lot of unforeseen consequences. In this case, something else was hitching a ride.
S5: Yeah, the blight is caused by an organism called crisis bacteria parasitic. It’s a fungus that came from Asia somewhere, probably China, and it lives on Chinese chestnut trees or Japanese chestnut trees, but it doesn’t cause a lot of damage there. Co-evolved with the trees and usually lives on dead wood if the tree dies from something else. But when it was transported to North America, it became what’s called a strong pathogen. The American chestnut trees didn’t have the defenses that Chinese chestnuts do.
S1: In geological terms, the extinction of the American chestnut was instantaneous. In 1995, a worker at the Bronx Zoo noticed the chestnut trees on site weren’t doing too well. Within eight years, the USDA was called to investigate a blight along the inland eastern forests. By 1940, the American chestnut, a quarter of the trees in the inland eastern forests were gone. The ecological impact of such a mass extinction is impossible to measure, mostly because ecology wasn’t a science until after the extinction. There are no detailed records of the 19th century ecology of the eastern forests to compare to today, but just as an estimate. A single American chestnut stores about 70 calories higher in fat and protein than its Asian counterparts. Multiply that by thousands per three and four billion trees, and you can begin to see their role in the wild food chain.
S5: Many different organisms interacted with American chestnuts from turkeys and bears and large things to squirrels and mice, and there are even a variety of insects or some chestnut moths that were thought to be extinct. A few have been found on chestnut orchards. There are all these different layers of interactions with different types of organisms, with other plants with soil microbes. Some of those things we’ve been able to pick up with limited scale plantings, and some we’re still learning.
S1: Pretty soon, the learning may pick up and pick up quickly. Andrew Newhouse and his colleagues at the Sunni School of Forestry are at the final stages of reintroducing an American chestnut tree back into the wild. The beginnings of what they hope will be maybe centuries of work that will restore the American forests of the east, beginning with the de-extinction of the American chestnut. Their tree is transgenic, modified with a single gene, making it resistant to the blight fungus. That single gene will allow the tree to grow to maturity, pollinate and then reproduce so that the future sprouts you walk by in the woods have a chance to become the 100 foot behemoths that once towered over the eastern canopy. There’s only one obstacle left to its introduction. US, though, who are the stakeholders involved in pushing against wild release,
S2: so many conservationists would love to see the forest restored and they would love to see chestnuts returned. But at the same time, many very prominent conservation organizations are concerned about genetically modified organisms. The concern stems from the question of whether a GMO is as natural as a hybrid. Or whether putting genetically modified organisms in the forest and allowing them to spread unchecked would reduce the wildness of our forests. One of the reasons that we value forests is that the creatures that live in them are wild. That’s what separates forests from agriculture.
S1: How do you reconstruct what people mean by this is an a real, you know, chestnut of wildness? What what those things mean and how do you respond to that?
S2: We usually think of wild as being separate from something that has had a human influence. So we think of wild things as things that have their own history of development and their own path forward without human intervention. And the American chestnut, if we use the GMO variety to reforest, would clearly be an intended human intervention. On the other hand, it’s not always easy to identify what counts as wild and what doesn’t. Humans have a long history of interacting with the forest. So even in the case that the chestnut Native Americans tended groves move chestnuts into the farther northern end of the range more quickly than they would have spread on their own. And as with many of the trees in the forest, there were native management practices that encouraged the growth of some varieties of trees and discourage the growth of others. What’s the limit of how much intervention is allowed before we think of this intervention is inappropriate or this intervention crosses the line?
S1: If you compare the ESF chestnut with some of the other options people have been trying to do, the GMO chestnut is biologically very conservative. Hybrid breeding has been the leading alternative, such as trying to cross an American chestnut with a blight resistant Chinese chestnut or a European chestnut. The ecological problem is that these hybrids have never been able to compete with native trees. They’re too small. They just didn’t evolve to get enough sunlight amidst the red maples and deciduous giants that tower over them. But even if they were competitive, hybrid breeding replaces up to half the genome of an American chestnut. That’s 19000 genetic changes in a species with 38000 genes. Even if you can cut that down with generations of breeding, we’re still talking about a few thousand genetic changes. Compare that to the ESF chestnut.
S5: There’s basically one change we’ve added one gene that allows the trees to tolerate chestnut blight infections. It’s a much smaller, much more focused change. We’re not replacing chunks of the genome with something from a different species. That would be what’s happening with hybrid breeding.
S2: Changing one gene doesn’t seem like it’s enough to change the unique identity of the species. Single gene changes occur all the time as a result of mutation and as a result of sexual reproduction. In fact, the tool that the scientists use in the lab is a bacterium that is able to snip and insert a new gene. And that tool also operates in the wild and occasionally creates these kinds of changes without any human intervention or oversight. In this case, we’re able to use the bacterium to create exactly the change that we would like to see.
