Award Winners

2019

Magazine

Gold

Maryn McKenna took a comprehensive look at the global history of public health and disease outbreaks, drawing a parallel between today’s public health crisis and a global rise in political and religious nationalism. She confronted many of the misconceptions that have been popularized by right-wing nationalist groups and debunked them with a series of carefully researched case studies. The spread of misinformation has led to a global crisis that needs immediate attention, McKenna found. “No matter where it has surfaced,” she wrote, “the nativist assault on public health is gaining traction —…

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

Mairead Dundas and Marina Bertsch tackled the disappearance of top soil in their award-winning France 24 video. Through interviews with soil scientists, local farmers and specialists for food producer Nestle, they described the impact of industrial farming on soils in one region of France as an example of a much larger global trend. “One third of the world’s top soil has already been degraded,” Dundas explained, and that could have detrimental impacts on food production, erosion control and carbon sequestration. The answer? Some farmers suggest an alternative farming practice called…

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

Weaving together archaeology, volcanology and geophysics, “The Next Pompeii” creates a vivid and thorough exploration of the tectonic activity around Naples, Italy. The NOVA documentary digs deep into the history of the city to uncover current geological threats to the region and warn locals about the possibility of a future volcanic disaster. While Vesuvius destroyed ancient Pompeii, a lesser known volcano called Campi Flegrei has the potential to be far more destructive than its more famous neighbor, endangering millions of residents in and around Naples. Scientists have enhanced a system of…

Audio

Gold

Is time experienced differently by different animals? Are squirrels, tortoises and pesky flies literally living their lives at different speeds than us? Such questions were at the heart of “A Sense of Time,” a delightful look at the physiology of time perception by different species, with a dollop of philosophy thrown in for good measure. Research has shown that animals do experience life at different temporal resolutions, with humans seeing the world at 60 frames per second and some insect species seeing it at as fast as 400 frames per second. Such abilities allow birds to catch flies in…

Children's Science News

Gold

“Why do seals have whiskers?” wondered six-year-old Karah from Baltimore, Maryland. In “The Science of Whiskers,” the Tumble Science Podcast for Kids team was determined to find out. They interviewed “whisker scientist” Robyn Grant and explored how animals use whiskers “just like we use our senses to navigate our world.” Their second award-winning podcast on “The Cave of the Underground Astronauts” adopted the same sense of curiosity, with the podcast team interviewing archaeologists working in a subterranean cave in South Africa. The “underground astronauts” Skype in from 30 meters…

Large Newspaper

Gold

Lynda Mapes and her colleagues explored the plight of the southern resident killer whales, among the most enduring symbols of the Puget Sound region and among the region’s most endangered animals. They examined the role humans have played in the decline of the orcas, what can be done about it and why it matters. They looked at why Canadian orcas are healthy and growing in numbers while Puget Sound orcas are fighting for survival. They explored the relationship between chinook salmon and the southern resident orca pods, with both species struggling for survival after a century of habitat loss…

Small Newspaper

Gold

In three related stories on Salt Lake City’s growing air pollution problem, Erica Evans investigated many of the ways the city has failed to implement change. Evans took a creative approach to a difficult topic, focusing on potential solutions and drawing inspiration from comparable cities. Her first story begins in Oslo, Norway, where Evans draws a direct parallel between the Norwegian city and Salt Lake City — both are heavily polluted regions that experience weather patterns in which polluted air is trapped close to the ground during winter. In Oslo, though, the city is successfully…

Online

Gold

Sharon Begley described how the dogmatic belief that beta-amyloid deposits cause Alzheimer’s disease has stymied research into other possible explanations of the disease, including inflammation and infection. Several scientists said those who controlled the Alzheimer’s research agenda were a “cabal” that influenced what studies were published in top journals, which scientists got funded, who got tenure and who received invitations to speak at scientific conferences. George Perry, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas–San Antonio, told Begley that scientists who didn't go along with the…

