The Freeflow Podcast

a media project of Freeflow Institute


Alumni Showcase: Lauren Smith + Zoey Greenberg


In the summer of 2018 the Freeflow community established its roots. Our mission is to connect people to wild or precious places, but also to connect people to one another: emerging writers to professional writers, creatives to conservationists, educators to students, established mentors to the next generation of leaders. Since we ran our first two Missouri and Salmon River programs in 2018 we’ve held courses on the Rogue, Green, Blackfoot, and Yellowstone Rivers, as well as several pandemic-era remote workshops. We’ve grown our network of instructors, contributors, alumni, and students exponentially. The students are the heart of our community. They raise good questions and challenge us to be better as an organization. They also collect and create really good stories. 

And so today on the podcast we feature the stories and voices of two of our alumni. Both of these stories are, ostensibly, about birds. Dippers, or water ouzels, specifically. And both are also about so much more. 

Lauren Smith is a writer and science communicator who is really into birds. Originally from Ohio, she now calls western Montana home. She’s a former field biologist and environmental educator, spent the last few years in the disability research field, and now works as the communications director at a small nonprofit focused on owl research. In 2019 she joined Freeflow on the Green River with Pam Houston; in 2020 she participated in our first remote-style workshop, called SHIFT; and she now serves on the board of The Freeflow Foundation, which raises funds to support Freeflow students from low-income or marginalized communities. Today we are honored to feature Lauren’s piece, called “An Ornithologist’s Response,” here on the podcast. She originally wrote the bones of this essay in 2016, immediately following the election; it’s gone through several permutations since then, including this lovely iteration.

Zoey Greenberg is also based in Missoula, where she is working toward her master’s in environmental studies at the University of Montana, and where she’s a senior editor for Camas Magazine. Zoey’s professional background includes training vultures, watching hawks, doing raptor work in the field, writing science articles, teaching nature programs, and taking folks to see the whales in Washington’s San Juan Islands. Zoey entered the Freeflow orbit in 2020 when we offered our second remote workshop series. We were immediately impressed by her writing and are so happy to feature her here, in our alumni showcase. This essay, called “Between the Lines,” features Zoey’s unique voice and style, and, of course, birds.


Our theme music is by Nate Heygi and Wartime Blues.

The Freeflow Podcast is made possible by generous contributions from The Prop Foundation and the Montana Arts Council.

Rick White is a writer and producer of The Freeflow Podcast. His work has been published in The A.V. ClubHigh Desert JournalWestword, and Camas, and was recently nominated for Best American Essays. He likes stories that are rich in mischief, especially the misadventures of lovable losers on impossible quests. 

Stephanie Maltarich, a producer at The Freeflow Podcast,is an independent audio producer based in Gunnison, Colorado. She’s reported and produced radio stories for NPR, Colorado Public Radio and Yellowstone Public Radio. She’s contributed to the Out There Podcast and written scripts for Duolingo’s language learning podcast. She discovered her love for audio storytelling while completing a Master’s degree at the University of Montana. 

The Freeflow Podcast is made with love in Montana, near the storied Blackfoot River.

Arlo, on the banks of the Blackfoot, during the summer months when weathered sticks, sunshine, and warm, flat rocks define his days.

Would your organization or brand like to support The Freeflow Podcast? Get in touch. We are excited to explore new and innovative partnerships.