S1: The fungus that attacks the American chestnut tree releases an acid called oxalate. It’s a very common acid. It’s in most of the vegetables you eat and your body makes it naturally as the fungus spreads over the tree. It uses oxalate to start digesting the inner bark. The fungus then feeds on the broken down material. What they found at the Sunni ESF is that a single enzyme oxalate oxidase, an oxalate neutralizer, prevents the acid from breaking down a plant cells. A single gene taken from wheat and added to the American chestnut genome makes the plant cells create the oxalate neutralizing enzyme. And that’s enough. The fungus can’t break down the transgenic American chestnut tree enough to kill it, and the infections are halted.
S5: It’s not killing the fungus, it’s not repelling the fungus. It’s not preventing infections by the fungus. It’s allowing the tree to reduce the damage that’s caused by the fungus. So what that means is that there’s not a strong selection pressure on the fungus. Most people are probably familiar with pesticides or insecticides. If you spray something that kills most of the pests in, say, a field or farm field. Then there are a few of those pests that probably survive. They might have some variation that the strongest pests are the ones that survive. And then those strong pests are the ones breeding with each other, resulting in a generation of extra tough, extra strong pests. And eventually that can lead to the past or the pathogen developing resistance to that mechanism. And then that pesticide will be less effective in the future. But in this case, with the Oxlade Oxidase, since we’re not killing or repelling a pest, we’re just degrading this acid that’s secreted by the pest. It’s much less likely to result in a selection pressure.
S1: The ESF team have been conducting studies to gauge the ecological impact of the transgenic tree. Like what happens when it’s leaves and branches fall and start decomposing on the forest ground, maybe in pools of water with tadpoles in it? Turns out there’s no difference from non transgenic chestnut leaves, tadpoles do just as well. The transgenic plant matter also doesn’t affect any of the beneficial microorganisms in the soil. There there are also no different from non transgenic chestnuts. They even measured what happens when bumblebees encounter pollen from the transgenic chestnut. They pollinate as usual. Nothing is really all that different for them. In some cases, the Chinese chestnut trees, which are not transgenic, often have a larger effect on some of the surrounding ecosystem, and that makes sense. They’re genetically much more different from the American chestnut than the ESF chestnut. All of this work is made philosopher Evelyn Brister, an advocate of restoring the eastern forest with a transgenic ESF chestnut to undo one of the many disasters caused by humans before they had knowledge of invasive species and pathogens before they had any knowledge of the importance of ecology. Why release wild? So to other alternatives are to farm it like you would do an orchard tree. And another alternative would be what’s so important about having an American chestnut? It was part of the ecosystem before a blight took it out. Well, what’s wrong with our forests now? So those are the two possibilities.
S2: Our forests are unfortunately under a whole lot of stress right now. So the blight that was brought in that killed the chestnut is not the only problem that we have in our forests right now. There are also pests that are threatening hemlock, that are threatening beech that are threatening butternut. There’s the emerald ash borer, there’s the spotted lanternfly, and all of these are really impaired forest health, not just in eastern U.S., but forest health is impaired across the United States. And so the goal with the chestnut is to have one species that we could rerelease that would increase the diversity of the forest at a time when we’re seeing this diversity threatened on many fronts.
S1: What is important about increasing the diversity of our forests,
S2: losing a number of tree species from the forest makes those forests more fragile and less able to withstand other kinds of insults that they might have. And we see that forest communities are complex and the species all interact with one another, right? So that when you lose a tree species that affects wildlife species, it affects bird species that affects insects and that losing any of these species accelerates the loss of other species. When the forests are very important to us, I mean, even if you’re someone who lives in a city, they produce oxygen for us. They clean air that clean water. It would be terrible to think about losing the forests in the eastern United States.
S6: I’m Ron Sandler, I’m a professor of philosophy at Northeastern University, where I’m also chair of the Philosophy and Religion Department and director of Northwestern’s Ethics Institute.
S1: Ron Sandler is a leading environmental ethicist. Ecological engineering, he says, introduces a new paradigm that we are not used to thinking about.
S6: You know, the standard way of thinking about conservation is that you’re trying to keep things roughly like they are. In general, the goal is to decrease human impacts and to undo human impacts from the past. So that’s sort of the standard conservation paradigm in the test case. You’re trying to do that right. You’re trying to eliminate an invasive pest or predator. You’re removing some kind of influence that humans have had on the system, right? You’re trying to to make it more like it would have been without that human impacts in the genetic modification case where you’re aiming to change the conservation target, you’re not doing that, you’re trying to conserve the species, but you’re also adding an intentional modification onto the thing that you’re trying to conserve. Right? You’re changing it so that in most cases, it’s better fitted to a human changed world. And so that’s a different thing that’s not undoing what we’ve done in the past. That’s saying, Well, look, we’ve create a situation. We’ve got to do something here, more to conserve the species.
