SEJ's 26th Annual Conference Agenda — Friday


Bellwether Plenary
Concurrent Sessions
EJ Luncheon
Networking Happy Hour
Beat Dinners

Exhibitors and Advertisers

Agenda Coverage Lodging / Travel Advertise/ Exhibit Environmental News About Sacramento



As a journalism organization that believes in an open society, SEJ each year welcomes a diverse group of attendees to our annual conference. Attendees include representatives of business, government and environmental groups, as well as working journalists, academics and students.

Because non-journalists are here, you may see or hear presentations or responses to presentations that you might not expect from mainstream journalists. The presentations and any responses do not necessarily reflect the views of SEJ or any of its members.

As our guest, you should respect our interest in open discussions of environmental issues by thanking all participants in sessions you attend and not disrupting presentations of views you disagree with.

Finally, please respect our rule that SEJ members are given preference during question-and-answer sessions.


Friday, September 23, 2016


All sessions, as well as registration, exhibits and breaks, will be at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sacramento, 2001 Point West Way, Sacramento, California, 95815, (800) 445-8667, unless otherwise indicated.




7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: California Ballroom Foyer

If you didn't sign up ahead of time for the Saturday night party or Sunday brunch at the Library Galleria, there may still be room — please check with registration.


SEJ Information Table

8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: California Ballroom Foyer

Sign up here for Friday night's beat dinners and Saturday mini-tours. Read up on SEJ Board candidates before the election, and find information about SEJ Award winners, membership and services. Pick up copies of SEJournal and other SEJ information.


SEJ Exhibits

7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom, Grand Ballroom foyer, California Ballroom Salons 1/2 and auto technology exhibits just outside the California Foyer doors

Don't miss the wealth of information offered by the 2016 exhibitors. Learn about environmental issues and innovations, educational opportunities, see some great displays and add to your source list. Sign up for test drives in the California foyer. 



10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Location: California Ballroom Salons 1/2, Booths 11/12

The UC Davis bookstore is on site to sell SEJ members' and speakers' books, as well as offering environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference. Check your addendum for a possible book-signing schedule.


Concurrent Breakfast Sessions

Breakfast, sponsored in part by the Auto Alliance, will be available beginning at 7:00 a.m. in both the Grand Ballroom and the California Ballroom near registration. Browse the exhibits, test drive alternative vehicles and watch technology demos.

1. Moving Target: Preparing Students for an Evolving Profession

7:30 - 8:45 a.m.
Location: California Ballroom 3

Panelists will discuss challenges, opportunities and best practices for teaching environmental journalism to spark discussion at a teacher's round table. Come swap ideas, share techniques, raise concerns — lament the difficulties of melding science, environment and journalism into one curriculum. This session targets academic members but all are welcome whether you teach environmental journalism, thought about it or are curious about it. Coverage.

Moderator: David Poulson, Senior Associate Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University

Don Corrigan, Professor of Media Law and Global and Environmental Journalism, School of Communications, Webster University
Michael Kodas, Associate Director, Center for Environmental Journalism, University of Colorado Boulder
Mark Neuzil, Professor, Communication and Journalism, University of St. Thomas


2. Forest Wildfire Legislation: Do We Need To Control Wildfire?

7:30 - 8:45 a.m.
Location: California Ballroom 4

Grab your breakfast from California Salons 1/2 (exhibits room) and join a lively session on the pros and cons of forest wildfire legislation, including the Emergency Wildfire and Forest Management Act now before the Senate. The panel will discuss this act and other legislation dealing with wildfires and firefighting. Is the current Forest Service approach to wildfire control and timber management working to reduce fires and thus risk to humans? Are wildfires really a disaster and do we need to spend more on fire control? Finally, what are the potential consequences to ecosystem health from legislative proposals to increase logging on public lands? Coverage.

Moderator: George Wuerthner, Author, "Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy" and "Yellowstone & the Fires of Change"

Dominick DellaSala, President and Chief Scientist, Geos Institute; Editor and Primary Author, "Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology & Conservation"; and Co-editor and Author, "The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature's Phoenix"
Chad Hanson, Research Ecologist, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute; and Co-editor and Author, "The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature's Phoenix"
Bill Snyder, Executive Committee Chair, Northern California Society of American Foresters


Opening Plenary

The Environmental Bellwether State: What Happens in California Doesn’t Stay in California

9:00 - 10:30 a.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

Aerial views of waterways and sloughs meandering through The Delta in California. Photo courtesy of Paul Hames, California Department of Water Resources. Click to enlarge.

