2012 Magazine


Nijhuis donned a protective suit and went underground to observe both bats and biologists as she reported on white-nose syndrome, a fast-moving fungal disease that has killed more than a million cave-dwelling bats in the northeastern United States and is threatening to spread across the continent. The judges noted the scope of the Nijhuis story, which provided an in-depth look at an issue that has been emerging since 2007 when the disease was first discovered in bats behaving oddly in upstate New York. Andrew Revkin, a senior fellow at Pace University and Dot Earth blogger for The New York Times, called the story a “deep, detailed, and disturbing dive into the mysterious outbreak devastating bats in North America.” Nancy Shute, a freelance science writer and immediate past president of the National Association of Science Writers, said the piece showed “terrific field reporting, lyrical writing, and compassion for the struggles of scientists in the face of the unknown.” Nijhuis, a previous winner in 2006 in the small newspaper category, noted that bats are “about as far from ‘charismatic megafauna’ as you can get.” The challenge of the story, she said, was to demystify the creatures and make their “very real plight interesting and appealing” to a general audience. “The scientists in the story, who were passionate about bats and about solving the problems at hand, helped me to do that,” she said.