SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism Announces Winter 2017 Grantees

SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism awards
$40,000 in story project grants in FEJ Winter Cycle 2017-2018


SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism has awarded $40,000 for nine new story projects selected through the FEJ’s Winter 2017-2018 round of competition. Coverage grant categories included "Open Topic" and “Amazon/Andes and Arctic/North Pacific.”

Congratulations to the grantees!


Open Topic:


Lauren Markham for “The Dissolving Temples: How Climate Change is Impacting the Ancient Temples and Worship Practices in the Himalayas,” a feature article for Orion Magazine.

Lauren Markham is a writer based in Berkeley, California. Her writing has appeared in outlets such as The Guardian, Orion, Pacific Standard, Harper’s, California Sunday, Guernica and VQR, where she is a contributing editor. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, she writes fiction and essays, focusing on stories related to youth, migration and the environment, as well as on issues related to her home state of California. Her book about youth migration from El Salvador, "The Far Away Brothers," was named a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers Selection and a New York Times Critics’ pick for 2017, has been shortlisted for the Lukas Prize and the L.A. Time’s Book Award, and was longlisted for a Pen America Award.


Sandy Ong and Edward Carver for “Madagascar Rosewood: From Mighty Tree to Ming Dynasty Furniture,” exploring China’s impact on the environment in Madagascar, a series of print and online articles for Newsweek, The Guardian and The Atlantic.

Sandy Ong is an independent science journalist based in Singapore. She travels the region in search of stories on health, science, technology and the environment. Her work has taken her to illegal bear bile farms in Vietnam, lead-polluted rivers in the Philippines and a horseshoe crab reserve in Malaysia. Sandy holds master’s degrees in science journalism and forensic science, and has lived on three continents. Her articles have appeared in the Atlantic, Newsweek, New Scientist, Hakai Magazine and Wired UK, among others, and can be found on her website:

Edward Carver is a writer based in Madagascar. He speaks Malagasy and French, and he teaches in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Antananarivo. He reports on environmental and social justice issues in Madagascar and beyond. His work has appeared in The Associated Press, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Vice, and other outlets. He has a master’s in journalism from New York University.

FEJ-funded project:

  • "The Rosewood Trade: An Illicit Trail from Forest to Furniture," Yale Environment 360, . (Since its publication, Ong and Carver have been contacted by Cites, Interpol, Amnesty International, and a number of conservation and civil society groups in Madagascar. According to Yale E360, the story garnered hundreds of shares, Facebook reactions and tweets, with Yale E360 tweets specifically generating nearly 100,000 impressions.) Also, this story was republished by the German magazine Welt-Sichten, which focuses on issues in the Global South.
  • "Can forensics help keep endangered rosewood off the black market?" Science News, November 3, 2019.


Irina Zhorov for “Puerto Rico’s Resilience,” covering the aftermath of hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico in 2017, resiliency and disaster planning for effects of climate change, a series of radio and multimedia reports including a one-hour special for “The Pulse,” a national health and science series from WHYY-FM, Philadelphia.

Irina Zhorov reports on the environment and science for WHYY’s The Pulse. Previously, she reported on distressed cities in Pennsylvania for Keystone Crossroads and covered energy, the Wind River Indian Reservation and all things cowboy for Wyoming Public Radio. You can see her work at

FEJ-funded project:

Plus two full shows The Pulse produced around some of the stories above:

  • Hurricanes: This show explored how nations can prepare for and recover from hurricanes. It featured story #2 from above; a piece on the challenges mosquitos present post-Maria and some of the creative methods community groups are using to help people stay healthy; as well as a piece about a child that had to be medically evacuated after Hurricane Maria because of the crumbling healthcare system.
  • Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico One Year Later: This show checked in one year after the storm. It featured pieces #3 and #4, above. We also checked in with local investigative reporters who have been digging into the healthcare system's problems; heard about the recovery of the agricultural sector; commissioned a piece on how families living on the mainland experienced the storm through their relatives on the island; and among other stories, heard about how communications systems slowed recovery and how the infrastructure has improved since Maria.


Amazon/Andes and Arctic/North Pacific:


Lyndsie Bourgon for “The New Ivory,” on old growth timber poaching in the Peruvian Amazon, as it lives and dies at the hands of organized criminals, and how local organizations in Peru are working to quell the impacts of timber poaching on their local land, an article for National Geographic via National Geographic Explorer program.

Lyndsie Bourgon is a freelance journalist, oral historian and National Geographic Early Career Explorer in Kamloops, British Columbia. Her work has appeared in publications including The Guardian, Smithsonian, the Oxford American and The Atlantic, and she has worked on oral history projects in the Shetland Islands and Shuswap territory in B.C. She has a master's degree in environmental history from the University of St Andrews.

FEJ-funded project:


Natasha Daly, with Columbian partners, for “How Habitat Loss Feeds Wildlife Trafficking in the Amazon,” articles and TV segments for National Geographic and Caracol Television, Colombian National TV Network.