Mining carved the mountains and fouled streams and rivers. Decades of agricultural development and urban growth created engineered water delivery systems that forever altered the state’s ecologically rich delta and estuaries and the desert landscape. And then there’s the air pollution that plagues Los Angeles and the Central Valley. But California has been a global leader in acknowledging and addressing its myriad environmental challenges with precedent-setting legislation and innovative solutions. From the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 and the subnational movement to battle carbon emissions to ambitious renewable energy and clean vehicle goals and green chemistry policies — come hear what may be in your state’s future. Coverage.

Moderator: Joe Barr, Chief Content Officer, Capital Public Radio

Welcome: Ralph Hexter, Interim Chancellor, University of California, Davis

James Connaughton, President and CEO, Nautilus Data Technologies, and former Chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality
Kevin De León, Senate President Pro Tem, California
John Laird, Secretary, California Natural Resources Agency
Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board
Bob Perciasepe, President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and former Deputy Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Beverage Break

10:30 - 11:00 a.m.
Location: California Ballroom Salons 1/2 and Grand Ballroom


Concurrent Sessions 1

11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Survival Journalism: How To Do More Faster
Location: Capital Ballroom A

Okay, so you figured out publishing online. But now there are 20 other new things to learn: Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook Live, Snapchat. How do you decide what to prioritize? How do you balance reporting with all the promotion and "extras" reporters are now expected to do, too? This session will feature both freelancers and staff writers discussing their strategies for keeping up with the "hustle" of our modern news era. Coverage.

Moderator: Kate Sheppard, Senior Reporter and Environment/Energy Editor, Huffington Post

Katherine Bagley, Web Editor, Yale Environment 360
Raven Rakia, Freelance Journalist

Freelance Pitch Slam
Location: Capital Ballroom B

What are the secret thoughts of editors as they read your pitch? How can you write more pitches that will dazzle them and win story commissions? Get your answers straight from the source. SEJ’s ever-popular freelance pitch slam returns this year, giving you the chance, in 90 seconds or less, to present your story pitch to a panel of editors and receive instant feedback. Learn what editors most need, what they pay, what types of stories they commission from freelancers and how best to break in. Whether you are a new writer or a seasoned veteran, you’ll leave this session with new insights about publishing — and maybe even a new story assignment.

Moderator: Madeline Ostrander, Freelance Journalist

Kathleen Palmer, Senior Associate Editor, Wired Magazine
Todd Reubold, Publisher and Director, Ensia Magazine
Jennifer Sahn, Executive Editor, Pacific Standard
Tom Zeller Jr., Editor in Chief, Undark Magazine

Capping It Off: US and Canada Tackle Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Market Trading
Location: Capital Ballroom C

Ontario has become the latest North American jurisdiction to turn to market solutions to try to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, with plans to join California and Quebec in their Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade program. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeastern part of the United States was the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce GHG emissions, but the WCI program goes farther in addressing more sectors of the economy. These regional efforts in the United States could gain additional momentum as governments look for ways to meet the promise of the Paris climate agreement. What’s next for California and its trading partners now that Ontario is in the mix and what are the prospects for other jurisdictions to join their mitigation efforts? Coverage.

Moderator: Gloria Gonzalez, Senior Editor, Crain Communications

James Bushnell, Professor, Department of Economics, University of California, Davis
Jason Gray, Manager, Cap-and-Trade Program, California Air Resources Board
Erica Morehouse, Senior Attorney, Environmental Defense Fund
Roger Williams, President, Blue Source

Toxic Tradeoffs: Eliminating Harmful Ingredients, Avoiding Regrettable Substitutes
Location: Capital Ballroom D

Getting rid of a toxic substance in a consumer product sounds easy. But these chemicals often play a vital role in a product. Alternative chemicals sometimes are available but may cost more, don’t work as well, or worse, could pose a different health risk than the substances they replace. We’ll explore California’s struggle with its groundbreaking green chemistry law requiring that toxic ingredients in consumer products get replaced with safer alternatives. Coverage.

