Award Winners

2014

Large Newspaper

"Why Everyone Seems to Have Cancer" - 5 Jan. 2014

"A Tumor, the Embryo's Evil Twin" - 18 Mar. 2014

"An Apple a Day, and Other Myths" - 22 Apr. 2014

The New York Times

 

George Johnson, a contributor to The New York Times, won for three insightful essays on cancer and some of the misconceptions about the disease. Hillary Rosner, a freelance writer who was one of the judges, said Johnson's pieces "are gorgeously written and offer fascinating perspectives on a topic we like to think we know a lot about."

Johnson described how cancer is vying to become the final killer as heart disease and stroke are beaten back; how researchers are finding that the same genes that guide fetal cells as they multiply, migrate and create a...Read more

Small Newspaper

"Devastated: The World's Largest Organism is in Utah — and It's Dying" - 21 Nov. 2013

Salt Lake City Weekly

 

Matthew LaPlante and Paul Christiansen described efforts to understand what is killing the aspen groves of Utah, clones of genetically identical trees that exist as single interconnected organisms with unified root systems that can cover 100 acres or more. A clone dubbed "Pando," first identified in the 1970s as likely the world's largest organism, has an almost complete lack of juvenile and adolescent tree stems, a sign that the ancient organism (perhaps 80,000 years old by some estimates) may be dying. Despite an onslaught of boring insects, bark beetles, canker infections...Read more

Magazine

"The Social Life of Genes" - September/October 2013

Pacific Standard

 

David Dobbs explained how a growing body of research with diverse species, from bees and birds to monkeys and humans, suggests that social life can affect gene expression at a scale and breadth not previously suspected. Sawyer called the piece a "fascinating, entertaining trip through studies of gene expression and how scientists came to learn what they know about how genes interact with our social environment." Dobbs also explored some of the more speculative questions raised by the research, including just how quickly a person's gene expression may change in response to...Read more

Television: Spot News/Feature Reporting

"The Ecology of Fear" - 4 Mar. 2014

KCTS 9 / QUEST

 

Michael Werner explored the return of wolves to the Cascade Mountains in Washington state and the impact they could have on a vast wilderness area where prey species must learn to cope with their new neighbors. He reported on the work of biologist Aaron Wirsing, who uses a simple video camera (a "deer cam") to study predator/prey relationships and provide insights on how we think about wolves. The judges applauded Werner's piece as a good example of enterprising science journalism at the local level. "Discussions around wolves are too often fueled by passion rather than...Read more

Television: In-Depth/Feature Reporting

"Your Inner Fish" - 9 Apr., 16 Apr., 23 Apr. 2014

Tangled Bank Studios/Windfall Films for PBS

 

Michael Rosenfeld, David Dugan, and Neil Shubin won for a three-part PBS series on "Your Inner Fish." The winning series described how Shubin, a fish paleontologist, and his colleagues use fossil evidence and our DNA history to trace different features of our anatomy to animals from long ago. Natalie Angier, a science writer for The New York Times, praised the PBS series. "I particularly applaud the segments that reveal what fieldwork is really like," Angier said, "and the graphics really brought the fossils to life."

Shubin, the author of two books on...Read more

Radio

"Staying Healthy May Mean Learning To Love Our Microbiomes" - 22 July 2013

"From Birth, Our Microbes Become As Personal As A Fingerprint" - 9 Sept. 2013

"Getting Your Microbes Analyzed Raises Big Privacy Issues" - 4 Nov. 2013

NPR

 

As part of his continuing reporting on the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes that we all harbor, Rob Stein told his listeners about the positive benefits we can derive from our microbiome, the distinctly personal nature of our microbial ecosystems, and the privacy issues that loom now that individuals can readily and inexpensively get their microbes analyzed. One of the pieces included an imaginary bus tour through the microscopic world of the body. Judge Marc Kaufman, a science writer for The Washington Post and other publications, called...Read more

Online

"Trials: A Desperate Fight to Save Kids and Change Science" - 14 Nov. 2013

The Wall Street Journal

 

In "Trials," a sweeping, multimedia project, reporter Amy Dockser Marcus followed a group of families and scientists trying to accelerate the development of a drug to treat Niemann-Pick Type C disease, a rare and fatal disorder of cholesterol metabolism that strikes primarily children. Those with the disease, which gradually steals mobility, speech, and the ability to swallow, seldom live beyond their teen years. The families and scientists, whom Dockser Marcus followed for six years, were part of a fledgling movement to change medical science in the United States and gain a...Read more

Children's Science News

"Biting Back" - 16 Sept. 2013

"Underwater Adventurer" - 7 Oct. 2013

"Swallowed Up" - 3 Feb. 2014

Scholastic Science World

 

In engaging stories about venomous animals, sinkholes, and a do-it-yourself submarine, Mara Grunbaum offered her young readers a look at how scientists and engineers seek to understand and interact with the natural world. She explained how erosion can carve out cavities in certain types of bedrock resulting eventually in a dramatic collapse called a sinkhole. But Grunbaum also sought to reassure her readers that the odds of being swallowed up in a sinkhole are very, very small. Her story on snakes and other venomous animals explained what makes snake venom harmful, how to...Read more

2013

Large Newspaper

"Deep Trouble" - 19 Aug., 22 Aug., 26 Aug. 2012

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

Dan Egan, a science writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, won for a three-part series, "Deep Trouble," that examined why a seemingly radical solution — damming and reversing the flow of the Chicago River — may be necessary to protect the Great Lakes from the invasive Asian carp. The reporting was done as part of a master's thesis project at Columbia University, Egan said.

