Award Winners

2018

Large Newspaper

Silver

“Hamburgs nächste Elbphilharmonie?” Aug. 26, 2017

Hamburger Abendblatt (Hamburg, Germany)

Underground between Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg-Bahrenfeld in Germany, scientists and engineers have built a huge X-ray laser instrument, called European XFEL, that costs twice as much as Hamburg’s new concert hall. Hasse told his readers what the physicists are up to in their backyard and how they try to illuminate the interior of matter and record films of atoms. When atoms come together during chemical processes to form molecules, he writes, the process happens “about a billion times faster than the wing beat of a hummingbird.” With extremely short and intense flashes of light, the...Read more

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Silver

“Ozone Hole: How We Saved the Planet” May 21, 2018 (SVT2)

Windfall Films for SVT2 (Sweden), Channel 4 (UK) and PBS

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...Read more

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Silver

“How trees secretly talk to each other” June 28, 2018

BBC World Service

Jennifer Green opened her short, animated video on trees with a simple message: “Trees may look like solitary individuals. But the ground beneath our feet tells a different story. Trees are secretly talking, trading and waging war on one another.” In just under two minutes, Green and animator Jules Bartl described the fungal network through which trees communicate, a system that has been nicknamed the “Wood Wide Web.” If attacked by pests, trees can release chemical signals through their roots that can warn neighboring trees to raise their defenses. The judges praised the visual appeal of...Read more

Small Newspaper

Silver

"Scum" Sept. 17, 2017

The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

Tony Bartelme’s special report on the growing menace of harmful waterborne algae blooms ranged well beyond the local Charleston area. The blooms, which can spawn toxins as deadly as cyanide, have smothered manatees in Florida, wiped out sea otters in California, killed dogs in Minnesota and made water from South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell taste like dirt. At the time of his reporting, he found there already had been more than 460 blooms in 48 states in 2017. The algae-created toxins may do more than poison fish and dogs. Research suggests there may be higher rates of liver disease and cancer...Read more

Magazine

Silver

“The Exercise Pill” Nov. 6, 2017

The New Yorker

In her exploration of the biology and chemistry of physical exercise, Nicola Twilley introduces the reader to Couch Potato Mouse and Lance Armstrong Mouse. Both had been fed a diet consisting almost entirely of fat and sugar and got little exercise. But while Couch Potato Mouse was lethargic, with rolls of visible fat, Lance Armstrong Mouse was lean, taut and active in its cage. It had been fed a daily dose of GW501516 or “516”, a drug that, as Twilley puts it, “confers beneficial effects of exercise without the need to move a muscle.” Whether such drugs will ever prove beneficial for...Read more

Audio

Silver

“SubSurface: Resisting Montana’s Underwater Invaders” (series) Nov. 20, Nov. 24, Dec. 4, Dec.10 and Dec. 18, 2017

Montana Public Radio

Montana was invaded in the summer of 2017 by microscopic aliens floating in the waters of Tiber Reservoir in the north central part of the state near Shelby. The tiny organisms, which emit a glowing X-shape in the light of a microscope, were infant forms of invasive zebra and quagga mussels, species that already had invaded the Great Lakes with devastating impact. The organisms soon were found in the Canyon Ferry reservoir east of Helena and downstream in the Missouri River as well. The finding triggered immediate concern about the future health of Montana’s fisheries and led Nicky Ouellet...Read more

Online

Silver

“China is Genetically Engineering Monkeys With Brain Disorders” June 8, 2018

The Atlantic.com

Sarah Zhang visited a facility in the Guangdong province of China where researchers are tinkering with monkey brains to better understand the most severe forms of autism. It is research that is too expensive, too impractical and perhaps too ethically sensitive to be carried out in the United States. The researchers use CRISPR, a powerful new gene-editing technique, that enables scientists to zero in on and disable specific genes. Zhang recounted the research of Guoping Feng, who holds an endowed chair in neuroscience at MIT but who now travels to China several times a year to pursue...Read more

Children's Science News

Silver

“Why do we have butts?” May 31, 2018

“Science Magic Show Hooray” from The Washington Post

“Why am I so sweaty?” July 12, 2018

“Science Magic Show Hooray” from The Washington Post

Anna Rothschild has a knack for telling stories that both entertain and enlighten her young audience. In one of her award-winning segments, Rothschild explained the evolution of the digestive tract and why the human posterior looks like it does. In the second, piece she explored the functions of sweat, from the days when our ancestors were evolving to more efficiently cool their bodies as they became more active in chasing prey (and avoiding predators). And as Rothschild points out, “Getting a super-efficient way to dump excess heat may have been part of what allowed our brains to get...Read more

