HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ – Born and raised in Annandale, Thor Giese is a trained archeologist who wanted to find a way to reach a large audience with his knowledge of history and pre-history – so now he is coming to a local PBS station with his new television show, “Thor’s Outdoor Science Academy.”
“It is an idea I have been toying around with for a very long time,” he said.
For almost a decade, Giese worked as the lead tour guide at Dinosaur Ridge, in Colorado, next to the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
“During that time I spoke to, in my own estimate, over a quarter million people, and right from the get-go, people told me I had a gift of explaining really incredibly complicated scientific ideas in a way that was entertaining and non-patronizing,” he said.
Almost daily, Giese said, people would tell him he should have a television show.
Before the pandemic began, he had moved back to New Jersey and got a job doing outdoor education at the Pequest Fish Hatchery, which of course never happened when everything shut down.
“With online learning becoming the norm, I thought now would be the best time to use the skills I had acquired as an archeologist and tour guide to give the public a new way to look at science and history,” he said. “Also there is a food element to my show, as I’ve found food and cooking are great compliments to join explanations of science and history.”
Giese is the writer and host of the show.
He said he conceptualizes an idea from natural history and forms it into a video that is anywhere from three to 30 minutes long.
“As host, I try to show how much I love this stuff and really challenge the audience to look at the world in a different way, while simultaneously being entertained and learning a bit about food as well,” he said.
For example, for a segment on rock salt, Giese explains how rock salt has played an important role in modern civilization as well as modern language. He also acknowledges its place in taste and food preservation, grilling up shrimp and venison on a slab of rock salt.
The show currently airs on PBS stations across the country as an epilogue to “Into the Outdoors” videos, an educational show out of Wisconsin. They are also available on Giese’s website, thorsoutdoorscienceacademy.com.
Giese, a graduate of North Hunterdon High School and with a degree in anthropology from the University of Colorado, said his love of the outdoors was homegrown, living in a rural area of New Jersey with lots of public lands easily accessible by foot or bike.
“But what really set me apart with my love for the outdoors was learning how to hunt from my father from a young age,” he said. “Hunting may sound antithetical to loving wildlife and the environments they occupy, but hunting is the only activity in the outdoors I’ve found that actually makes you an active participant instead of a visitor.”
“Hunting in a tree stand and moving with the wind as it shakes a 100-foot oak tree, sitting for hours without moving, being completely conscious of what you’re smelling, hearing and feeling, all while waiting for the faintest sign of your prey,” he added, “we often feel detached from the natural world in our modern lifestyles, but I’ve never felt that way while out hunting.”
Giese said he hopes that through his show, people learn some context about everything they already know, particularly how it relates to science and natural history.
“There has been so much deliberate misinformation put out in recent years about human nature and our place in the universe, often for nefarious purposes,” he said. “Even since ancient times, people have wrestled with how to distinguish belief from knowledge, and to do so, people need context behind certain scientific facts we have discovered.”
Giese said he wants people to look at a hill or river and imagine what it took for them to form. He hopes they will look at modern civilization and understand that the only way to build the new things people have now is because of achievements in scientific knowledge over generations.
For the future, Giese said, he is hoping to expand his show to larger and larger audiences, as well as different locales.
“I like to say all roads lead to Jersey,” he said. “New Jersey has such a rich history with science and education, and you can see products of that all over the world. There is just so much to explore on our planet, and you can relate so much of that back to this place we call home.”
But overall, Giese said, he is an educator at heart.
“I have somehow cultivated my own way of sharing knowledge that people seem to really like, and I want to continue doing that as long as I can, wherever I can,” he said.