Something in the Water
Investigative series exposes how California regulators relied on flimsy evidence—produced by oil industry consultants—to assure consumers it’s safe to grow crops with the oil industry’s wastewater.
Inside Climate News, stories ran Feb. through Sept. 2022
Unchecked Oil and Gas Wastewater Threatens California Groundwater
Lax oversight has allowed oil and gas developers to dump billions of barrels of toxic wastewater into the ground, endangering the San Joaquin Valley’s dwindling groundwater supplies.
Inside Climate News, Oct. 24, 2021
Fires Fuel New Risks to California Farmworkers
As climate change amplifies the health risks of extreme heat and pollution from wildfires, researchers scramble to protect farmworkers.
Inside Climate News, Sept. 21, 2021
Farming Without a Net
California’s sustainable farms offer lessons in climate resilience, but the agricultural system still favors industrial operations.
Inside Climate News, Sept. 7, 2021
For Farmworkers, Heat Too Often Means Needless Death
Advocates say the case of an undocumented Oregon worker during the record-breaking Pacific Northwest heatwave exposes the deadly toll of failed U.S. immigration law.
Inside Climate News, July 9, 2021
How Capturing Floodwaters Can Reduce Flooding and Combat Drought
Climate change will exacerbate swings between droughts and floods in California and intensify competition for water. Can the state divert northern floodwaters to the thirsty south?
Fighting Attacks on Inconvenient Science—and Scientists
The atrazine wars offer a cautionary tale for scientists whose work triggers blowback by regulated industries, and lessons for protecting scientific integrity.
Inside Climate News, May 24, 2021
California’s Relentless Droughts Strain Farming Towns
Gov. Newsom has placed most of the state under a drought emergency, which could leave communities struggling with agricultural pollution without drinking water.
Inside Climate News, May 17, 2021
In California’s Farm Country, Climate Change Is Likely to Trigger More Pesticide Use, Fouling Waterways
Warmer temperatures would boost pest populations, causing farmers to use more insecticides that, with more frequent and severe storms, turn into toxic runoff.
Inside Climate News, May 10, 2021
Ice-fighting Bacteria Could Help California Crops Survive Frost
Managing the bacteria could help California growers save water and energy needed for traditional frost-protection methods.
Inside Climate News, March 25, 2021
Warmer Temperatures May Offer California Farmers a Rare Silver Lining: Fewer Frosts
A new study finds that the state’s profitable orchard crops will suffer less frost exposure under climate change, saving water and energy.
Inside Climate News, Feb. 21, 2021
As Warming Oceans Bring Tough Times to California Crab Fishers, Scientists Say Diversifying is Key to Survival
A study of the 2014 marine heat wave suggests that fishermen who turn to other species will fare better in future climate disruptions.
Inside Climate News, Feb. 1, 2021
Animals Can Get Covid-19, Too. Without Government Action, That Could Make the Coronavirus Harder to Control
Veterinarians say they worry the virus could take up residence in animal species in the US. But public health officials only want to talk about people.
Inside Climate News, Jan. 27, 2021
Harnessing Rice Fields to Resurrect California’s Endangered Salmon
California’s salmon populations have been dangerously close to extinction for decades. A new partnership may help tip the scales toward recovery.
Inside Climate News, Jan. 5, 2021
Clues From Wines Grown in Hot, Dry Regions May Help Growers Adapt to a Changing Climate
Homing in on traits that help grapevines conserve water during drought and heat waves may help breeders develop more resilient grape varieties.
Inside Climate News, Jan. 2, 2021
California Farmers Work to Create a Climate Change Buffer for Migratory Water Birds
Flooded fields offer food and habitat for sandhill cranes, egrets and other species. But changing crop choices and rising temperatures are a growing threat.
Inside Climate News, Dec. 6, 2020
The Harmful Chemical Lurking in Your Children’s Toys
A scientist tracks the dangers of flame retardants, meant to protect children, and why manufacturers cannot seem to stop using them.
New York Times, Nov. 24, 2020
These Everyday Toxins May Be Hurting Pregnant Women and Their Babies
PFAS, industrial chemicals used to waterproof jackets and grease-proof fast-food containers, may disrupt pregnancy with lasting effects.
New York Times, Sept. 23, 2020
This Chemical Can Impair Fertility, but It’s Hard to Avoid
Hormone-disrupting phthalates can be found in everything from plastics and household goods to personal care products. Studies have shown they may be harmful to women’s reproductive systems.
New York Times, Aug. 25, 2020
As Covid-19 cases spike, an unprecedented alliance emerges to protect California farmworkers
In Monterey County, growers and worker advocates join forces with researchers, doctors and public officials.
FERN/Univision, July 7, 2020
Farmworkers at Driscoll’s supplier demand fair pay, safe conditions amid pandemic
Strawberry pickers strike for a 10-cent-a-box raise. Instead of meeting with the workers, the grower calls the sheriff’s department.
