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. Judge Nancy Shute, editor in chief of Science News, said the series was “a classic example of local journalists diving into a topic of concern for the community and explaining the whys.” The judges praised the use of graphics and photography to help tell the story. “I really enjoyed the exploration of how different parts of the ecosystem nourish and support each other,” said judge Maggie Koerth, a senior science writer for the FiveThirtyEight website. “It means so much for us here at The Seattle Times to see this recognition for the importance of the whales and their story, and the impact of local, independent journalism,” Mapes said. “Our thanks to the judges, and to the many scientists who helped us do our work.”