November 13, 2006

Michelle Nijhuis Wins top science journalism award

PAONIA, COLORADO — Michelle Nijhuis (pronounced ni-house), contributing editor of High Country News, has won the 2006 Science Journalism Award — small newspaper category — from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Nijhuis is being recognized for an in-depth series on the impact of climate change in the American West. The award honors excellence in science reporting for print, radio, television and online categories and is considered one of the top science journalism awards in the country. Nijhuis will receive a plaque and $3,000.

"Outstanding science writing is essential if the public is to better understand complex issues such as climate change or genetics," said Alan I. Leshner, the AAAS chief executive officer. "The awards this year honor some superb work that is both informative and engaging." In recognizing the reporting of Nijhuis, the selection committee said the series was "a nice blend of current research and historical context" and praised the "solid reporting demonstrating how history informs modern science."

After a few months of reading and talking with scientists and activists, Nijhuis approached the editors of High Country News with the conviction that the American West — due to its incredible topography and aridity — is one of the best places in the world to see climate change in action. She proposed a series of stories that would focus on the Western scientists, land managers, community activists, and politicians.

"The fruit of Michelle’s labor takes the reader on an illuminating trip through melting mountain snowfields, bug-plagued forests and bone-dry deserts," says Paul Larmer, publisher of High Country News. “You are sure to come away with a deeper understanding of the most important issue of our times.”

"By describing the visible effects of global warming on familiar places — Yosemite National Park, the Rocky Mountains — I tried to bring the issue down to earth without sacrificing the nuances of the science. This recognition is a real honor," says Nijhuis.

Earlier this summer, Nijhuis won the 2006 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism from the American Geophysical Union, and in September she was selected one of two finalists for the National Academies Communication Award from among more than 250 nominations.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science (www.sciencemag.org). AAAS was founded in 1848, and has 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

- About Michelle Nijhuis
Michelle Nijhuis lives in western Colorado, between the foothills of the Rockies and the redrock canyons of southern Utah. She is a contributing editor of the environmental journal High Country News, and her work has appeared in many national publications including Smithsonian, Salon.com, The Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Sierra, Orion, Audubon, and the anthology Best American Science Writing. She travels frequently to cover stories throughout the western United States, northern Mexico and beyond. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Nijhuis was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, New York and graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

- About High Country News
High Country News is a bi-weekly news magazine that reports on the West's natural resources, public lands, and changing communities. Covering 11 western states, from the Great Plains to the Northwest, and from the Northern Rockies to the desert Southwest, High Country News is a respected source for environmental news, analysis and commentary on water, logging, wildlife, grazing, wilderness, growth and other issues changing the face of the West.

The 38-year-old news magazine has been interpreting the West since its founding in Wyoming by a rancher and environmentalist, Tom Bell. Now published from Paonia, Colorado, High Country News is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

Ten years of HCN’s journalism can by found on its Web site, www.hcn.org.