Award Winners

2019

Large Newspaper

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

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

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

Small Newspaper

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

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

Audio

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

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

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

2018

Large Newspaper

Silver

“Hamburgs nächste Elbphilharmonie?” Aug. 26, 2017

Hamburger Abendblatt (Hamburg, Germany)

Underground between Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg-Bahrenfeld in Germany, scientists and engineers have built a huge X-ray laser instrument, called European XFEL, that costs twice as much as Hamburg’s new concert hall. Hasse told his readers what the physicists are up to in their backyard and how they try to illuminate the interior of matter and record films of atoms. When atoms come together during chemical processes to form molecules, he writes, the process happens “about a billion times faster than the wing beat of a hummingbird.” With extremely short and intense flashes of light, the...Read more

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Silver

“Ozone Hole: How We Saved the Planet” May 21, 2018 (SVT2)

Windfall Films for SVT2 (Sweden), Channel 4 (UK) and PBS

It was an environmental and political success story that resonates in today’s contentious debates over climate change. In the 1980s, the planet was threatened by the growth of a continent-sized hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, a hole that scientists determined was due to the impact of human-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, found in refrigerants and hairsprays. The ozone layer provides vital protection from the sun’s high-frequency ultraviolet rays. The alarming erosion of that layer provoked international concern and, eventually, the Montreal Protocol that led...Read more

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Silver

“How trees secretly talk to each other” June 28, 2018

BBC World Service

Jennifer Green opened her short, animated video on trees with a simple message: “Trees may look like solitary individuals. But the ground beneath our feet tells a different story. Trees are secretly talking, trading and waging war on one another.” In just under two minutes, Green and animator Jules Bartl described the fungal network through which trees communicate, a system that has been nicknamed the “Wood Wide Web.” If attacked by pests, trees can release chemical signals through their roots that can warn neighboring trees to raise their defenses. The judges praised the visual appeal of...Read more

Small Newspaper

Silver

"Scum" Sept. 17, 2017

The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

Tony Bartelme’s special report on the growing menace of harmful waterborne algae blooms ranged well beyond the local Charleston area. The blooms, which can spawn toxins as deadly as cyanide, have smothered manatees in Florida, wiped out sea otters in California, killed dogs in Minnesota and made water from South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell taste like dirt. At the time of his reporting, he found there already had been more than 460 blooms in 48 states in 2017. The algae-created toxins may do more than poison fish and dogs. Research suggests there may be higher rates of liver disease and cancer...Read more

Magazine

Silver

“The Exercise Pill” Nov. 6, 2017

The New Yorker

In her exploration of the biology and chemistry of physical exercise, Nicola Twilley introduces the reader to Couch Potato Mouse and Lance Armstrong Mouse. Both had been fed a diet consisting almost entirely of fat and sugar and got little exercise. But while Couch Potato Mouse was lethargic, with rolls of visible fat, Lance Armstrong Mouse was lean, taut and active in its cage. It had been fed a daily dose of GW501516 or “516”, a drug that, as Twilley puts it, “confers beneficial effects of exercise without the need to move a muscle.” Whether such drugs will ever prove beneficial for...Read more

Audio

Silver

“SubSurface: Resisting Montana’s Underwater Invaders” (series) Nov. 20, Nov. 24, Dec. 4, Dec.10 and Dec. 18, 2017

Montana Public Radio

Montana was invaded in the summer of 2017 by microscopic aliens floating in the waters of Tiber Reservoir in the north central part of the state near Shelby. The tiny organisms, which emit a glowing X-shape in the light of a microscope, were infant forms of invasive zebra and quagga mussels, species that already had invaded the Great Lakes with devastating impact. The organisms soon were found in the Canyon Ferry reservoir east of Helena and downstream in the Missouri River as well. The finding triggered immediate concern about the future health of Montana’s fisheries and led Nicky Ouellet...Read more

Online

Silver

“China is Genetically Engineering Monkeys With Brain Disorders” June 8, 2018

The Atlantic.com

Sarah Zhang visited a facility in the Guangdong province of China where researchers are tinkering with monkey brains to better understand the most severe forms of autism. It is research that is too expensive, too impractical and perhaps too ethically sensitive to be carried out in the United States. The researchers use CRISPR, a powerful new gene-editing technique, that enables scientists to zero in on and disable specific genes. Zhang recounted the research of Guoping Feng, who holds an endowed chair in neuroscience at MIT but who now travels to China several times a year to pursue...Read more

Children's Science News

Silver

“Why do we have butts?” May 31, 2018

“Science Magic Show Hooray” from The Washington Post

“Why am I so sweaty?” July 12, 2018

“Science Magic Show Hooray” from The Washington Post

Anna Rothschild has a knack for telling stories that both entertain and enlighten her young audience. In one of her award-winning segments, Rothschild explained the evolution of the digestive tract and why the human posterior looks like it does. In the second, piece she explored the functions of sweat, from the days when our ancestors were evolving to more efficiently cool their bodies as they became more active in chasing prey (and avoiding predators). And as Rothschild points out, “Getting a super-efficient way to dump excess heat may have been part of what allowed our brains to get...Read more