Award Winners

2023

Science Reporting – Small Outlet

Gold

In three stories for WyoFile, a local Wyoming news outlet, Christine Peterson tackled wildlife stories with attention to questions not often explored. In a piece on chipmunks captured for research, she delved into the question of whether surviving animals should eventually be released back into the wild rather than euthanized. Two University of Wyoming researchers argued that even the chipmunks born at their facility had abilities to survive because they were fed wild foods, kept in outdoor pens where they were exposed to predators, and were seldom handled by humans. The Wyoming Game and Fish…

Silver

Researchers are racing against the destruction of the Amazon to ensure the survival of the Mato Grosso titi monkey, one of the world's most endangered primates, Duda Menegassi told her readers. In the municipality of Alta Floresta, where the new species was discovered, the deforestation rate increased more than tenfold between 2012 and 2022. Menegassi accompanied a research team deep into the rainforest for on-the-ground reporting about a single pair of monkeys isolated in one patch of forest surrounded by farmland. Their location unfortunately overlaps with the most dangerous region of the…

2022

Science Reporting – Small Outlet

Gold

In rural India, a rare genetic disease called spinocerebellar ataxia has been causing people to gradually lose control over their body movements. As Ankur Paliwal writes, “Eventually many ataxia patients in resource-strapped countries like India end up spending their days in bed, dependent on others, until they die.” Patients with the disorder “remain invisible to the health system,” he writes, “because they don’t have popular champions. Institutional support for ataxia is almost negligible.” Paliwal describes the work of a few determined scientists and doctors who have been trying to unravel…

Silver

After years of controversy, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in California assured the public that eating local crops irrigated with oil field wastewater “creates no identifiable increased health risks,” based on studies commissioned as part of an extensive Food Safety Project. Yet a review of the science and interviews with a public health scientist affiliated with the project and other experts, Liza Gross and contributor Anne Marshall-Chalmers reported, showed little evidence to support the board’s safety claims. GSI Environmental, a “neutral, third-party consultant”…

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…

Silver

Tony Bartelme’s story on the eastern black rail, dubbed the “ghost bird” for its elusiveness, went beyond the plight of an endangered species to discuss the impacts of climate change, the obsession of a South Carolina scientist who has been studying the black rail, and the fraught ways in which federal agencies and political institutions sometimes cope with species that capture the public’s imagination. In 2010, environmental groups asked the federal government to protect black rails under the Endangered Species Act. Two months after Bartelme’s story appeared, the U.S. Department of Interior…

2020

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…

Silver

Coastal storms and rising sea levels are chipping away at the land mass of mainland Rhode Island and nearby Block Island, which is a part of Rhode Island, according to Alex Kuffner’s richly reported look at “the smallest state and why it’s getting smaller.” From his opening description of the perilous state of Block Island’s landfill ― located on a scenic bluff overlooking the sea ― to his catalogue of receding beaches along the coast of mainland Rhode Island, Kuffner explains not only what has been happening but why coastal erosion poses a serious long-term threat. As Kuffner writes, “Normal…