Moderator: Cheryl Hogue, Assistant Managing Editor, Chemical & Engineering News

Jack Linard, Head, Regulatory Affairs Personal Care Products, Unilever
Karl Palmer, Chief, Safer Consumer Products Branch, California Department of Toxic Substances Control
Veena Singla, Staff Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council

Water in a Time of Scarcity: Adapting to Drought
Location: California Ballroom 3

Drought changes everything. Wildfires strengthen. Diseases emerge. Fish suffocate. Crops wilt. Above all, there is widespread concern about water supplies. The science is clear: much of the American West and the world's midsection will become hotter and drier. We will have to live with water scarcity. How to do that? What changes must be made? The four panelists, each helping to develop new practices and policies, will discuss what is being done: in cities, on farms and within watersheds. Coverage.

Moderator: Brett Walton, News Correspondent, Circle of Blue

Newsha Ajami, Director of Urban Water Policy, Water in the West, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
Nadine Bailey, Chief Operations Officer, Family Water Alliance
David Pettijohn, Director of Water Resources, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Brian Stranko, California Water Program Director, The Nature Conservancy

Renewable Energy on Public Lands
Location: California Ballroom 4

It's increasingly difficult to build renewable energy projects on public land in California, despite the state's ambitious climate goals, world-class solar and wind resources, and abundant open space. Especially in the desert, plans to build solar and wind farms have butted up against opposition from local communities and conservationists, many of whom say the desert and its fragile ecosystems are being sacrificed to industrial energy facilities. With that conflict in mind, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger instructed state agencies in 2008 to develop the 22.5-million-acre Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which was meant to identify locations where solar and wind energy could be developed with minimal impacts to desert tortoises and other threatened species, while preserving scenic vistas and leaving space for off-roaders. But perhaps unsurprisingly considering its outsize ambition, the DRECP has frustrated energy developers and conservationists alike — and it still isn't finished. This panel will explore the difficulty of balancing clean energy development with other priorities on public land, even in a place as favorable to renewables as California. Coverage.

Related information:

Moderator: Sammy Roth, Energy Reporter, The Desert Sun

Karen Douglas, Commissioner, California Energy Commission
Shannon Eddy, Executive Director, Large-scale Solar Association
David Lamfrom, Director, California Desert and National Wildlife Programs, National Parks Conservation Association

Food Security and Public Health: Causes, Consequences and Responses
Location: Garden Room

According to the United Nations, some 795 million people worldwide lack enough food to live healthy, active lives. Poor nutrition causes nearly half the deaths of all children under five. Here in the U.S., about 50 million people are considered food insecure; about 15 million of them are children. The healthcare costs of this situation are enormous. This panel will discuss these issues from both a global and local perspective, examining causes and consequences — and policy responses. Experts we’ll hear from include a climate change scientist, public health policy specialist who works with agricultural communities and a journalist covering these issues in East Africa. Coverage.

Moderator: Elizabeth Grossman, Freelance Writer

Zoey Goore, Pediatrician and Northern California Chapter President, American Academy of Pediatrics and Co-Founder, Sacramento Reverse Food Truck
Alexis Guild, Senior Health Policy Analyst, Farmworker Justice
Rosalia Omungo, News Editor and Television Journalist, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Nairobi
Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist, World Wildlife Fund

Crimes Against Nature: Law and Disorder from the Deep Forests to the High Seas
Location: Terrace Room

Illegal logging, wildlife trafficking and unregulated fishing: the unlawful natural resource trade is valued at billions of dollars a year. But fighting these global crimes is an enormous and underfunded challenge. And behind the scenes lurk even more serious crimes: human trafficking, drug trade, homicide and terrorism. This panel features reporters who are doing groundbreaking investigations into the big picture of environmental crime, from the impacts of Central America’s violent drug trade, China’s illegal fishing off the coast of Ghana, to modern day sea slavery around the world. A government official in charge of international conservation will join them to explain what the U.S. can (and can’t) do to stop these crimes. Coverage.

