National Geographic News Writer Wins Top Science Award

Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
November 12, 2008

A National Geographic News series on the plight of the world's biggest freshwater fishes has hooked the 2008 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) award for online journalism, the group announced Wednesday.

Journalist and videographer Stefan Lovgren of Los Angeles won for three stories on the Megafishes Project, the first global attempt to document and protect the planet's freshwater giants.

The ongoing special news series chronicles the work of National Geographic Emerging Explorer Zeb Hogan. (National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)

"We tend to think of pandas and tigers and blue whales and baby seals … it's very difficult to think of a giant catfish in those same terms, but they're incredibly endangered," said Hogan, a fisheries biologist at the University of Nevada in Reno.

For a journalist seeking the bigger picture, the megafishes series is really the story of the declining health of the world's fresh water, Lovgren said.

"You have these living fossils that swim around with us, and that's just amazing to think about, but [it's] also really depressing to think that they're going to go extinct on our watch," he said.

The assignments for the three winning entries sent Lovgren sloshing alongside Hogan through rivers and lakes across the globe.

In Southeast Asia, for example, after a frustrating week without a single sighting, Lovgren witnessed a 14-foot-long (3.2-meter-long) giant stingray giving birth in a river near a bustling Thai city. (See related video below.)

In Mongolia, he and Hogan chased the cannibalistic taimen, the world's largest trout, through its last refuge, in the country's remote northern waters.

An independent panel of judges called the series innovative and accessible to the public.

"Using all of the tools available, Lovgren paints a compelling portrait of these gargantuan fish that most people would never get to see," judge Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press said in a statement.

"The images of the giant ray and the cannibalistic fish hook you, and the narrative reels you in."

Award winners will each receive U.S. $3,000 and a plaque at the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago in February.


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Christine Dell'Amore was a judge for the radio category of the 2008 AAAS Science Journalism Awards.




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