“Your Inner Fish” wins an Emmy


Last year, genetics professor Sean Carroll, the Allan Wilson Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at UW-Madison, said it was a story that had never been put together in one place, the story of “how our bodies have modified over the years from our fishy ancestors.”

Now, that story, condensed into a three-part series that first aired in 2014 on PBS – “Your Inner Fish” – has won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction in the 36th News and Documentary Emmy Awards competition, which took place in late September at Geffen Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center.

The series, based on a book of the same name written by University of Chicago evolutionary biologist and paleontologist Neil Shubin (who also hosted the series), traces the fascinating origins of the human body. It explores how the fins of fish became the human hand, how the inner ear started as gills, and much more.

The Emmy for the series went to Tangled Bank Studios, the editorially independent production company that Carroll launched in 2012 at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), where he is vice president for science education. UW-Madison anthropologist John Hawks served as an advisor on the three-part series, and a UW-Madison graduate, Laura Helft, helped produce it. Helft is a senior researcher for HHMI and Tangled Bank.

Sean Carroll, professor of genetics and an investigator with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is pictured in his research lab at UW-Madison.//Credit: Jeff Miller, UW-Madison
Sean Carroll, professor of genetics and an investigator with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is pictured in his research lab at UW-Madison. Photo by Jeff Miller, UW-Madison.

“When we launched Tangled Bank Studios in 2012, we vowed to make science as compelling as action films, dramatic cinema, and all the other stories that people love,” Carroll said in a statement on Tangled Bank’s website. “We’re thrilled that viewers so enjoyed ‘Your Inner Fish,’ and we’re honored to receive this award.”

In addition to the PBS series, Tangled Bank created a host of free, classroom-based resources for teachers and students based on Your Inner Fish.

“Our educational mission is being served by putting the broadcast specials on television while expanding materials in the classroom and providing that for free,” Carroll said upon the show’s launch last year. “To what degree will kids — future adults — look at their hands and say: ‘These are modified fish hands’, ‘Why do I get hiccups? Why do my friends get aching backs?’”

This article was originally published on the UWMadScience blog