FERN, May 28, 2020
In California’s farmworker towns, coronavirus forces a scramble for safe drinking water
With stores rationing bottled water, some 1 million residents whose tap water is tainted with agricultural pollutants confront the state’s failure to solve the problem
FERN, April 22, 2020
Tipped Restaurant Workers Were Already Hanging By a Thread. What Now?
“We’ve been overwhelmed with the desperation.”
Mother Jones/FERN, April 4, 2020
Migrant Farmworkers Feed America — And They’re At High Risk For A Coronavirus Outbreak
Living in crowded dorms with no space to quarantine the sick, farm laborers are “petrified.”
HuffPost/FERN, March 26, 2020
Traumatised by the Cure
Survivors of life-threatening illness can be left in profound fear and distress. Are they suffering from a form of PTSD?
Aeon, March 3, 2020
Today’s Special: Grilled Salmon Laced With Plastic
We used to think microplastics stayed in a fish’s guts. Chilling new research suggests the tiny particles migrate into its flesh.
Mother Jones/FERN, Sept. 12, 2019
Feeding Wild Birds Can Carry Risks: Here’s How to Minimize Unintended Harms
Backyard bird feeders help urbanites feel close to nature but can also expose birds to disease and other potential threats. Luckily, bird lovers can take simple steps to reduce risks.
Travel science: Earthquake trail
The 1906 Earthquake left such “blindingly obvious” features in the earth it helped geologists tie faults with quakes and laid the foundation for modern seismology.
The Washington Post, Aug. 15, 2019 (and SF Gate, Aug. 29, 2019)
Counting Seals for Conservation
Biologists hail the comeback of Northern elephant seals, once hunted to near extinction for their oil-rich blubber, as one of conservation’s great successes. Now, they’re scrambling to protect the rebounding population’s habitat in Point Reyes, California from rising seas.
PBS Nature, June 11, 2019
Top Pick, Best Shortform Science Writing
Can efforts to bottle MDMA’s magic transform psychiatry?
The Verge, May 22, 2019
Rainy Springs Bring Disaster for Nesting Tree Swallows
Concern about how climate change affects food security usually focuses on agriculture in resource-poor countries. But disruptions to weather patterns threaten food supplies for wildlife too.
PBS Nature, April 18, 2019
More Than 90 Percent of Americans Have Pesticides or Their Byproducts in Their Bodies
The real risks from chemicals in our food—for farmworkers and children, in particular—are being ignored.
The Nation, March 21, 2019
Master Regulators: How Mountain Lions Boost Biodiversity
Mountain lions and wolves have suffered from our ignorance ever since pioneers inundated their wilderness homes. But an emerging view of mountain lions’ unique ecological role is coming into focus.
PBS Nature, February 26, 2019
Bees face yet another lethal threat in dicamba, a drift-prone pesticide
Scientists warned the EPA years ago that dicamba would drift off fields and kill weeds that are vital to honeybees. The consequences of the EPA’s decisions now are rippling through the food system.
Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting/FERN, January 23, 2019
Recognized, Best Shortform Science Writing
Will Climate Change Drive a New Species of Crossbill to Extinction?
Most songbirds head south for the winter, as food supplies disappear, returning to breed in the spring, when booming insect populations can satisfy clamoring broods. Not crossbills.
PBS Nature, January 15, 2019
Water savings may cause suffering for burrowing owls
Can the tiny raptors adapt to irrigation changes in California’s warming farm fields?
High Country News, November 22, 2018
Recognized, Best Shortform Science Writing
Scientists warned this weed killer would destroy crops. EPA approved it anyway
EPA approved dicamba for new uses on Monsanto’s GM crops, ignoring scientists’ warnings that it would evaporate, drift and ruin crops miles away. The result? Millions of acres of damage to crops, gardens and wild plants.
Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting & FERN, November 13, 2018
Winner, SPJ NorCal Excellence in Journalism Award for Explanatory Journalism, 2019
3rd place, Association of Food Journalists Award, Best Story on Food Policy or Food Issues, 2019
The Best of Nonprofit News 2018, Money, Power & Influence
Burrowing Owls’ Future Depends on Squirrels, Badgers and Prairie Dogs
Everyone loves burrowing owls but many don’t realize that the prairie dogs and other burrowing mammals they love to hate are critical to the endearing owls’ survival.
PBS Nature, August 7, 2018
Migrant children at risk of disease outbreaks, doctors say
As thousands of migrant children have been taken from their parents and sent to facilities across the country, questions are growing about the medical care they are receiving – or, as health experts fear, not receiving.
Reveal, Center for Investigative Reporting, June 25, 2018
Recognized, Best Shortform Science Writing
After ditching two notoriously toxic compounds, manufacturers subbed in other versions of their chemical class. But are they any better?
