Award Winners

2019

Large Newspaper

Gold

“Orcas thrive in a land to the north -- Why are Puget Sound's dying?” Nov. 11, 2018

“Hunger: The decline of salmon adds to the struggle of Puget Sound’s orcas” February 24, 2019

“The roar below: How our noise is hurting orcas’ search for salmon” May 19, 2019

THE SEATTLE TIMES

Lynda Mapes and her colleagues explored the plight of the southern resident killer whales, among the most enduring symbols of the Puget Sound region and among the region’s most endangered animals. They examined the role humans have played in the decline of the orcas, what can be done about it and why it matters. They looked at why Canadian orcas are healthy and growing in numbers while Puget Sound orcas are fighting for survival. They explored the relationship between chinook salmon and the southern resident orca pods, with both species struggling for survival after a century of habitat...Read more

Silver

“La science au chevet de Notre-Dame” July 10, 2019

(“At the bedside of Notre Dame”)

Le Monde

Nathaniel Herzberg described the work of scientists trying to understand the past and potential future of Notre Dame cathedral in the wake of the devastating fire that nearly destroyed the historic structure in April 2019. The cathedral debris offers a wealth of insight into more than eight centuries of the structure’s architectural history. From the first night, art historians, archaeologists and curators helped firefighters save as much of the cathedral as possible. Once the real extent of the damage was known, teams of scientists were organized to explore the cathedral’s structure and...Read more

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

“The Next Pompeii” Feb. 20, 2019

A NOVA production by Lion Television for WGBH Boston in association with ARTE France

Weaving together archaeology, volcanology and geophysics, the “The Next Pompeii” creates a vivid and thorough exploration of the tectonic activity around Naples, Italy. The NOVA documentary digs deep into the history of the city to uncover current geological threats to the region and warn locals about the possibility of a future volcanic disaster. While Vesuvius destroyed ancient Pompeii, a lesser known volcano called Campi Flegrei has the potential to be far more destructive than its more famous neighbor, endangering millions of residents in and around Naples. Scientists have enhanced a...Read more

Silver

“How to See a Black Hole: The Universe’s Greatest Mystery” April 10, 2019

Windfall Films for BBC Four in association with Smithsonian, NHK, Canal+ and Welt24

The BBC documentary followed the Event Horizon Telescope team as they captured the first- ever image of a black hole. The video spans two years, telling the inside story of the final moments of a decade-long project as it occurred in real time. The project combined eight radio telescopes from around world, including the South Pole, to make a synchronized, planet-wide telescope capable of observing radio emissions associated with black holes. Based on theory and observations, the existence of black holes — from which no light can escape — has long been accepted by scientists. But the Event...Read more

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

“Dying soil: An invisible crisis at our feet” April 27, 2019

France 24

Mairead Dundas and Marina Bertsch tackled the disappearance of top soil in their award-winning France 24 video. Through interviews with soil scientists, local farmers and specialists for food producer Nestle, they described the impact of industrial farming on soils in one region of France as an example of a much larger global trend. “One third of the world’s top soil has already been degraded,” Dundas explained, and that could have detrimental impacts on food production, erosion control and carbon sequestration. The answer? Some farmers suggest an alternative farming practice called...Read more

Small Newspaper

Gold

“Does Norway hold the key to clean air?” Oct. 21, 2018

“Winter is coming and so is bad air” Nov. 18, 2018

“The politics of clean air” Dec. 26, 2018

DESERET NEWS

In three related stories on Salt Lake City’s growing air pollution problem, Erica Evans investigated many of the ways the city has failed to implement change. Evans took a creative approach to a difficult topic, focusing on potential solutions and drawing inspiration from comparable cities. Her first story begins in Oslo, Norway, where Evans draws a direct parallel between the Norwegian city and Salt Lake City — both are heavily polluted regions that experience weather patterns in which polluted air is trapped close to the ground during winter. In Oslo, though, the city is successfully...Read more

Silver

“Unlocking Science in Idaho” Nov. 25, 2018

DESERET NEWS

Three pieces by Amy Joi O’Donoghue, published on the same day, provided a comprehensive look at the history, future and current impact on Utah residents of the nearby Idaho National Laboratory. O’Donoghue investigated the lab’s current research, describing important projects and their significance for the local area. In a second piece, she focused on the future of the lab’s partnership with NuScale’s Carbon Free Power Project. The project, which could provide clean nuclear energy to Utah residents by 2026, has stirred up local controversy among legislators and energy companies. The last of...Read more

Magazine

Gold

“The Plague Years: How the rise of right-wing nationalism is jeopardizing the world’s health” April 2019

THE NEW REPUBLIC

Maryn McKenna took a comprehensive look at the global history of public health and disease outbreaks, drawing a parallel between today’s public health crisis and a global rise in political and religious nationalism. She confronted many of the misconceptions that have been popularized by right-wing nationalist groups and debunked them with a series of carefully researched case studies. The spread of misinformation has led to a global crisis that needs immediate attention, McKenna found. “No matter where it has surfaced,” she wrote, “the nativist assault on public health is gaining traction...Read more

