Award Winners

2022

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

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 garden…

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 people…

2021

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

“Picture a Scientist” invites viewers to imagine science as a more diverse, equitable and welcoming enterprise than historically has been the norm. It describes the experiences of three women—biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks and geologist Jane Willenbring—who were subject to subtle slights and, in some cases, brutal harassment as they sought to build careers in science. Women still make up less than a quarter of STEM professionals in the United States, with the numbers even lower for women of color such as Burks. The film combines powerful personal stories with compelling…

Silver

Gene editing with a remarkable new technology called CRISPR may be opening a new chapter on what it means to be human, the award-winning filmmakers report. For sickle cell disease, replacing just a single misplaced base molecule in the cell’s DNA can produce a cure. But how far should we go? Would it be wrong to engineer soldiers to feel no pain or allow parents to choose their child’s features, like eye color or height? The scientists who pioneered human genome studies and the developers of CRISPR technology are grappling with such questions, as are bioethicists who worry decisions may be…

2020

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

Bill Haney, writer, producer and director of “Jim Allison: Breakthrough,” tells the story of an unconventional scientist and his path to a Nobel Prize. Shattered as a youth by the loss of his mother to cancer, Allison became a headstrong, long-haired, music-loving student fascinated with the immune system and its potential for combatting cancer. He eventually led a research team exploring the mechanisms of T-cells, the immune system’s hunter-killer cells. In the 1990s, his team and another group showed there was a molecule on T-cells that acts like an off switch or a brake pedal when T-cells…

Silver

The Blob, a creature out of a science fiction horror film, has given its name to a baffling single-celled organism that has puzzled scientists around the world. Neither plant, animal nor mushroom, the organism ― called a slime mold ― has no eyes, mouth, stomach, or legs. But the researchers interviewed by the French team say it can, in effect, see, smell, digest and move around purposefully. It has neither a nervous system nor a brain, but it can solve problems and devise strategies as it moves. The Blob, whose scientific name is Physarum polycephalum, is being studied by biologists…

2019

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

Weaving together archaeology, volcanology and geophysics, “The Next Pompeii” creates a vivid and thorough exploration of the tectonic activity around Naples, Italy. The NOVA documentary digs deep into the history of the city to uncover current geological threats to the region and warn locals about the possibility of a future volcanic disaster. While Vesuvius destroyed ancient Pompeii, a lesser known volcano called Campi Flegrei has the potential to be far more destructive than its more famous neighbor, endangering millions of residents in and around Naples. Scientists have enhanced a system of…

Silver

The Windfall Films documentary followed the Event Horizon Telescope team as they captured the first-ever image of a black hole. The video spans two years, telling the inside story of the final moments of a decade-long project as it occurred in real time. The project combined eight radio telescopes from around world, including the South Pole, to make a synchronized, planet-wide telescope capable of observing radio emissions associated with black holes. Based on theory and observations, the existence of black holes — from which no light can escape — has long been accepted by scientists. But the…

2018

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

“The Farthest” recounts the remarkable story of NASA’s Voyager mission to the outer planets of our solar system and beyond. After more than 40 years of travels, the Voyager spacecraft are still in contact with Earth and returning data. Launched in 1977, the two Voyagers – each with less onboard computing power than a cell phone – used slingshot trajectories to visit Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 left our solar system for interstellar space in 2012 and Voyager 2 left it in November, 2018. Each spacecraft carries a golden record with greetings, images and music from Earth for…

Silver

It was an environmental and political success story that resonates in today’s contentious debates over climate change. In the 1980s, the planet was threatened by the growth of a continent-sized hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, a hole that scientists determined was due to the impact of human-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, found in refrigerants and hairsprays. The ozone layer provides vital protection from the sun’s high-frequency ultraviolet rays. The alarming erosion of that layer provoked international concern and, eventually, the Montreal Protocol that led to…