Ensia, March 26, 2018
EPA Swaps Top Science Advisors with Industry Allies
Center for Investigative Reporting, November 17, 2017
Big Vape is copying Big Tobacco’s playbook.
The Verge, November 16, 2017
What Does the Environment Have to Do with Autism?
The search for autism’s causes is a daunting task — but researchers are investigating a variety of factors that might play a role.
Ensia, September 21, 2017
How Fear of Humans Can Ripple Through Landscapes
Predators like pumas cower in our presence. And these big cats aren’t the only ones.
Smithsonian, July 11, 2017
Psychedelics Show Promise in Treating Depression
Discover, May 1, 2017
Ecstasy Could Help Adults With Autism Cope with Social Anxiety
Discover, April 27, 2017
Troubling chemicals found in wide range of fast-food wrappers
The Verge, Feb. 1, 2017
Efforts to Combat Zika Don’t Have to Harm the Environment
Here’s how we can minimize collateral damage in the war against disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Ensia, November 21, 2016
How self-appointed guardians of “sound science” tip the scales toward industry.
The Intercept, November 15, 2016
Longreads Best of 2016: Science Writing
At California Psychiatric Hospitals, Epidemic of Patients’ Assaults on Staff Goes Untreated
Injured workers at the five psychiatric hospitals, including Napa State Hospital, have lost tens of thousands of workdays while taxpayers pay millions of dollars in workers’ compensation and overtime costs.
KQED, October 3, 2016
2016 AHCJ Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, Investigative Reporting, Small Market
From Field and Stream to Table
Foodies turn to hunting and fishing for the ultimate sustainable protein.
National Wildlife Federation Magazine, September 28, 2016
Wreaking Reproductive Havoc One Chemical at a Time
Recent research shows that bisphenol A substitutes also harm reproductive systems.
PLOS Biology, August 24, 2016
Forget GMOs. Pesticides Pose the Real Risk
Rather than worrying about unsubstantiated risks from GMOs, Americans should worry about the real risks pesticides pose for people in the communities that feed the nation.
The American Prospect, August 23, 2016
Productive, Protein-Rich Breadfruit Could Help The World’s Hungry Tropics
NPR, August 9, 2016
The Number One Thing We Can Do to Protect Earth’s Oceans
Marine governance favors consumption and commerce over conservation. Here’s what we can do about it.
Ensia, May 23, 2016
When Worlds Collide
The legacy of forced relocation of Navajo at Big Mountain.
LWON, April 11, 2016
A New Study Suggests Even the Toughest Pesticide Regulations Aren’t Tough Enough
The Nation, February 23, 2016
Rethinking Lion Conservation
PLOS Biology podcast,
November 23, 2015
Think Before You Paint: Flame Retardants Found in Nail Polish
KQED, October 19, 2015
Fields of Toxic Pesticides Surround the Schools of Ventura County. Are They Poisoning the Students?
In some of California’s most heavily Latino communities, going to school can be a health hazard.
The Nation, April 6, 2015
2015 AHCJ Award of Excellence, 3rd Place, Investigative Reporting. Finalist in IACP Culinary Trust Awards for Food Writing that Makes a Difference. Featured in The Open Notebook
For the Monarch Butterfly, a Long Road Back
The migratory population of monarch butterflies is plummeting and well-meaning efforts by enthusiasts may be contributing to its plight.
New York Times, Nov. 18, 2014
Face of Hope
After watching too many soldiers confront a lifetime of scarring, Army surgeon Robert Hale is leading the charge to make facial reconstruction medicine ready for the wounds of 21st-century war.
Discover Magazine, September 2014
Winner of a 2014 Society of Professional Journalists NorCal Excellence in Journalism Award. Honorable Mention, ASJA’s Reporting on a Significant Topic Award, 2015
Notable, The Best American Science and Nature Writing
Strokes, long on the decline among the elderly, are rising among younger adults
Washington Post, June 17, 2014
A simple fix to the Golden Gate Bridge would save hundreds of lives.
Slate, Oct. 15, 2013
Winner of ASJA award for best op-ed, 2014
Trouble in the Valley of the Eagles
Could a mining project jeopardize the largest gathering of eagles on Earth?
High Country News, May 29, 2013
Flame retardants in consumer products are linked to health and cognitive problems
Mounting evidence in animals and humans links flame retardants to multiple health effects, as studies fail to find additional fire safety benefit from using the chemicals in consumer products.
Washington Post, April 15, 2013
Fear and Loathing in Wolf Country
After federal wildlife officials removed protections on wolves in the Rocky Mountains, hunters quickly killed them by the hundreds. If California’s lone wolf leaves the state, he could meet a similar fate.