Moderator: Meaghan Parker, Writer/Editor, Environmental Change and Security Program, Wilson Center

Sharon Guynup, Freelance Journalist and Public Policy Fellow, Wilson Center
Adu Koranteng, Freelance Investigative Reporter (Ghana) and Grantee, Fund for Investigative Journalism
Richard Ruggiero, Chief, Division of International Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ian Urbina, Investigative Reporter, The New York Times


Celebrating Environmental Journalism Luncheon

12:15 - 2:00 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

We’ll start out with an eye-opening remembrance of environmental photojournalism over the years, followed by SEJ’s Environmental Reporting Awards program, and then wrap up with a panel of 2016 environmental reporting award winners discussing last year’s top stories. And, we'll throw in a few surprises along the way. Coverage.



Concurrent Sessions 2

2:00 - 3:15 p.m.

Lessons from Flint: Environmental Journalists Explore Their Options Following the Poisoning of a City
Location: Capital Ballroom A

What can environmental journalists learn from the chain of decisions that allowed damaging lead to leach for months from the drinking water pipes of Flint, Michigan? How can journalists report about aging infrastructure in ways that prevent similar problems from developing in other cities? When and how should journalists consider doing their own water testing? What role did the demographics of Flint play in its water crisis, and how can journalists address that question? Coverage.

Moderator: Emilia Askari, Journalist, Teacher, Game Developer, University of Michigan

Christina Devine, Ph.D. Student, Virginia Tech
Ron Fonger, Reporter, The Flint Journal
Curt Guyette, Investigative Reporter, American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan
Bruce Lanphear, Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

EJ Reporting: Don't Forget the Science
Location: Capital Ballroom B

For some of us, the environment is but one beat within science journalism. We can’t see reporting on Earth, climate and living resources without understanding the mechanisms that create, perturb — and sometimes destroy — the once-natural relationships between them. Our panel of journalists will explain why they have made science the basis of their environmental reporting, and why you should too. Coverage.

Moderator: Janet Raloff, Editor, Science News Magazines

Brian Bienkowski, Editor, Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate
Dan Fagin, Director, Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program & Science Communication Workshops, New York University
Christopher Joyce, Correspondent, Science Desk, National Public Radio
Sarah Zielinski, Freelance Blogger/Writer/Editor; Science, Scientific American, Discover, Science News and National Geographic News

Fallout from the Methane Blowout
Location: Capital Ballroom C

The 2015 blowout of a well at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field near Los Angeles resulted in the largest U.S. release of methane ever, scientists said. Over nearly four months, about 100,000 tons of the potent greenhouse gas poured into the atmosphere. The disaster drew national attention to the vulnerabilities of an aging energy infrastructure. Questions and issues this panel will tackle include: How has Aliso Canyon informed methane policies and regulations? Did the leak advance efforts to address methane emissions from oil and gas operations and other leaky infrastructure? Which states are out in front in addressing methane emissions? What new technologies are being deployed to measure and identify methane leaks? What are the climate and economic benefits of reducing methane?

Moderator: Mark Chediak, Energy Reporter, Bloomberg News

Stephen Conley, Atmospheric Scientist, University of California, Davis and Pilot/President, Scientific Aviation
Christine Cowsert Chapman, Asset Knowledge and Integrity Management, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Dan Grossman, Rocky Mountain Regional Director and National Director of State Programs, Oil & Gas, Environmental Defense Fund
Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, Western Energy Alliance

Expanding the Environmental Justice Battlefront
Location: Capital Ballroom D

For decades, grassroots organizations have been working to bring environmental justice to economically and pollution-burdened urban and rural communities. In California, these advocates are using newly available data and scientific research to advance local and statewide policies to address environmental and public health threats to disadvantaged communities. At this session, California’s top environmental justice players, including a scientist and a lawyer, will discuss new ways to transform these vulnerable communities. Coverage.

