Dan Riskin Discusses 'Shark Week' and 'Daily Planet' turning 20!
I had the pleasure of catching up with co-host of Discovery Canada's 'Daily Planet', Dan Riskin ahead of a week long series of special episodes airing on the channel from this Monday as part of Discovery's 'Shark Week'.
As well as co-hosting 'Daily Planet' for Discovery, you present Animal Planet's 'Monsters Inside Me' - can we expect to see a fifth season of the show?
Yes. It's in the works, but that's all I'm allowed to say at this point. Oh OK, I can also say that it will be revolting, but you knew that already.
In March of this year, you authored the book 'Mother Nature Is Trying To Kill You' - did you enjoy this process?
I would say that book is one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done, and I hope you check it out. It was really fun to try to put all the gross/disgusting/rude things I could think of from the biological world into a single place. From worms coming out of your rear end while you sleep to penis fencing, I really got to cover the field with this book, in ways I definitely can't do on TV. You can learn more about the book here, if you're curious.
Do you still have time to fit research into Bats and Vampire Bats, a subject which you first appeared on 'Daily Planet' to talk about in 2005?
I don't get as much time for research as I did before Daily Planet, for sure, but I've taken an adjunct professorship in the biology department at the University of Toronto Mississauga, working closely with a brilliant bat guy named John Ratcliffe, so I hope to be dabbling much more in the science of bats in the coming months.
'Daily Planet' turns 20 years old this season. So Happy Birthday from TVRage!
Are you excited about celebrating the shows anniversary?
Yes. 20 years ago I was a viewer. I would never have believed I'd be here today!
What do you think the most exciting story the show has covered has been in the past 20 years?
In 2005 Daily Planet did an interview with a young(er) bat biologist at Cornell about his research putting vampire bats on treadmills. Natasha Stillwell was the interviewer. I was so terrified - one of the first things I ever did on TV! So funny to watch that now. I can see that I had a lot to learn about explaining science on TV!
When the show features interviews or segments on people who have survived dangerous situations, do you feel more pressured because of what they have been through, then you do when interviewing a celebrity guest?
To us, the scientists are the celebs, and when I talk to them, I'm into the science enough that I don't get all weak-kneed about meeting them. People who have been through tough things have a different vibe, but again, the science is what we're after in the end, and that centres things.
Shark Week forms a week long of special programmes across the Discovery channel, Worldwide. Does it excite you to know that 'Daily Planet' will be part of it?
Yes. It's high time, and we nailed it. We have a great week in store.
Are you a fan of the 'Sharknado' movies?
To be honest, they're not my go-to. I watched MegaShark vs. Giant Octopus once and kind of got it out of my system then and there. But I get that people love that stuff, so it's great that Discovery's making it part of Shark Week.
If the third 'Sharknado' film asked you to be involved, would you like to cameo in the film?
I have my price.
Are either you, or co-host Ziya Tong, scared of sharks?
It's all context. If you tied a wounded seal to my leg and threw me out of a boat off the coast of South Africa, yes. But I've gone swimming with sharks (so has Ziya), and it's a wonderful experience. Not scary. It's one of the most exciting things you can ever do.
Has your opinion changed of the animals, since putting together the episodes that air this week?
I love them even more. The more you learn, the better sharks get. They're like bats that way (or anything, really).
Living in England myself, I was shocked when watching a segment of Tuesdays show shot in Ireland, as they have a sudden and unexpected baskin sharks population. What was the most shocking thing you found out over the course of the week?
Yeah, I know. Ireland!!! Sharks are everywhere, and there are so many different kinds. The big surprise for me this year was learning that infections are what kill a lot of people who are bitten by sharks. I thought it was just blood loss. So we follow a researcher doing swabs of shark mouths (not easy!) to characterize the kinds of bacteria that live there. So cool.
With the show been filmed at the 'Lost Lagoon' exhibition at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto, you've been around alot of sharks over the week. Do you have a favourite species?
I like Sandtiger Sharks (which they have at Ripley's), because the babies swim around inside their mother, eating one another before they're even born. Who doesn't love that?
During the week we also learn that sharks have a unique and acute sense of smell, using their sense of stereo. If you could smell like a shark, what would be the one thing you wouldn't stop sniffing?
Female sharks, I think.
We also learn about a wetsuit that makes humans invisible to a sharks vision. Are you tempted to try this technology out?
It's a cool tech, but I'd rather be working with the spreadsheets of data than swimming in that thing.
If Discovery put you in charge of a weeks worth of programming, what animal would you dedicate a weeks worth of shows to?
Bat week. Plain and simple.
Do you prefer the more historical items on the show or the items that focus more on new discoveries?
A good story is a good story, but it's fun to know what's new. That's what people come to our show looking for, and that's fun to deliver.
What other topics and films can we look forward to watching on the new season of 'Daily Planet'?
I traveled to Spain this summer to see the world's most advanced speed bump. That's a fun one I can't wait to air. But overall, it's hard to characterize the torrent of great stuff people will be seeing. We have such a talented team of producers, and the stuff they bring back from the field is always so impressive. Daily Planet truly is some of the best TV you can possibly watch.
Is there any conservation projects that you support that you would like to give a shout-out to?
Thanks for thinking to ask that. Try Bat Conservation International. They're great. For $30/yr you get four issues of Bats magazine, and you save bats against poaching, white nose syndrome, and other threats. Plus, you have street-cred with the bat research community, which is huge.
The 'Shark Week' episodes of 'Daily Planet' will air from this upcoming Monday, the 11th through to Friday, the 15th at 7pm on Discovery Canada. Macklemore will feature in the first episode as he goes diving with sharks. Here is a sneak peek of what else is to come throughout the week.
The twentieth season of 'Daily Planet' kicks off on August 25th, with new episodes airing Monday-Friday at 7pm.