2018

Magazine

Gold

From her opening sentence – “The trouble began, as it so often does, with a bottle of Chivas Regal” – Emily Anthes takes her readers on a tour of the long and often frustrating effort to develop a male contraceptive pill. In the 1950s, Sterling Drug synthesized a class of drugs that made male rats temporarily infertile. When tested on inmates at the Oregon State Penitentiary, the initial results were startling. Within 12 weeks, sperm counts plummeted. But then one of the test subjects drank some contraband Scotch and became violently ill. The drug and booze didn’t mix, and the research was…

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

As part of a new series by Vox.com for Netflix, Joss Fong and her colleagues explored not only the science but also the ethical implications of the much-discussed CRISPR technique for snipping and editing DNA. Scientists have focused on the potential the tool has for helping to treat or cure human disease. But it also could be used to do germline editing involving sperm, eggs or embryos, allowing changes that would be passed on to future generations. Such changes could ultimately affect human evolution. There also is an important debate on whether DNA editing will go beyond medical therapy to…

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

“The Farthest” recounts the remarkable story of NASA’s Voyager mission to the outer planets of our solar system and beyond. After more than 40 years of travels, the Voyager spacecraft are still in contact with Earth and returning data. Launched in 1977, the two Voyagers – each with less onboard computing power than a cell phone – used slingshot trajectories to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 left our solar system for interstellar space in 2012 and Voyager 2 left it in November, 2018. Each spacecraft carries a golden record with greetings, images and music from Earth for…

Audio

Gold

Each week the BBC’s engaging “CrowdScience” program takes off on an adventure in response to a question from a listener. In their award-winning entry, producer Cathy Edwards and presenter Marnie Chesterton wound back the clock to three million years ago, the last time the atmosphere contained levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide comparable to the levels we are experiencing today due to burning of fossil fuels. They visited a monitoring station on the east coast the United Kingdom to describe how current carbon dioxide levels are measured. They spoke to specialists on ancient CO2 trapped in…

Children's Science News

Gold

Guinea worm disease, a disabling condition that once afflicted millions of people mostly in rural areas of Africa and Asia, is now close to eradication thanks to aggressive efforts by public health authorities to promote use of clean drinking water. The number of cases has dropped from 3.5 million in 1986 to 25 cases in 2016, and the end is in sight. Jeanne Miller told her young readers about the complex life cycle of the disease, in which tiny fleas containing the guinea worm larvae are ingested through contaminated drinking water. The spaghetti-like worms eventually emerge through the skin…

Large Newspaper

Gold

Mike Hixenbaugh spent months with sheriff’s deputy Nick Tullier and his family as they struggled to get him the treatment he needed after being shot three times, including once in the head. In a compelling four-part series, Hixenbaugh described how specialists at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston quickly determined that Tullier wasn't in a coma or a vegetative state, as previously thought, but was drifting in the netherworld between consciousness and brain death. He knew who he was and where he was but could do little to show it. Hixenbaugh reported that thousands of people are…

Small Newspaper

Gold

In his nearly 15,000-word narrative series on Nora the polar bear, Kale Williams described the harsh survival odds the cub faced when it was born in captivity at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (most hand-raised polar bear cubs die within 30 days), the challenges veterinarians and curators faced in keeping her alive, how they treated her metabolic bone disease and how she thrived when transferred to the Oregon Zoo in Portland and, eventually, to Utah’s Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City where she joined a companion named Hope. But beyond the story of a young, charismatic animal, Williams grappled with…

Online

Gold

The judges praised Maggie Koerth-Baker for an exhaustively reported, elegantly written story about bringing a species back from extinction. It went well beyond the popular image of pandas as cute, iconic creatures who are photogenic representatives of zoo-based conservation efforts. As Koerth-Baker wrote, “Behind the big eyes and rounded frames that signal vulnerability and cuddliness to the human brain, pandas are real, live 200-pound bears. Bears that can shred your flesh. Bears that roll around in the dirt and turn themselves dingy gray. Bears that grow old and frail.” She told the tale of…