Award Winners

2022

Science Reporting – Large Outlet

Gold

This tree has stood here for 500 years. Will it be sold for $17,500?

The Washington Post -- December 30, 2021

In an evocative piece from Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, reporter Juliet Eilperin and photographer Salwan Georges use a single majestic Sitka spruce tree, the height of a 17-story building, to spotlight the battle over the fate of increasingly scarce old-growth timber. The tree is estimated to contain at least 6,000 board feet of lumber worth $17,500. Just as impressively, it has locked up nearly 12 metric tons of carbon dioxide in its fibers, a repository for the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that threaten humanity. “Covered in a riotous mix of pale lichens and deep-green moss,”...Read more

Silver

Anatomy of a Killer

Sϋddeutsche Zeitung -- January 7, 2022

Throughout much of 2020, the World Health Organization maintained that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads through relatively large respiratory droplets that are expelled by infected people while coughing, sneezing or speaking. It took many months for the agency to acknowledge that the virus could travel on tiny particles called aerosols that can spread widely and linger in the air. What happens inside the aerosol particles and how does the virus get into the lungs and cells of a new victim? A research team led by biophysicist Rommie Amaro of the University of California...Read more

Science Reporting – Small Outlet

Gold

Off Balance

FiftyTwo (India) -- April 15, 2022

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...Read more

Silver

A California Water Board Assures the Public that Oil Wastewater Is Safe for Irrigation, But Experts Say the Evidence Is Scant

Inside Climate News -- February 6, 2022

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...Read more

Science Reporting – In-Depth

Gold

The Smoke Comes Every Year. Sugar Companies Say the Air Is Safe.

The Palm Beach Post and ProPublica -- July 8, 2021

“A Complete Failure of the State”: Authorities Didn’t Heed Researchers’ Calls to Study Health Effects of Burning Sugar Cane

The Palm Beach Post and ProPublica -- August 19, 2021

Burning Sugar Cane Pollutes Communities of Color in Florida. Brazil Shows There’s Another Way.

The Palm Beach Post and ProPublica -- December 29, 2021

For years, residents in the Glades area of west central Florida have breathed smoke from sugar cane fires, set six months of every year as a pre-harvest practice. Locals call the ash that rains down on the community during burning season “black snow.” While sugar companies and regulators offer assurances that the air is safe, The Palm Beach Post and ProPublica used their own monitoring equipment to show repeated spikes in pollution on days when the state had authorized cane burning. Experts were concerned, saying the short-term spikes, which often reached four times the...Read more

Silver

Meet the scientist at the center of the covid lab leak controversy

MIT Technology Review -- February 9, 2022

In a deeply reported 10,000-word story on the controversy over the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing-based science writer Jane Qiu gained unparalleled access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the lab of Shi Zhengli. Known as China’s “bat woman,” Shi has devoted her career to tracing links between coronaviruses in bats and human disease. Shi’s lab was the first to isolate the deadly new virus and the first to sequence its genome. Shi has been subject to intense international scrutiny and charges that an errant virus from her lab rather than a...Read more

Magazine

Gold

How rising groundwater caused by climate change could devastate coastal communities

MIT Technology Review -- December 13, 2021

Unlike rising seas, where the dangers are obvious, groundwater rise has remained under the public’s radar during the growing concern about climate change, Kendra Pierre-Louis reported. Hydrologists are aware of the problem, and it is the subject of ample scholarly research, she wrote, “but it has yet to surface in a significant way outside of those bubbles.” Groundwater rise is only briefly mentioned in the most recent edition of the National Climate Assessment, released in 2018, she reported, and it is absent from many state and regional climate adaptation plans, and even from flood maps...Read more

Silver

Don’t Look Down -- As permafrost thaws, the ground beneath Alaska is collapsing

Grist -- April 20, 2022

Temperatures in Fairbanks, Alaska have risen so much that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially changed the city’s subarctic definition in 2021 to “warm summer continental.” As the climate warms, the ancient permafrost that covered an estimated 85 percent of Alaska is thawing, leaving places where the ground is now collapsing. As Lois Parshley writes in her award-winning piece, spruce trees “lean drunkenly” in places where “only a thin layer of soil covers yawning craters where the ice has vanished.” The disappearance of the ice has fundamentally changed how and...Read more

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

Deep Look: Honeypot Ants Turn Their Biggest Sisters into Jugs of Nectar

KQED and PBS Digital Studios -- April 5, 2022

Deep Look: Barnacles Go To Unbelievable Lengths To Hook Up

KQED and PBS Digital Studios -- April 26, 2022

Deep Look: Don't Go Chasing Water Bugs

KQED and PBS Digital Studios -- June 28, 2022

The long-running Deep Look series, created by KQED San Francisco and distributed by PBS Digital Studios, takes viewers into the world of the very small, where organisms like honeypot ants, acorn barnacles and giant water bugs thrive and reproduce. The filmmakers explore unusual creatures doing unusual things at the edge of the visible world, like the honeypot ants who turn their biggest sisters into engorged jugs of nectar to help feed the ant colony. Or the male water bugs whose fatherhood chores include carrying fertilized eggs on their backs, bringing them to the water’s surface...Read more

