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, and other problems, some researchers suspect the underlying cause of Pando's distress may be the long-time suppression of forest fires that promote new growth as well as the hotter, drier winters associated with climate change. Laura Helmuth, science editor for Slate, noted the story's "engaging explanations of clones and the debates over how to determine what is the oldest or largest organism." Kathy Sawyer, a freelancer formerly with The Washington Post, said: "The writing provides easily digestible descriptions of the complex influences in play in the environment and how researchers have teased out insights about the forest, with its unified root system, and why it may be dying." LaPlante commented: "I'd like to think this project is an example of how we can make science alluring — even romantic — without exaggerating the scope of the research, confusing our audience or pandering to anyone." Paul Christiansen, who was an undergraduate student at Utah State University at the time the winning piece was written, is now a reporter in northeast Wyoming at the Gillette News Record. "I'm hoping to be able to expand my writing to incorporate more science pieces in the future, much like the story Matthew and I are being recognized for," Christiansen said.