Moderator: Jane Kay, Environment Writer

Marisol Aguilar, Northern Region Director, Community Equity Initiative, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.
Tiffany Eng, Green Zones Program Manager, California Environmental Justice Alliance
Kim Harley, Associate Director of CHAMACOS Study, Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health, University of California, Berkeley
Arsenio Mataka, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice and Environmental Affairs, California Environmental Protection Agency
Kenneth Tang, Community Organizer, Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Groundwater: Making It Count
Location: California Ballroom 3

In California, groundwater has long been surface water’s less famous — and ignored — partner, part of the same hydrological system but strangely unregulated. That changed in 2014 when the state became the last in the American West to pass a groundwater management law. Now state and local officials are tasked with creating sustainability plans that include returning water to the ground as well as pumping it out. But how does the state begin to value something long taken for free? Good science, plus legal and policy changes, will play roles. Researchers from UC Davis have mapped optimal farmland for groundwater recharge. Monterey and Santa Cruz counties are testing a “net metering rebate” approach: farmers’ meters run backwards if they recharge. An NGO suggests recharge credits that would count against pumping limits and could be sold or banked. Long an environmental leader, California has lagged on groundwater. Can new policies make up for lost time?

Related information:

Moderator: Erica Gies, Freelance Environmental Journalist

Alvar Escriva-Bou, Research Fellow, Water Policy Center, Public Policy Institute of California
Tara Moran, Sustainable Groundwater Program Lead, Water in the West, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
Anthony O’Geen, Soil Resource Specialist, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis
Erik Ringelberg, California Director, The Freshwater Trust

Living with Fire
Location: California Ballroom 4

The 2015 fire season was one of the worst on record. In Northern California, 3,000 structures were destroyed in just two wildfires alone. Such devastation makes splashy headlines, but deepening people’s understanding of the forces at play makes for better stories — and more challenging reporting. Wildfire science is complex. Climate models predict that fire activity will increase across much of the northern hemisphere, but whether a given location will be more fire-prone depends on what controls wildfire occurrence there now. For example, drought may increase the acreage burned in coniferous western forests but reduce the wildfire potential in arid regions. This panel of scientists will discuss fire behavior in the face of drought and climate change, examine fire’s historical role and ecological benefits, and look at how we can better live with fire. Coverage.

Moderator: Amy Quinton, Environment Reporter, Capital Public Radio

Jon Keeley, Senior Scientist, Western Ecological Research Center, Sequoia-Kings Canyon Field Station, U.S. Geological Survey
Hugh Safford, Regional Ecologist, Pacific Southwest Region, U.S. Forest Service, and Research Faculty Associate, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis
Edward Smith, Forest Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy
LeRoy Westerling, Associate Professor, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California, Merced

Hidden Hunger: Uncovering Stories from Food Deserts
Location: Garden Room

Despite the Sacramento region's agricultural abundance, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 people in the community don't always know where their next meal will come from. Capital Public Radio's award-winning multimedia documentary, Hidden Hunger, approached the story of food insecurity in low-income neighborhoods through a community engagement process that helped uncover causes of hunger in the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America and helped move the community to action. You'll hear from a project reporter and the school advocate whose ground-breaking work was featured. The panel also includes perspectives from a pediatrician whose work on obesity led her to start a Reverse Food Truck and a national editor who has covered food deserts around the US.

Moderator: Catherine Stifter, Senior Editor for Innovation, Capital Public Radio

Zoey Goore, Pediatrician and Northern California Chapter President, American Academy of Pediatrics and Co-Founder, Sacramento Reverse Food Truck
Julia Mitric, Food and Sustainability Reporter, Capital Public Radio
Naomi Starkman, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Civil Eats
Amaya Weiss, Executive Community Director, Sacramento City Unified School District

What's New on the Blue Beat?
Location: Terrace Room

As crises along our coast and ocean expand — populations at risk, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, overfishing, pirate fishing, at sea slavery and migrant surges, oil, deep-sea mining, chemical and plastic pollution, nutrient runoff, etc. — the only resource not at risk is good stories. Hear and question some of the top ocean and coastal reporters in the U.S. to learn more about the emerging issues they’re covering in depth. Coverage.

Related information:

Moderator: David Helvarg, Author and Executive Director, Blue Frontier

Rona Kobell, Staff Writer, Chesapeake Bay Journal
Mark Schleifstein, Environment Reporter, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune and
Ian Urbina, Investigative Reporter, The New York Times


Beverage Break

3:15 - 3:30 p.m.
Location: California Ballroom Salons 1/2 and Grand Ballroom


Membership Meeting

3:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

All are welcome for the Annual Membership Meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists. SEJ members, please attend to hear from candidates and cast your vote to fill open seats on SEJ's 2017 Board of Directors. Reports, Q&A and lively discussion of hot topics and future plans for SEJ membership, finance and programs will round out the hour.