Natasha Daly is a staff writer and editor at National Geographic covering animal welfare, wildlife exploitation and culture. She's written about how Easter triggers domestic rabbit abandonments, global rites of passage to manhood, zoos in wartime and a series of stories on the USDA's purge of public animal abuse records. She spent several weeks in port cities in the Amazon in 2017 investigating how wild animals are being captured from the jungle for use in the tourism industry. With FEJ's support, she plans to return to cover another side of this story. Daly is from Toronto and graduated from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

FEJ-funded project:


Barbara Fraser and Peruvian radio station partners for “When the River Runs Black: The Indelible Legacy of Oil in Amazonian Indian Communities,” covering the pollution and environmental health impacts of oil extraction in the Amazon, for multiple outlets through print, video, photography, radio and digital multimedia.

Barbara Fraser has covered oil spills near indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin and melting glaciers high in the Andes. Her reporting has taken her from hillside shantytowns in Lima, Peru, where women fight to protect some of the city's few green spaces from land speculators, to an ethnobotanical park at the southern tip of South America. Based in Lima, and with nearly 30 years of experience in Latin America, she specializes in environmental, public health and indigenous issues, putting a human face on current events and public policy. Her work has appeared in Nature, Science, National Geographic Online, EcoAméricas, The Lancet, Mongabay, Indian Country Today, Scholastic's Science World and other publications. See her work or contact her at and follow her on Twitter at @Barbara_Fraser

FEJ-funded project:


Virginia Gewin for “Protecting Peru’s Wild Foods,” on how Peru's indigenous community is losing its wild food sources to deforestation and the spread of palm oil plantations, a long-form multimedia story for and award-winning NPR podcast, “The Four Top.”

Virginia Gewin is a freelance science journalist. She writes about biodiversity, land use and climate change from her home in Portland, Oregon. In 2016, she was awarded an Alicia Patterson fellowship to travel to Malaysia, Iceland and around the United States to report on food security, seed conservation and gene banks. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Nature, Science, Scientific American, bioGraphic, The Washington Post and others. You can find her work here. Virginia is thrilled that the Fund for Environmental Journalism grant will take her to Peru in Spring 2018 to report on food security in the Amazon’s deforestation zone.

FEJ-funded project:


Lourdes Medrano for “The Fisherman and the Vaquita,” exploring conservation efforts in fishing communities in the upper Gulf of California, one of Mexico’s most important fishing regions, photos and article for Undark, the digital magazine of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT.

Lourdes Medrano is a freelance writer based in Tucson, Arizona. Her work focuses on the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration and the environment. Her stories have been featured in various print and online publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, Wired, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard and more. She is a former reporter for daily newspapers, including the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and The Arizona Republic in Phoenix.

FEJ-funded project:


Peter Thomson, Mark Hertsgaard and Sam Eaton for “Forest Carbon and the Fate of the Planet,” investigating the implications of recent research finding tropical forests have flipped from being carbon sinks to carbon sources, for PRI’s The World and The Nation through multimedia, radio, print and online.

Peter Thomson directs the Livable Planet desk at the PRI public radio program "The World" and In more than 25 years on the environment and sustainability beat he’s helped found the groundbreaking public radio program Living on Earth and founded the Environment/Livable Planet desk at "The World," written an acclaimed book on Siberia’s Lake Baikal, hauled down numerous fellowships and awards including the 2016 AAAS/Kavli Science Journalism Gold Award for audio and served 15 years on the SEJ board of directors. He lives in Boston with his wife and very curious 8 year-old daughter.

Mark Hertsgaard has reported on politics, culture and the environment from 25 countries for leading news outlets including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Bloomberg Businessweek, Time, Mother Jones, The Guardian, Le Monde, L’espresso, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where he is the environment correspondent and the investigative editor. He has authored seven books that have been translated into 16 languages, including, "HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth" and "Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future." He has been a regular commentator for the public radio programs “Morning Edition,” “Marketplace” and “Living On Earth,” and has appeared on hundreds of TV and radio programs in the US and abroad. He lives in San Francisco.

Sam Eaton, an award-winning journalist and filmmaker, has reported on environment and sustainability issues for two decades from more than twenty countries. He was the founding Senior Reporter for sustainability at public radio's flagship business program, Marketplace. His most recent work can be seen and heard on PBS NewsHour, PRI’s The World and UN Web TV.

FEJ-funded project:

1. The Nation: "Tropical Forests Are Flipping from Storing Carbon to Releasing It," August 30, 2018.

2. PBS NewsHour:

3. The World: "The Amazon's carbon tipping point". Set-up interview.


All Fund for Environmental Journalism Grantees retain full authority over editorial and publishing decisions. Through its FEJ program, the Society of Environmental Journalists maintains a firewall between news decisions and sources of grant support. Independent and separate agreements are maintained between SEJ and FEJ grantees and between SEJ and donors whose generous contributions make unique journalism projects possible.

Contribute now to SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism and help sponsor future grant opportunities.


Thanks to the following generous foundation and many individual donors for making this cycle of grants possible:

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation


Back to FEJ Grantees main page