2017

Large Newspaper

Silver

“Das grosse ABC”

Marlene Weiss

Translation

For more than 10 years, Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki worked largely by himself on a proof of the so-called ABC conjecture, one of the most important unresolved problems in mathematics. In the summer of 2012, he published it. The proof is encompassed in four scientific articles that together fill about 500 pages, according to writer Marlene Weiss, who entered a mathematical realm where the language is so strange that hardly anybody but...Read more

Small Newspaper

Silver

“Rising seas, rising stakes”

The Providence Journal

“Losing ground”

The Providence Journal

“On the brink”

The Providence Journal

Judges praised Alex Kuffner for his comprehensive look at the risks facing Rhode Island communities from either a once-in-a-century hurricane or a sea level rise of seven feet by the end of the century, as projected in a worst-case scenario by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Kuffner noted that six percent of residential structures within Rhode Island’s 21 coastal communities are currently vulnerable to some level of flooding in the event of a 100-year storm. That number would double if seven feet of sea level rise is factored in. One study...Read more

Magazine

Silver

“The Strange Brain of the World's Greatest Solo Climber”

Nautilus

Alex Honnold, the world’s greatest solo climber, doesn’t experience fear like the rest of us. He climbs to dizzying heights without a rope or protective equipment of any kind, shuffles across narrow sills of stone such as the “Thank God” ledge high atop the sheer granite face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. When J.B. MacKinnon, a Canadian freelance writer, approached Honnold about having scientists look at what goes on in his unusual brain, the climber said he once would have been afraid to submit himself to such scrutiny. But he agreed, and the result was a fascinating tour of the...Read more

Television: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Silver

“How moss revealed an undetected air pollution threat in Portland”

PBS NewsHour

“These robots are helping answer a huge unknown about young marine life”

PBS NewsHour

Cat Wise and her colleagues offered solid reporting on the uses of science to better understand the nearby environment. Researchers in Portland found that mosses from two neighborhoods had high levels of cadmium and arsenic, likely from a nearby glassmaking center. Using data from air quality monitoring stations, the researchers determined that mosses could be used as indicators of air pollution and allow a more comprehensive method for tracking potential problems in local air quality.  In a second piece, Wise explained how a marine ecologist is using robots (with casings made from...Read more

Television: In-Depth Reporting

Silver

“Poisoned Water”

WGBH/NOVA

NOVA investigated the science behind the disastrous results that occurred when officials in Flint, Michigan decided to change the city’s water source to save money but ─ by overlooking a crucial corrosion control process ─ allowed lead from old lead water pipes to leach into the city’s drinking water. Thousands of residents, including particularly vulnerable children, were exposed to dangerously elevated levels of lead. In interviews with scientists, residents and public officials, NOVA explored the impact of the health crisis in Flint and beyond, noting that other water systems across the...Read more

Audio

Silver

“Chasing Meteors”

Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Deep in the Outback of southern Australia, Robbie McEwan recounted the hurried chase by planetary geologist Phil Bland and colleagues to find a meteorite that had been sighted by a cook taking a break on the veranda of a pub in a dusty desert town. More importantly, it also was detected by a new network of automated cameras recently deployed by Bland’s team in an ambitious effort to track meteors not only to their final points of impact but also back to their points of origin in the solar system. McEwan followed the story of Bland and Aboriginal guide Dean Stuart as they raced to find...Read more

Online

Silver

“The West’s newest bird species has a beak like a crowbar”

High Country News online

In an engaging report from the South Hills of Idaho, Nick Neely wrote about the discovery and probable disappearance of North America’s newest bird species, the Cassia crossbill. The reddish birds have crowbar-like beaks that are capable of prying open the toughest cones from lodgepole pines, the birds’ seed source and co-evolutionary partners on which they entirely depend. University of Wyoming ecologist Craig Benkman and his colleagues discovered the Cassia crossbill in a range of just 27 square miles of lodgepole forest. They eventually convinced the American Ornithologists Union that...Read more

Children's Science News

Silver

“The Secret Lives of Plants”

Scholastic Science World

Jennifer Barone wrote about how plants detect and respond to changes in the world around them and even communicate with their neighbors through chemical signals. When scientists recorded vibrations of a caterpillar eating leaves and played the recording back to some plants but not others, the plants exposed to the munching sound produced more chemical defenses against the bugs. When sagebrush plants are attacked by hungry insects, researchers have found, they emit chemical cues into the air to alert neighboring plants. Trees also interact with their environment, Barone reported. Scientists...Read more