Networking Happy Hour

4:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Location: Grand Ballroom

The bar will open early. Choose a discussion table on a wide range of timely topics, reporting tips and freelance business advice. Check the list below, the flyer in your conference packet or at the SEJ information table for a list of topics.

1. Let’s Talk About Sex: Gender, Population and the Planet
Moderator: Meaghan Parker, Wilson Center

What’s love got to do with it? A lot, according to the IPCC 5th Assessment, which finds that providing family planning in places most vulnerable to climate change and with the highest fertility rates could help people adapt. And climate’s just one of many environmental issues with deep but underreported connections to women’s health and gender inequality. Join us for what will be the hottest discussion in the room.

2. Are Civilization & Urban Ecology Going to the Dogs, or Did They Start There?
Moderator: Merritt Clifton, Editor, Animals 24-7

Dogs historically had the major predator/scavenger/deterrent role as cities began to grow. But dogs brought a set of problems with them, so among the earliest identifiable government roles were street dog population and disease control. Later, during the 20th century dogs, as well as cats, moved indoors and became pets. This opened many habitat niches to urban wildlife. The introduction of dogs and cats into towns and cities enormously changed the urban environment, especially over the past 65 years.

3. Sportsmen and Public Lands: Defending an Outdoor Tradition
Moderator: Mark Neuzil, Professor, University of St. Thomas, and Outdoorsman

2016 has found public lands in the spotlight like never before. From the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January to a spate of legislative attempts to seize, sell or otherwise transfer ownership of federal lands and waters, the future of this shared heritage has never been more in question. Yet the value of our public lands is undeniable, and no one is more aware of this fact than American hunters and anglers. Talk to representatives of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other sportsmen’s groups to find out what’s next for this powerful constituency.

4. Advocacy Journalism: Is That Even a Thing?
Moderator: Jason Mark, Editor, SIERRA

What, exactly, is advocacy journalism? How can a reporter balance a commitment to environmental sustainability with a dedication to accuracy and fairness? We'll have some drinks and discuss.

5. China’s Big, Fat Environmental Footprint
Moderator: Stuart Leavenworth, Freelance Journalist, Beijing

While China is taking steps at home to reduce choking smog, its environmental footprint on the rest of the world, including the United States, looms large. For the last three years, longtime SEJ member Stuart Leavenworth has covered these issues and more for McClatchy, the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor and National Geographic.

6. Reporting on Groundwater Depletion
Moderator: Ian James, Reporter, The Desert Sun

Aquifers are being depleted in California and around the world, and many regions are failing to address the problem. What are some approaches for investigating the impacts of declining groundwater levels, the policies that have led to overpumping, and potential solutions?

7. Staying Safe While Reporting Overseas
Moderator: Dale Willman, Writer and Photographer, just returned from a year in South Sudan

Once upon a time reporters working in conflict zones were protected by unspoken rules of engagement, but today all bets are off. As recent events in South Sudan show, you need to know how to keep yourself safe. Let’s talk about how to do that.

8. Wildfire Isn’t All Bad
Moderator: George Wuerthner, Author, "Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy" and "Yellowstone & the Fires of Change"

There is considerable fear and misunderstanding about fire and tree mortality in western US conifer forests, and much of the discussion has focused on increased logging and fire suppression as solutions for "overstocked" or "overgrown" forests on our public lands.  Yet often left out of the discussion is the growing body of evidence indicating that historical conifer forests of the US were highly variable in their density, and small and large patches of high-intensity fire were a natural part of fire regimes. Please join this session for a discussion of the emerging science on forest and fire ecology.

9. Getting To Know Media Matters, A Helpful Resource for Covering Climate Change and the Environment
Moderators: Media Matters Climate and Energy Program Director Andrew Seifter and Deputy Director Denise Robbins

Come meet Media Matters for America's climate and energy team and learn about big picture trends in media coverage of climate change. We'll also discuss how to cover fossil fuel industry front groups that are seeking to undermine clean energy and climate change policies across the country, and walk through some of the resources we provide, including our media disclosure guide.

