Award Winners

2021

Science Reporting – Large Outlet

Gold

The judges praised the El País entry for examining the risks of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 at a time when understanding of the aerosol spread of the disease was still developing. The virus is most contagious in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, the story said, and the danger can be reduced by applying all available measures to inhibit infection via aerosols. The story provided a detailed overview of the likelihood of infection in three everyday scenarios―aerosol spread at a social gathering in a living room; in a bar with reduced capacity; and in a school classroom with 24…

Science Reporting – Small Outlet

Gold

India is considered “megadiverse,” with one of the largest number of species found nowhere else in the world. And as Aathira Perinchery described in her award-winning story, discovering new species is now a common occurrence in India. “It excites people in evolutionary biology and conservation communities,” she wrote, “but remains otherwise undissected in the popular imagination.” New scientific methods and more explorations have led to more frequent reports of new species and to a better understanding of what they mean, Perinchery says. “Some are clues to the past: what was the earth like…

Science Reporting – In-Depth

Gold

Noah Gallagher Shannon created a storm chaser story for a new and undetermined meteorological landscape. As climate change increases both the size and intensity of storms worldwide, atmospheric scientists are struggling to predict stronger and increasingly erratic weather patterns. For some scientists, “the chaos wrought by climate change requires radically rethinking some of meteorology’s core concepts,” writes Shannon. One group of scientists, led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Steve Nesbitt, is studying the monster storms in northern Argentina to produce a blueprint…

Magazine

Gold

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Tech aerosol scientist Linsey Marr and her colleagues met with the World Health Organization to warn them about airborne virus spread. At the time, the organization ignored their warning, insisting that the coronavirus disperses primarily through droplets that did not hang in the air and fell quickly to the ground. Their droplet argument led to guidelines centered around hand washing and social distancing rather than mask use. The WHO’s initial guidance was based on a misinformed definition of aerosols which specified that all…

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

In their PBS Terra videos, Michael Werner, Joe Hanson, Rachel Raney and Brandon Arolfo explore the ongoing attempts to save two threatened ecosystems―the American prairie and the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest. “How Bison Are Saving America’s Lost Prairie” focuses on the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northeastern Oklahoma, a 40,000-acre expanse where scientists from The Nature Conservancy are using bison to restore the area’s ecosystem after years of destructive overgrazing by cattle. The herd of more than 2,000 bison now helps foster the ecosystem’s rich…

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

“Picture a Scientist” invites viewers to imagine science as a more diverse, equitable and welcoming enterprise than historically has been the norm. It describes the experiences of three women—biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks and geologist Jane Willenbring—who were subject to subtle slights and, in some cases, brutal harassment as they sought to build careers in science. Women still make up less than a quarter of STEM professionals in the United States, with the numbers even lower for women of color such as Burks. The film combines powerful personal stories with compelling…

Audio

Gold

Amanada Buckiewicz and Nicole Mortillaro, producers for a special edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s long-running “Quirks & Quarks” program, looked at the past and future of Black people in science. The episode examined the history of biased and false "race science" that led to misunderstanding and mistreatment of Black people by the scientific and medical community, creating obstacles for them to participate in the scientific process. Buckiewicz and Mortillaro spoke to Black researchers about their work and how they are trying to increase recognition for the contributions of…

Children's Science News

Gold

In the first of three award-winning segments, the Vox team uses the discovery of a bird’s nest on a porch swing as an opportunity to view hatchling robins closely and answer some important questions about bird life, including why the crowded nest is not eventually covered in bird poop. It turns out the newborns present their poop to their parents in convenient fecal sacs, which the adults gladly remove from the nest. The other segments on the secret history of dirt and the identification of clouds are equally captivating, the judges found. “These are engaging videos for adults as well as kids…

2020

Science Reporting – Large Outlet

Gold

Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester of Kaiser Health News teamed up with Michelle R. Smith of The Associated Press for an extensive investigation into decades of public health defunding that has exacerbated the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The team uncovered just how ill-equipped state and local health programs had become when the pandemic hit. When a bungled federal response left local health departments to often fend for themselves, the pandemic placed an overwhelming new strain on these underfunded systems. The reporters spoke with “more than 150…

Science Reporting – Small Outlet

Gold

In the opening of his piece, freelancer Geoffrey Kamadi described in some detail the flora and fauna of Kenya’s Tana River Basin, a biodiversity hotspot with a dozen protected areas. “But looks might be deceiving,” he noted. “As a matter of fact, all indications suggest that this almost fantastic, even story-book portrayal of nature in its largely intact and unperturbed splendor, belies an ecological tragedy that is gradually unfolding.” Kamadi went on to explain that five dams on the Tana River have reduced the outflow of fresh water to the Indian Ocean, allowing salty sea water to flow…

Science Reporting – In-Depth

Gold

Ed Yong of The Atlantic told his readers some hard truths about the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists and public health specialists had long warned that such a global outbreak was inevitable. The United States ― despite its high score on the Global Health Security Index ― failed to measure up when tested by the novel coronavirus, partly because the White House had become what Yong called a “ghost town of scientific expertise.” In March when the pandemic was starting to grab hold in the U.S., Yong wrote: “Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19…

Magazine

Gold

In a gripping look at a public health crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Amy Maxmen told how responders from the World Health Organization battled not only the deadly Ebola virus in a time of violent political unrest, but also deep-seated suspicion of outsiders by local residents who had suffered from more than a century of conflict, exploitation and neglect from their government and the world at large. Despite efforts of about 700 WHO staff ― almost all of them African ― in cities and towns where Ebola was spreading, Maxmen wrote that the death rate was soaring at 67% because the…

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s engaging segment told how Mas Subramanian and his team at Oregon State University discovered a new shade of blue. Director Jes Burns, with editor Dan Evans and videographers Brandon Swanson and Stephani Gordon, recounted the history of YInMn Blue’s discovery and development. The new color was first created when a graduate student on Subramanian’s team heated manganese oxide for an unrelated experiment. The surprising result was a vibrant new shade of blue that is extremely stable and uniquely suited for commercial use. “I was blown away by the new blue,” said…

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

Bill Haney, writer, producer and director of “Jim Allison: Breakthrough,” tells the story of an unconventional scientist and his path to a Nobel Prize. Shattered as a youth by the loss of his mother to cancer, Allison became a headstrong, long-haired, music-loving student fascinated with the immune system and its potential for combatting cancer. He eventually led a research team exploring the mechanisms of T-cells, the immune system’s hunter-killer cells. In the 1990s, his team and another group showed there was a molecule on T-cells that acts like an off switch or a brake pedal when T-cells…

Audio

Gold

In three episodes of Gimlet Media’s “Science Vs” podcast, Australian podcaster and host Wendy Zukerman and the "Science Vs" team dug into the science behind three coronavirus controversies. The first investigated the legitimacy of chloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. Zukerman expertly explained the mechanisms that made this medication a consideration for coronavirus treatment and takes a deeper look at some of the studies that prompted the initial chloroquine hype. BBC science correspondent Victoria Gill said the podcast’s ability to “get to grips so quickly with such a fast-moving…

Children's Science News

Gold

Tracy Vonder Brink introduced her young readers to Eba, the conservation canine, who helps scientists find floating scat from orcas, also called killer whales. By studying the scat, the researchers can learn a lot about the health and diet of the animals ― and the pregnancy status of the females ― without disturbing them. “All kids are fascinated with poop, but that's not what makes this story so fantastic,” said judge Christine Dell’Amore, senior editor on the animals desk at National Geographic. “The approach of using Eba as a ‘spokesdog’ for orca conservation is an ingenious way to both…