2016 Magazine - Silver


In a trio of stories from China, Nepal and Tibet, Beijing-based freelancer Jane Qiu described how fossil finds in China are challenging ideas about the evolution of modern humans and our closest relatives; how rapid changes in Tibetan grasslands are threatening Asia’s main water supply and the livelihood of nomads; and how scientists are wiring up mountainsides in Nepal to monitor and forecast heightened landslide hazards in the wake of the devastating Nepalese earthquake in 2015. The judges praised Qiu’s initiative and in-the-field reporting skills. Her piece on seismic monitoring in Nepal notes that the instrumentation can do more than help pinpoint where the side of a mountain will collapse. Himalayan nations also face increasing risks from landslides because of deforestation, road construction, population growth and other changes that have led people to live in hazardous locations. In Tibet, Qiu talked to herders whose concerns are at odds with reports from Chinese state media about the health of Tibetan grasslands. In delving into the Chinese fossil record on human origins, Qiu told her readers that despite the different interpretations of that record, “everybody agrees that the evolutionary tale in Asia is much more interesting than people appreciated before.” The results remain fuzzy, she finds, because so few researchers have excavated in Asia. “Qiu provides a much-needed perspective on science in Asia, including politically sensitive topics such as the effects of government policies on the environment and economy of Tibet,” NPR’s Nancy Shute said. “Two of the stories allowed me to undertake incredible journeys to the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas, where the daily struggle and utter helplessness of many mountain communities inspired me to bring their predicament into the spotlight," Qiu said. "I’m very grateful for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the SciDev.Net Investigative Science Journalism Fellowship for the Global South which made the trips possible. It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized for the work. The award is also a testament to the commitment by Nature to nurture emerging writers and promote excellent reporting in the developing world.”