"I want to thank my editors for letting me go to New York to stretch my ability to write about these complicated topics, and for recognizing there was such a strange and interesting...Read more

Small Newspaper

"Warning: Quake in 60 Seconds" - 1 May 2013

East Bay Express

 

An early warning system could save thousands of lives when the next major earthquake hits the West Coast. Ghorayshi reported on the work of a group at the University of California at Berkeley that has been developing such a warning system, and she pointed out the wide gap between the United States and Japan in the deployment of such systems. Lee Hotz of The Wall Street Journal said Ghorayshi's piece was "sound on science and sage on the politics of earthquake early warning systems." Ghorayshi "made a great case for why California needs to follow Japan's lead in...Read more

Magazine

"Attack of the Mutant Pupfish" - December 2012

Wired

 

Hillary Rosner, the winner in the magazine category for a piece in Wired, considered some of the consequences of a rogue fish population. She described what happened when a few pupfish from a different species managed to infiltrate a refuge designed to preserve the endangered Devil's Hole pupfish in the Mojave Desert. The possible response to the invasion, she found, goes against conventional thinking on how to protect an endangered species.

Rosner thanked her editors for "seeing the promise in this story, which deals with some of the serious issues — both...Read more

Television: Spot News/Feature Reporting

"Adrien Treuille Profile" - 14 November 2012

NOVA scienceNow

 

Joshua Seftel won the television award for spot news/feature reporting for a NOVA scienceNOW segment on Adrien Treuille, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. Treuille has harnessed the brainpower of thousands of people who play computer games as a way to help solve difficult problems such as protein folding. David Baron, health and science editor for Public Radio International's "The World" and a contest judge, said Seftel's segment "brought energy and artistry to a topic that could easily be dry. A great concept, brilliantly executed."

 Treuille...Read more

Television: In-Depth/Feature Reporting

"Killer in the Caves" - 13 Mar. 2013

Smithsonian Channel

 

Bats in North America are dying by the millions, victims of a mysterious fungus that causes white-nose syndrome and has produced one of the greatest wildlife disasters in U.S. history. "Killer in the Caves" follows bat expert DeeAnn Reeder of Bucknell University and wildlife manager Greg Turner of the Pennsylvania Game Commission in their fight against a disease that is driving little brown bats, one of the most common bat species in the northeastern United States, toward extinction. It also is causing mass mortalities among five other species. The program "paired fantastic...Read more

Radio

"As Mine Protections Fail, Black Lung Cases Surge" - 9 July 2012

"Black-Lung Rule Loopholes Leave Miners Vulnerable" - 10 July 2012

NPR and The Center for Public Integrity

 

In a joint investigation by Sandra Bartlett, Howard Berkes and Andrea de Leon of NPR and Chris Hamby of The Center for Public Integrity, Berkes looked at the resurgence of black lung disease among coal miners, particularly in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. He described how the disease is afflicting younger miners and advancing more quickly to the worst stage of the disease. The two-part series discussed how existing regulatory limits on coal dust are inadequate to protect miners from the increasing levels of silicon dioxide being released as more powerful...Read more

Certificate of Merit

“Coal in the Pacific Northwest” - 11 March, 12 March and 18 June 2013

KUOW Public Radio (Seattle)

 

The radio judging committee also recognized Ashley Ahearn of KUOW Public Radio in Seattle for a three-part series on coal in the Pacific Northwest (11 March, 12 March, and 18 June 2013). Energy companies have been assessing several sites for ship terminals in Washington and Oregon where coal could be transferred from trains arriving from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. "The prospect of exporting millions of tons of coal through the Northwest is, and will continue to be, the most important story on my beat." Ahearn said. "My goal in this series...Read more

Online

"Uprising: Can a self-trained scientist solve one of the biggest problems in energy policy?" - 21 Feb. 2013

Matter

 

Bob Ackley spent his life working the streets for some of America's biggest gas companies. More recently, with the help of Boston University's Nathan Phillips, he has been tracking the gas that leaks from underground pipelines, all with full knowledge of the industry. He has concluded that the amount of natural gas leaking beneath city streets is far greater than previously realized. Some scientists now believe such leaks may be helping to accelerate climate change in a way that few had suspected — even as governments worldwide are backing natural gas as an alternative to...Read more