10. SEJ 2017
Moderators: SEJ's 2017 conference co-chairs Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Jennifer Bogo, Deputy Editor, National Audubon Society

Always wanted to help plan an annual conference? Want to make sure your ideas are a part of SEJ's 2017 event? Then this is your table. Find out what's on tap for next year's conference, and learn how you can be a part of the planning.

11. SEJournal
Moderator: Adam Glenn, Editor

SEJournal goes digital this fall, and editor Adam Glenn will host a networking table to share plans and to hear from SEJ members about the kinds of useful, timely stories you'd like to see in the new online, email newsletter version. We'll also brainstorm big environmental themes we'll cover, briefing book-style, in a newly revamped print magazine.


Beat Dinners Are Back!

6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Harvesting swiss chard. Photo courtesy of John Chacon, California Department of Water Resources.




Sign up at the SEJ Information Table for the available dinner of your choice; check the signup sheets to verify your reservation and specifics (see below for details).

Logistics: Buses leave from the hotel at 6:00 p.m. Everyone will be dropped at Mulvaney’s. All beat dinner restaurants are less than half a mile from the drop-off point. Buses will pick up from the same spot at 10:00 p.m. After 10:00 p.m., please take a taxi or Uber back to the Doubletree Hotel.







1. Fishing for Sustainability

Moderator: Mark Schleifstein, Environment Reporter, NOLA.Com and Times-Picayune

Speaker: Rick Grosberg, Professor of Evolution and Ecology, and Director, Coastal and Marine Science Institute, University of California, Davis

Restaurant: Mikuni Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, 1530 J Street, 916-447-2112. Cost $10-$25. Maximum group size 25.

Join our conversation on the challenge of providing sustainable seafood in the amounts necessary to feed the world, including the world’s demanding restaurant industry. Where else to hold this conversation than at Mikuni Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar where the staff will explain the choices they make to assure their customers receive both the best and most sustainable fish available. 


2. #FixOurParks: Celebrating Their Centennial While the Parks Crumble

Moderator: Christine Heinrichs, Freelance Writer

Speaker:  Marcia Argust, Director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s parks

Restaurant: Rubicon Brewing Company, 2004 Capitol Avenue, 916-448-7032. Cost $11-$16. Maximum group size 15.

The National Park Service (NPS) just marked 100 years, but many of its sites are starting to show their age. Across every state in the country, park sites have overdue repairs totaling almost $12 billion. Learn to dig a little deeper on what issues our national parks face as they head into a second century and why that may affect neighboring communities.


3. Crossing Borders: Finding Stories and Staying Safe Abroad

Moderator: Meaghan Parker, Senior Writer/Editor, The Wilson Center

Speakers:   Rosalia Omungo, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation TV and MIT Knight Journalism Fellow; Jane Braxton Little, Dawn Stover and Meaghan Parker, SEJ Parallel Partners volunteer coordinators; Priyali Sur, Independent Journalist and SEJ Parallel Partner

Restaurant: Aioli Bodega Espanola (tapas), 1800 L Street, 916-447-9440. Cost $6-$30. Maximum group size 22.

From Sacramento to South Sudan, SEJers are covering environmental stories with global significance and international impact. But reporting from overseas can be dauntingly difficult, extremely expensive and potentially dangerous for North American reporters. At this dinner, foreign correspondents and SEJ members from Kenya and India will discuss the current state of international reporting and share their tips and tricks.


4. Farm to Fork and Climate Change

Moderator: Joe Barr, Capital Public Radio

Speakers: Chef Patrick Mulvaney; Danielle Nierenberg, Founder, Food Tank

Restaurant: Mulvaney’s B&L (local farm-to-fork gourmet), 1215 9th Street, 916-441-6022. Cost $50 (must be prepaid at Eventbrite: Maximum group size 50.

Chef Patrick Mulvaney has been described as “having the soul of a poet and the brain of a scientist,” which makes him a perfect choice for hosting an SEJ beat dinner. The nationally-known Mulvaney has personally created the locally-sourced dishes that will be enjoyed by those who want to learn what the Farm-to-Fork movement is all about.


