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Science journalism that sings

Every year, the publishers of the journal Science recognize the cream of the crop in science journalism - and this year's cream covers a wide stream of scientific subjects, ranging from the TV tale of an African-American researcher who overcame discrimination in the mid-20th century to the 21st-century effects of climate change on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The winners of the year's Science Journalism Awards were announced today by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It's been five years since I won one of the awards for a personal piece on genetic genealogy, and the honor still ranks among my top career highlights. This year's winners will receive their $3,000 prizes (plus the award plaque) at the AAAS annual meeting next February in Boston.

Here are the winning entries for 2007:

  • Newspapers with circulation of 100,000 or more: Kenneth Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling of the Los Angeles Times, for "Altered Oceans," a series that describes how industrial society has been ruining the world's oceans by pushing out carbon dioxide, plastic wastes and microbe-promoting nutrients. The series also won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Association of Science Writers' Science in Society Award.
  • Newspapers with circulation of less than 100,000: Jennifer Frazer of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle for a series titled "Getting to the Bottom of Mysterious Elk Deaths." The series explains how scientists determined that a poisonous lichen was behind a rash of elk deaths in 2004, and what authorities are doing about it.
  • Magazines: Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman of New York magazine for "How Not to Talk to Your Kids," a cover story that delved into parenting and the psychology of helping children do well.
  • Television: Llewellyn Smith and Stephen Lyons of WGBH/"Nova" for "Forgotten Genius," the story of African-American industrial chemist Percy Julian. Check out my review of the show for the full story behind "Forgotten Genius."
  • Radio: Keith Seinfeld of KPLU-FM in Seattle/Tacoma for "The Electric Brain." This radio series describes the electrical properties of our brains and the ways those properties can be used for new treatments.
  • Online: Katie Alvord of KeweenaNow.com for "Lake Superior Basin Climate Change." This series describes the potential impacts of global warming on a local community in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
  • Children's science news: Mona Chiang of Scholastic Science World for "A Whale of a Mystery." The story traces how scientists investigated the puzzling death of a North Atlantic right whale that was spotted drifting off the coast of Nova Scotia - leading them to the conclusion that a large, blunt object had hit the whale on one side. Runner-up Sina Loeschke of GEOlino won a special certificate of merit for a story about sea slugs.