Silver

The bizarre COVID side effect no one Is talking about

A subset of COVID-19 survivors suffers from an unexpected side effect known as parosmia, a condition that causes the sense of smell to go haywire. Coffee smells like sewage and chicken smells like rotting garbage. Yara Elmjouie and his colleagues set out to learn how COVID-19 is doing this to people, and what life is like when you smell and taste all the wrong things with no end in sight. “Through fascinating case studies, we learn not only how devastating COVID-19 symptoms have been for certain people, but also learn to appreciate the one sense we often take for granted—taste,” said judge...Read more

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

My Garden of a Thousand Bees

PBS Nature -- October 20, 2021

For more than 30 years, Martin Dohrn filmed wild animals around the world. Suddenly locked down at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he became fascinated with the wild bees that inhabit his city garden. “Turning my cameras onto my own back yard is revealing things as spectacular as anything I have ever seen before,” he tells his viewers. “Transporting me to another universe. Another dimension of existence.” The resulting documentary is an exercise in citizen science, driven by Dohrn’s deep appreciation and understanding of the more than 60 species of bees he found and observed in his...Read more

Silver

Ice Age Footprints

A NOVA Production by Windfall Films, Ltd. (part of the Argonon Group) for GBH -- May 25, 2022

Thousands of ancient footprints left by Ice Age humans and animals stretch for miles across the blinding white landscape of New Mexico’s White Sands National Park. The prints capture moments when humans crossed paths with now-extinct Ice Age beasts, including mammoths, enormous ground sloths, dire wolves, and camels. Tracks usually disappear soon after they are made, but in a place like White Sands, where the chemistry is just right, the tracks can last for thousands of years, hidden beneath the dunes. A team of experts is now investigating how these tracks could show new evidence of...Read more

Audio

Gold

A Talking Gorilla

VICE News -- A Show About Animals -- November 3, 2021

A Gorilla Who Lied

VICE News -- A Show About Animals -- November 10, 2021

Uptown Chimp

VICE News -- A Show About Animals -- November 17, 2021

In a podcast series on the highly visible and often controversial efforts to teach gorillas and chimpanzees to learn sign language, Arielle Duhaime-Ross and colleagues reviewed the history of Project Koko, started in the 1970s by a young psychologist named Penny Patterson who claimed to have taught a gorilla named Koko to learn more than 1,000 signs. Koko became world-famous, with her picture on the cover of National Geographic, but designing language isn’t straightforward and critics suggested that Koko was simply being prompted by her trainers' unconscious cues to display specific signs...Read more

Silver

Does it fart?

ABC Science (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) -- July1, 2022

In a savvy episode of its “What the Duck” radio show, ABC Science in Australia took on a topic not often broached in polite circles but one that has intrigued zoologists and others curious about animal behavior―Does it fart? From whales, manatees and herring to chimps, bonobos, Tasmanian devils and hognose snakes, the program provided answers to its central question and discussed the science behind using farts as a means of communication, defense, change in buoyancy for sea creatures, and even predatory advantage in the case of beaded lacewing larvae that expel a chemical mix that...Read more

Children's Science News

Gold

Cockatoos learn from each other how to open garbage bin

Science News Explores -- October 26, 2021

A panda stands out at the zoo but blends in the wild

Science News Explores -- December 15, 2021

Goldfish driving ‘cars’ offer new insight into navigation

Science News Explores -- February 16, 2022

The judges liked the cartoon format in these stories from Science News Explores (formerly known as Science News for Students), published by Science News Media Group. The stories discussed how cockatoos teach each other how to open garbage bins, how pandas stand out in zoos but blend into their environment in the wild, and how researchers managed to put goldfish in the driver’s seat in an experimental apparatus that allows them to maneuver across a room. “I loved all three stories and the wonderful way the well-written text jibed with the comics,” said judge...Read more

Silver

On a journey to finding a happy zoo

Kids Donga Science (South Korea) -- November 15, 2021

Home for lost animals, Sanctuary

Kids Donga Science -- December 1, 2021

In an ambitiously comprehensive look at the state of South Korea’s zoos, Kids Donga Science enlisted children as “Zoo Guards” to help report on regulated and unregulated zoos near their homes. Under the guidance of veterinarians and other professionals, the teams of children found more than 150 facilities that did not need to register as zoos because they housed fewer than 10 species or 50 individual animals. Most of them were animal experience centers such as raccoon cafes and parrot cafes, which have been surging in number and which have raised concerns about possible zoonotic...Read more