Documentary Series Featuring Dr. Joy Reidenberg '88 on PBS beginning January 18th!
Monday, January 9, 2012
Posted by: Kerri McCabe
Rye scientist, TV star offers look 'Inside Nature's Giants'
( from: lohud.com : January 7, 2012 , Written by: Andrew Klappholz)
Dr. Joy Reidenberg is photographed Friday with a variety of animal skulls in the lab at Mount Sinai Medical School in Manhattan. / Carucha L. Meuse/ The Journal News
RYE — When Joy Reidenberg first saw what was inside an animal, she became lightheaded and had to leave the room.
It was decades ago — long before she became a published anatomist, president of Friends of the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary in Rye and an international TV personality.
Reidenberg was witnessing a dog’s surgery.
"I wondered if I was going to make it as a veterinarian,” she said. "I was going to prove that that was not going to be my downfall.”
Reidenberg not only overcame the "ick” factor of surgery, the Rye resident has become an expert at dissecting whales, a job where she cuts open huge mammals and literally walks inside of them.
This unique skill set landed her on British television show "Inside Nature’s Giants,” which makes its U.S. debut Jan. 18. PBS has picked up six episodes of the series, which features Reidenberg and two other scientists traveling the world to look inside the biggest creatures on the planet. Four episodes — re-edited and with new narration — will air featuring a sperm whale, Burmese python, great white shark and big cats —breaking down the anatomy of a lion and a tiger. If the series is popular, PBS will air the other two episodes.
"We try to understand what makes that animal special,” Reidenberg said. "I would describe it as natural history from the inside out.”
The show tells the story of the animals and how their features can create a unique function. Sharks, for instance, dive great depths into the ocean and are protected from pressures that would crush a person.
In her day job, Reidenberg, 50, is a professor at Mount Sinai Medical College, specializing in human anatomy. She researches unique animal features in search of cures and treatments for human ailments. In one study she’s analyzing how cows chew their cud and the way it may be used to help people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease.
"We’re looking to see how nature has come up with interesting solutions to problems,” she said. "We want to learn from nature.”
It’s not far off from the explorations on "Inside Nature’s Giants,” where she and her team analyze how similar features in animals are used for different purposes. For example, the larynx can be used to communicate in some species and to regulate pressure in others.
The show is in its fourth year in Britain, with Reidenberg joining the cast midway through the first season. She was called in suddenly because the producers needed a whale expert on short notice when a whale washed up on a beach in Ireland. Such incidents need a response almost immediately, because the beach is where the autopsy takes place.
"You just don’t keep these things in the freezer,” said Reidenberg, who’s conducted about 50 whale dissections in her career. The show’s creators liked her so much they made her a regular. She soon found herself giving expert analysis, conducting the dissections and even being submerged in a cage to get a good look at killer sharks.
As a girl, Reidenberg — now the mother of two daughters, ages 17 and 21 — was inspired by personalities like Jacques Cousteau. She says being on TV now is a real kick.
"I am able to reach a much greater audience through television,” she said. "It’s never going to replace being there for real, but it’s going to get you as close as possible to it.”
Reidenberg said being broadcast in her home nation will be exhilarating. "I think it’ll be fun to show everyone on this side of the pond what I’ve been doing,” she said.
See "Inside Nature’s Giants” on WNET (PBS Channel 13)
"Sperm Whale” airs at 10 p.m. Jan. 18
"Monster Python” airs at 10 p.m. Jan. 25
"Great White Shark” airs at 10 p.m. Feb. 2
"Big Cats” airs at 10 p.m. Feb. 8