KQED QUEST, January 23, 2013
Facing the Traumas of War
When soldiers sustain injuries to the face, they struggle to reclaim the traits we recognize as human.
Being Human launch, September 2012
No beba el agua. Don’t drink the water.
About 500 people, nearly all Latino farm workers, live in the long-neglected town of East Orosi with no sidewalks, street lights, or playgrounds. More than half live below the poverty level. And like a growing number of California’s poor people, they’re paying for water that’s not fit to drink.
Environmental Health News, June 11, 2012
Part 4 of EHN’s Poverty, Pollution, People of Color series, won Oakes Award Honorable Mention, from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Knowing when grapes are ripe depends on science, experience and a little luck.
Wine Spectator, April 30, 2012
Should Chimpanzees Have Moral Standing?
An interview with Frans de Waal, C.H. Candler Professor of Psychology and director of the Living Links Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University.
PLOS Blogs, March 27, 2012
Money to Burn
Although flame retardants may pose health risks, the chemical industry has spent millions blocking attempts to ban them in California. A five-month investigation for Environmental Health News.
East Bay Express, Nov. 16, 2011
What Wiseman Knew
Frederick Wiseman, at work on a new film about higher ed set in Berkeley, embraces complexity to capture the way we live.
California magazine, Fall 2011; Appeared in the The Good Fight (Fall 2011) issue, winner of the CASE gold medal award.
Encountering a California condor takes one writer back in time
One of the American West’s best-known conservation successes, condors still face a tough road ahead
High Country News, June 13, 2011
Making Sense of Sulfites
Few winemakers today use a heavy hand with sulfites, but consumers still worry about health risks.
Wines & Vines, January 2011
Genetic engineering may offer disease-plagued grapevines a lifeline, but the hurdles are high.
Wine Spectator, Dec. 15, 2010
Living with Lions
Mountain lions are straying into more urban areas: Can the Bay Area’s big cats survive encroaching civilization?
San Francisco Chronicle, November 28, 2010
A Last Stand for Tigers?
With the number of wild tigers at an all-time low, a new study warns that unless conservation managers redouble funds and efforts to protect tigers in the few places they can still thrive, we may lose the world’s largest cat.
National Geographic’s News Watch, September 2010
Battling Time–and Local Resistance–to Save France’s Brown Bears
Wildlife biologist Pierre-Yves Quenette heads the French government’s efforts to restore the brown bear to the Pyrenees.
National Geographic’s News Watch, May 2010
Evolution of a Scientist-Vintner
Carole Meredith weighs in on genetic engineering of winegrapes.
Wines & Vines, Jan. 2010
A Broken Trust: Lessons from the Vaccine-Autism Wars
Researchers long ago rejected the theory that vaccines cause autism, yet many parents don’t believe them. Can scientists bridge the gap between evidence and doubt?
PLOS Biology, May 2009
One of PLOS Biology’s hottest articles, with over 122,000 page views. Featured in longreads.com
Cougars in Chaos
How a state hunting policy pushed Washington’s big cats to the brink.
High Country News, April 2008
Highlighted in the Knight Science Journalism Tracker
No Place for Predators?
Time and again, advancing civilization has set people against large carnivores. On the front lines of Washington State, wildlife biologists hope that knowledge can trump fear, and ultimately lead to detente.
PLOS Biology, Feb. 2008
Toxic Origins of Disease
Researchers say endocrine-disrupting chemicals can permanently harm the developing organism and may even promote obesity. But the chemical industry doesn’t want you to believe them.
PLoS Biology, June 2007
Featured in Salon’s How the World Works
Stem Cell Promise, Interrupted: How Long Do US Researchers Have to Wait?
A scientist hot on the trail of a breakthrough treatment for neurodegenerative diseases struggles to overcome the restrictions imposed by the US policy on stem cell research.
PLOS Biology, January 2007
Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology
Some see the growing influence of ideology over scientific issues like stem cells and evolution as a threat to America’s standing as global science leader. Political scientist Jon Miller sees it as an opportunity to increase scientific literacy.
PLOS Biology, April 2006
Why Not the Best? How Science Failed the Florida Panther
How the US Fish & Wildlife Service used flawed science to allow development in the critically endangered panther’s shrinking habitat.
PLoS Biology, Sept. 2005
As the Antarctic Ice Pack Recedes, a Fragile Ecosystem Hangs in the Balance
Many key species of the Antarctic marine ecosystem–including krill, the backbone of the food chain–depend on winter sea ice. But as global temperatures continue to rise, this unique ecosystem could face collapse.
PLOS Biology, April 2005
A Cell’s Fate
Specialized cells have a common origin. What sets them on separate paths?
High Stakes of Cancer Prevention
The cancer establishment has too much invested in finding a cure for cancer to do the important work of prevention.
Tikkun, Nov/Dec 2000