2021 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 millions of years ago, before mountains were born and rivers flowed? Others piece together the puzzle of the present: how and why did we get here? Still others provide warnings about the future: what would the world possibly look like if we don’t amend the way we live?” Billions of dollars are spent globally to find quantifiable and easily observed metrics for institutional conservation programs, she writes. “In that sense, ‘species’ is a convenient category. But it comes with its own politics. The mills of evolution grind finely but slowly.” The judges praised Perinchery’s use of a newly found frog species to explore deep questions about evolutionary history. “The only thing better than Perinchery’s prose is her ability to draw you into a fascinating scientific discovery of a species, spinning up your knowledge along the way,” said judge Lauren Weber, Midwest correspondent for Kaiser Health News. “As a journalist, I’ve covered numerous species discoveries in India,” Perinchery said. “But what do they mean, what is the larger picture? Those questions led me to this story for FiftyTwo. I am extremely honored to receive the AAAS Kavli award. It is an added motivation to keep telling such stories from India.”