S1: In some ways, it’s actually the Oxitec mosquito that has a more conservative use of genetic engineering. No matter how many transgenic males you release into an area, the engineered gene disappears completely from the ecosystem within weeks. The only evidence of their existence weeks later will be the absence of AIDS aegypti mosquitoes. Oxitec technology is ecologically aggressive but biologically conservative. In contrast, the ESF chestnut is meant to propagate the genetic change forever. It has to in order to survive. So the stamp of human technology will be in the ecosystem as long as the tree survives. This doesn’t disqualify the ESF Chesnut project on moral grounds, however, it just means that as a first step in modifying a wild species, it has some higher hurdles to overcome. Number one is the genetic modification. No more drastic than others that we already accept in other plants.
S6: Yeah, when you think of the chestnut case, so this is a small genetic change to allow the tree to produce a protein that confers resistance to the acid that has been damaging it from the fungus. Now, that’s not very different from things that we accept in agricultural time. I mean, BT Corn, for example, is is a genetically modified strain of corn that produces a pesticide.
S1: Number two, does the genetic modification take place within the context of a system of practices that are cumulatively destructive?
S6: When you look at Beachie Corn, for example, a lot of the concerns that have to do with it is the way in which that particular technology fits within a certain kind of agricultural system that favors high emissions. Chemical based systems. Certain large corporation. Those sorts of things. None of those things apply in the chesnut case.
S1: Nobody’s making money from the ESF chestnut. No genes will be patented. The technology is completely open. Finally, number three, is it necessary to have this particular genetically modified species to serve a worthwhile goal?
S6: The other thing about the corn case is that what it does is it produces corn doesn’t get us anything we didn’t have in this case. It allows us to do something that we currently can’t do, which is grow mature chestnut trees. So if you compare those to the chestnut case looks way better already.
S1: It’s not Oxitec mosquitoes or the ESF chestnut that raises the big moral questions about bioengineering. It’s when you put them together in the next generation of technologies.
S6: A gene drive is a genetic modification that increases the rate at which the desired trait spreads through the population, so it increases it beyond the sort of standard Mendelian ratios. And so the idea is, if you can drive a deleterious trait through the population, then you can suppress the population’s gene drive.
S1: Technology isn’t only meant to kill pests. What if we can make every eight aegypti egg that hatches incapable of spreading blood borne pathogens? Or you make every invasive vine, even native ones grow to only five or six feet. Take a little gene editing bacteria, snip out a few genes and then make the males procreate wildly with females to ensure all of their offspring have the desired genes. And the generation after that does, and the generation after that does, too. With no limitations. That is a gene drive.
S6: What they provide is the ability to drive intentional genetic change through wild populations. And once you have that ability, it changes the way in which you can approach conservation problems, because now you’re able to ask a question about how can I change them? How can I change the pest that’s out there rather than thinking about how we change our own activity, sort of to decrease the pressures on the population?
S1: This is the biggest problem with bioengineering. According to Sandler. Yes, there’s the risk of apocalyptic mutant species we’ve created that then spread out of control and eat us all. But there’s an even bigger risk that bioengineering changes entirely the way people see the environment, and that change will prevent people from seeing clearly what their role in it is.
S6: In a certain sense, there’s an embedded view in the standard paradigm, which is that we’re often harmful, right? That we do bad things and we need to undo this. And we kind of alluded in a way. And so we want to undo those harms and that sort of stuff. But now people are starting to think, Well, you know, maybe we need to take a more of an engineering approach. Maybe we need to see nature as a thing that we need to be able to intervene in and control more that the nonhuman world is just there for us. And I do worry that if these techniques and technologies get combined with an attitude like that, we could be in a problematic situation. So the backdrop to all of this is an extinction crisis. It’s the fact that species are already going extinct, many orders of magnitude beyond the background rate and that those projections are expected to go up orders of magnitude more in that context. Should we have confidence? Or is it hubristic to think that we are in a position where we are able to make determinations of how we need to engineer these systems and populations and species for a better ecological future? Or is it the case that we ought to, in at least some areas, allow ecological and evolutionary processes to undergo transitions, reconfigurations to what is going to be suitable going forward? What actually needs to happen to address the big problem? The extinction crisis problem, right? Being on the verge of a next great extinction and having that being driven by massive ecological anthropogenic change? And the answer to that is not going to be gene drives.
S2: Coral reefs are failing.
S1: Evelyn Brister,
S2: philosopher and the coral reef researchers think that we only have 20 or 30 years left and that the genetic knowledge that we need to have an origin either genetically modify or hybridized corals that is 20 to 30 years out. So that’s like, you know, that your clock.
S4: Hi Fi Nation is written, produced and edited by Barry Lam, associate professor and chair of philosophy at Vassar College. Executive producer of Slate Podcast is Alicia Montgomery, editorial director for Slate Podcast is Gabriel Roth, senior managing producer for Slate Podcast. Is June Thomas, managing producer for Slate Podcast is Asha Saluja, editor of SlatePlus With Me Child. Two production assistants this season provided by Jake Johnson with Hyphenation DaUg for complete transcript show notes and reading list for every episode. That’s H.I Nation, DaUg Follow by Nation on Facebook and Twitter, and at the website for updates on stories and ideas.