5. Blurred Lines: Science, Policy, and Misinformation

Moderator: Amy Quinton, Environment Reporter, Capital Public Radio;

Speakers: Allison Joe, AICP – Deputy Director, Governor's Strategic Growth Council; Sara Kross, Professor of Environmental Studies, Sacramento State University; Amber Mace, Deputy Director, California Council on Science and Technology

Restaurant: Ramen House RaiJin, 1901 S Street, 916-498-9968. Cost $5-$25. Maximum group size 10.

Increasingly, scientists are being encouraged to work with legislators to communicate the policy implications of their research. But does this blur the lines between information versus advocacy — and who can journalists, scientists, and policymakers trust to pick out scientific consensus from the soup of misinformation these days? We'll tug at these noodles of thought over savory Japanese appetizers, traditional ramen soups and sake selections.


6. The Hands That Feed Us: Dinner and Stories from the Field

Moderator: Elizabeth Grossman, Independent Journalist

Speakers: Eric Guerra, Sacramento Councilman; Chef Brenda Ruiz, Sacramento Food Policy Council; Phil Serna, County Supervisor; Naomi Starkman, Publisher, Civil Eats; Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network

Restaurant: St. John’s, 1701 L Street.  Cost $25, including drinks (must be prepaid at Eventbrite:  Maximum group size 30.

Join us for an intimate dinner at historic St. John's Church with local and seasonal food prepared by hotspot Magpie. Break bread with farmworkers, small-scale farmers and their advocates in the Sacramento region. Learn about the challenges and opportunities they face in growing and harvesting food and getting it to your table. This is a specially catered meal just for SEJ members.


7. Dark Spreads and Phantom Limbs: How to Think About Climate Risk

Moderator: Mark Schapiro, Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting

Speaker: Meg Wilcox, Senior Communications Manager, Ceres

Restaurant: de Vere’s Irish Pub, 1521 L Street, 916-231-9947. Cost $10-$15. Maximum group size 15.

Come join us for a discussion on the many ways in which climate risk is being integrated into the political and economic order. From the unstable prospects of ‘dark spreads’ — a speculator’s term for a bet on fossil fuels — to our longstanding presumptions about oil and coal’s financial performance — ‘phantom limbs’ leftover from earlier boom times — past assumptions are being challenged and shaken.


8. Illegal Wildlife Trade

Moderator: Sharon Guynup, Freelance Journalist

Restaurant: Highwater (Mexican fusion), 1910 Q Street, 916-706-2465. Cost $7-$15. Maximum group size 15.

Poaching and illegal international wildlife trade is pushing elephants, rhinos, tigers and other iconic species towards the brink. But over the last four years, the trade — an estimated $19 billion a year business — has taken the world stage, largely because of links to organized criminal and terrorist groups. There is growing attention from governments, conservation organizations, the United Nations, INTERPOL and other groups. Journalist Sharon Guynup will lead a discussion that will help you write deeper stories on what is now the top threat to many wildlife species.


9. #NoMoreFlints: How Journalists Can Conduct Their Own Water Tests for Lead

Moderator: Sara Shipley Hiles, University of Missouri

Speakers: Emilia Askari, University of Michigan; Christina Devine, PhD Student, Virginia Tech; Bernardo Motta, University of South Florida St. Petersburg; member of testing team for Flint water

Restaurant: Lucca (Italian fusion), 1615 J Street, 916-669-5300. Cost $10-$23. Maximum group size 22.

The problem of lead in drinking water is persistent and widespread. The Flint water crisis exposed holes in existing regulations to protect water safety. Journalists might want to conduct their own tests for lead — but how? We'll talk about a protocol we're developing to do just that. Come share your experience and your questions.


10. The Third Chapter: Environmental Journalism and Retirement

Moderator: Jim Detjen, Emeritus Professor, Michigan State University

Restaurant: Hock Farm (American), 1415 L Street, 916-440-8888. Cost $15-$30. Maximum group size 15.

Many long-time environmental reporters have retired or are contemplating retirement. What are some of the opportunities/challenges that await SEJ members as they move into the "Third Chapter" of their lives? For some it is a time of jubilation — a chance to grow, travel and experience new adventures. For others, it is a difficult transition. Join Jim Detjen, SEJ's founding president and a professor emeritus at Michigan State University, at a beat dinner where SEJ members can talk about their experiences in this new stage of their lives.


Wednesday, September 21
Thursday, September 22
Saturday, September 24
Sunday, September 25