Carl Zimmer, a freelance science writer, won the award for the large newspaper category for three stories published in The New York Times, including a piece about the trillions of microbes that reside on and in our bodies. Zimmer, who previously won in the large newspaper category in 2009 and in the online category in 2004, also wrote about evolution in the every-day urban environment of New York City as well as concerns about a rise in scientific journal retractions.
“I’m deeply grateful to my editors at The New York Times for letting me follow my curiosity about science in whatever direction it leads, be it the bacteria that live inside of us, the evolution going on around us, or the precarious state of science today,” Zimmer said. “That sort of freedom is a precious commodity these days.”
The judges praised Zimmer’s entry as an example of sustained excellence in reporting on a range of science topics. His story about evolution at work on organisms living in and around New York City—from white-footed mice in an urban park to native ants to fish in the Hudson River—was a “surprising, intriguing, and amusing look at science in unexpected places,” said contest judge Laura Helmuth, science editor for the online magazine Slate. Robert Lee Hotz, a science writer for The Wall Street Journal, said Zimmer’s reporting on urban evolution and on the microbes that exist on and in the human body “makes us see the world with new eyes.” At the same time, Hotz added, Zimmer “does not shy from exposing the shortcomings and frauds of science, as retractions and examples of misconduct become more numerous.”