SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism Awards $46,516 in New Rapid Response Grants

December 1, 2020 — The Society of Environmental Journalists' Fund for Environmental Journalism has awarded an additional $46,516 for 13 new story projects selected via its Rapid Response story project grants on climate change, conservation and environmental health in North America. This round brings the total amount of Rapid Response Grants to a total of $164,876 for 46 projects.

To date, SEJ's Rapid Response Grants have:

  • Funded Journalists: 72 professional journalists, photographers and editors will receive stipends of up to $2,000 each.
  • Increased Representation: More than 60% of the funds have been awarded to story projects focused on under-represented communities or diverse perspectives on environmental issues.
  • Supported Local Stories: More than two-thirds of the story projects focus on a local or regional issue, ranging from Mississippi's floodplains to Gambia's coasts.

See the grantees for 2020 Round 1 and Round 2.

The recipients of the Fund for Environmental Journalism Rapid Response grants (Round 3) are:


Image of Oscar Perry AbelloImage of Jared BreyImage of Chad SmallOscar Perry Abello (left), Jared Brey (center) and Chad Small (right) for "Beyond a Green New Deal; Scale Up These Solutions," a series examining small-scale programs already in place that follow "Green New Deal" principles of sustainability while creating jobs.

FEJ-funded project:


Image of Chuck ThompsonImage of Deborah BloomDeborah Bloom (left) and Chuck Thompson (right), with Charles Coxe, Eli Francovich and Steven Hawley, for "Dams, Salmon, Power: Is It Time To Breach the Snake River Dams?" The most pressing environmental issue facing residents of the Columbia River Basin is whether or not to breach four dams on the lower Snake River, which have decimated salmon, directly contributed to declining killer whale populations and ravaged an entire ecosystem. Though a coalition of U.S. government agencies concluded in a 2020 EIS that keeping the dams intact is the best course of action, changing economic and political realities have breathed new life into a broadly supported effort to breach the dams and restore a historic watershed. (Columbia Insight)

FEJ-funded project:

Related Columbia Insight coverage:


Image of Frank Carini Image of Joanna Detz
Image of Tim Faulkner Image of Grace Kelly

Frank Carini, Joanna Detz, Tim Faulkner and Grace Kelly (clockwise, from top left) for "Shifting Sands: Rhode Island's Shrinking Coastline." The series will embody the politics and data of climate change in the first-hand observations and lived experiences of those deeply familiar with Rhode Island’s storied shoreline. The multi-part series will paint the most up-to-date picture for those with an inkling of what is happening to their little piece of paradise, from surfers and businesses to fishermen and homeowners, with substantiation from local scientists focused on specific areas of expertise.

FEJ-funded project:


Image of Angela ChenAngela Chen for "The Slow Poisoning of the Salton Sea," a multi-part digital and television broadcast focusing on the glamorous history and adventurous lore of the Salton Sea while exploring why the largest lake in California has deteriorated into a looming ecological disaster.

FEJ-funded project:


Image of Audrey GrayAudrey Gray for "The Radical Case for Growing Huge Swaths of Bamboo in North America." As the world steadily blows its carbon budget, some scientists and environmentalists believe that fast-growing, carbon-thirsty groves of bamboo could provide a substantial, just-in-time sink. This multimedia story takes readers on a cross-country trip to meet the quirky, committed cultivators attempting to make bamboo farming a viable industry in the United States and a ready-to-go carbon sequestration play at a moment when every play counts.

FEJ-funded project:


Image of Diana KruzmanDiana Kruzman for "From Thirsty Fields to Far-Off Tables: How Foreign Purchases of U.S. Farmland Drain the West’s Scarce Water." In multiple states in the Colorado Basin, foreign companies have purchased U.S. farmland to grow water-intensive crops that are then shipped back to their countries of origin, taking advantage of lax regulation to essentially export this scarce resource. This project will report on how foreign purchases of agricultural land have affected water resources in the Western U.S, as well as local and national legislative and grassroots efforts to outlaw land purchases by foreign companies, as the Colorado River faces existential threats from climate change and enters its 21st year of severe drought.

FEJ-funded project:


Image of Cheryl NelsonCheryl Nelson for "The Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal New England Whales." Climate change is affecting fin, humpback and right whales in the waters off the coast of New England. The rapid warming of Earth is causing a loss of habitat to these whales, diminishing their prey species, affecting whale migration and even their ability to reproduce. This is crucial — especially for the right whale species — because there are only about 400 right whales left in the world.


Image of Sharon OoesthoekSharon Oosthoek for "Climate Change Comes to Superior." The deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, Superior was once thought immune to algae blooms. Today, it is one of the fastest warming lakes in the world and has seen a series of escalating toxic blooms in the past decade. Canadian freelance journalist Sharon Oosthoek, working with Detroit Public Television's Great Lakes Now, takes a deep dive into why this is happening now, what is at stake and what, if anything, can be done to mitigate the effects.


Image of Tom PerkinsTom Perkins for "Measuring the True Level of PFAS in Michigan’s Drinking Water." This project will test water samples using a total fluorine analysis method and compare findings to regulators’ tests using the EPA 537.1 method. The difference in the results will likely show that regulators are undercounting the amount of PFAS in drinking water.


Image of Leila PhilipLeila Philip for "Beaverland: The Story of How a Weird Rodent Made America," an immersive ecological and historical investigation of the beaver that traces the critical ways it has shaped everything from American imperialism and wealth to the current debates surrounding the environmental crisis, the rural-urban divide and some of our most elemental ideas of what it means to be American.


Image of Britany RobinsonBritany Robinson for "The Small Town Activists Fighting Natural Gas for Over a Decade." Coos Bay, Oregon is home to the site of a proposed $10 billion natural gas terminal and pipeline project. If completed, Jordan Cove Energy Project would be the largest carbon emitter in the state. This piece will examine how activists have fought the project for over a decade and the toll that effort has taken on the town.

FEJ-funded project:


Image of Lucy SherriffLucy Sherriff for "The Unlikely Saviors of the American West." California, Oregon, Colorado...the list of states waging a yearly war on wildfires is endless, eating up billions of dollars and countless human lives, as Western fire management practices have failed. For centuries, however, indigenous communities have used beavers in land management practices, while an increasing number of scientists are promoting the beaver as a wildlife mitigator. This is the story of how the beaver could save the American West from wildfire.


Image of Jimmy ThomsonJimmy Thomson for "How Much Salmon Do the Bears Need?" Ecotourism is thriving on British Columbia’s central coast, home to grizzly bears and iconic spirit bears. But what is the effect of all that attention on the bears themselves? The pandemic has provided a unique natural experiment to help researchers figure that out.


Image of Ian UrbinaIan Urbina for "The Outlaw Ocean Project: The Smell of Money," a story focusing on the tiny nation of Gambia, which like many of its West African neighbors, has embraced the lucrative production of fishmeal, used around the world in the inland farming of fish. But this industry, widely hailed by conservationists as the best hope for slowing ocean depletion, is polluting Gambian waters, decimating its fish stocks and threatening the lives of its own citizens.



For the last 10 years, SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism has helped foundation partners and individual donors support journalism projects that are editorially independent and independently juried. Support for the Rapid Response grants comes from The Hewlett Foundation, The Bullitt Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and other foundation and individual donors to the Fund for Environmental Journalism.