Silver

“Caucher Birkar — from asylum seeker to Fields Medal winner at Cambridge” April 2019

The Times Magazine (London)

Caucher Birkar grew up in a Kurdish peasant family in a war zone in Iran. An older brother started teaching him mathematics beyond what was in his textbooks, and he won acceptance into Tehran University, where his interest in math was further nurtured. But he eventually applied for asylum in Britain and was arbitrarily settled in Nottingham, where he lived with three other asylum seekers, unable to work and paying for food with vouchers. While in a “bureaucratic purgatory,” as Tom Whipple of The Times of London, describes it, Birkar benefited from a happy circumstance. The local...Read more

Television: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Silver

“Greenland – OMG Expedition” Oct. 3, 2018

VICE News Tonight

In a striking VICE News Tonight segment, the VICE team traveled to Knud Rasmussen Glacier in eastern Greenland to investigate the mechanisms behind glacial melt and sea level rise. They met up with NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland expedition — OMG for short — to learn how ocean water has a major impact on Greenland’s disappearing glacial ice. Scientists on the expedition are finding that warming ocean currents, hundreds of meters beneath the ocean surface, are by far “the biggest and most overlooked source of glacial melt.” The segment focused on the scientific process and emphasized the...Read more

Audio

Gold

“A Sense of Time” April 2, 2019

BBC Radio 4

Is time experienced differently by different animals? Are squirrels, tortoises and pesky flies literally living their lives at different speeds than us? Such questions were at the heart of “A Sense of Time,” a delightful look at the physiology of time perception by different species, with a dollop of philosophy thrown in for good measure. Research has shown that animals do experience life at different temporal resolutions, with humans seeing the world at 60 frames per second and some insect species seeing it at as fast as 400 frames per second. Such abilities allow birds to catch flies in...Read more

Silver

“The Fourth Astronaut” June 10, 2019

“Saving 1968” June 17, 2019

“We’re go for Powered Descent” July 1, 2019

BBC World Service

In three episodes of a 12-part podcast and radio series about the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, the BBC team used archival materials and extensive new interviews to explain the technology and engineering advances that made the mission a success. They described in exquisite detail the design and development of the “fourth astronaut,” the 70-pound onboard flight computer that made everything possible and which also presented some daunting last-minute challenges for mission controllers and pilot Neil Armstrong as the Eagle lander rapidly approached the lunar surface. The producers described...Read more

Online

Gold

“The maddening saga of how an Alzheimer’s ‘cabal’ thwarted progress toward a cure for decades” June 25, 2019

“How an outsider in Alzheimer’s research bucked the prevailing theory — and clawed for validation” Oct. 29, 2019

“As Alzheimer’s drug developers give up on today’s patients, where is the outrage?” Aug. 15, 2018

STAT

Sharon Begley described how the dogmatic belief that beta-amyloid deposits cause Alzheimer’s disease has stymied research into other possible explanations of the disease, including inflammation and infection. Several scientists said those who controlled the Alzheimer’s research agenda were a “cabal” that influenced what studies were published in top journals, which scientists got funded, who got tenure and who received invitations to speak at scientific conferences. George Perry, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas–San Antonio, told Begley that scientists who didn't go along with...Read more

Silver

“The Impossibly Cute Pika’s Survival May Say Something About Our Future” May 9, 2019

InsideClimate News

Nicholas Kusnetz described the painstaking work of biologist Chris Ray who has been tracking the American pika, a fist-sized denizen of the western mountains of the United States, for more than 30 years. It is “one of the longest-running research projects of one of the West’s most adorable creatures,” Kusnetz wrote.  He added, “The rabbit relatives are highly sensitive to temperature changes. They live high in the mountains, where temperatures are warming faster than the global average. And because pikas occupy a habitat that's critical to life across the West—mountain snowmelt is the...Read more

Children's Science News

Gold

“The Science of Whiskers” April 5, 2019

Tumble Science Podcast for Kids

“The Cave of the Underground Astronauts” January 11, 2019

“Why do seals have whiskers?” wondered six-year-old Karah from Baltimore, Maryland. In “The Science of Whiskers,” the Tumble Science Podcast for Kids team was determined to find out. They interviewed “whisker scientist” Robyn Grant and explored how animals use whiskers “just like we use our senses to navigate our world.” Their second award-winning podcast on “The Cave of the Underground Astronauts” adopted the same sense of curiosity, with the podcast team interviewing archaeologists working in a subterranean cave in South Africa. The “underground astronauts” Skype in from 30 meters...Read more

Silver

“Rare-plant hunters race against time to save at-risk species” February 7, 2019

Science News for Students (online magazine)

In her winning entry, Canadian science writer Sharon Oosthoek followed efforts by scientists trying to save Hawaii’s endangered alula, a plant that once was widely used in decorative leis. She lured her readers into the story from the outset, writing: “Somewhere on a windswept cliff on the edge of the Hawaiian island of Kauai grows a plant that looks like a cabbage on a stick. It’s the last wild plant of its kind, and its exact location is a closely guarded secret.” Oosthoek described efforts by horticulturists to save that last, lonely plant by cultivating offspring in greenhouses and...Read more