CCBER’s Seltmann and ECE’s Visell tap current scientific literature for their weekly cultural arts program on KCSB radio
UC Santa Barbara entomologist Katja Seltmann has an alter ego. She goes by the name Irene Moon, and she came into being decades ago when Seltmann first started creating science-inspired performance art and DJing on the radio as an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia.
Seltmann — or, rather, her Moon persona — is still riding the airwaves, joined by her partner, Yon Visell. Together they co-anchor “Unknown Territories,” an hour long program with the topic of all things science.
With diverse science backgrounds (Seltmann is the Katherine Esau Director of UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) and Visell is an assistant professor in the campus’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Media Arts and Technology Graduate Program), the pair brings an unusual bent to their weekly radio show, which airs Tuesdays at 9 a.m.
“We both love radio as a medium for expressing ideas and for education, and it’s really fun to do,” Seltmann said. “This show has been great for us because one of the things about being a researcher is that you have to keep up with the literature. Each week, we read a variety of journals, including Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, to choose our topics. We also check social media to see what’s hot and what people are talking about.”
The couple’s broad range of expertise — biology, physics, engineering and cognitive sciences — informs the program’s content, which focuses on topical discussions aimed at communicating ideas about science through entertaining yet critical discourse.
According to Seltmann, “Unknown Territories” fills a critical niche. “We strive to promote science communications as well as to develop a larger dialogue with the community about scientific issues,” she noted. “And because KCSB is a public radio station that streams on the Internet, that community is not just Santa Barbara. There is a connection to the larger world. We feel strongly that everyone in society should be empowered to learn, evaluate and participate in science.”