Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oregon Thanksgiving memories

My dad's "leaning outhouse of Pisa." I have to admit I worry a little bit about it falling over while I'm in it! Copyright © 2013 Wendee Nicole

Right now I'm on the MIT campus in a 3-day Knight Science Journalism Energy & Climate Boot Camp I was accepted into. There have been some fascinating lectures, not to mention fascinating journalists doing cool work. I'm in the process of planning travel to Uganda, and hopefully to the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis in Indiana which Elinor Ostrom and her husband founded, both as part of the Mongabay Special Reporting Initiative which I am now working on.

But first, I wanted to share my photos from Thanksgiving at my dad's in Oregon. But before THAT, I have to share my latest articles!

  • Meeting the Needs of the People: Fish Consumption Rates in the Pacific Northwest. (or non-pdf version here. I'm proud of this piece, and it got a lot of positive attention.
    Native Americans have lived amidst the Pacific Northwest’s pristine rivers and estuaries for millennia, relying on bountiful catches of local fish and shellfish for their sustenance. Because Pacific Northwest tribal populations typically consume much more fish and shellfish than other people in the region,1 they are exposed to higher levels of toxic chemicals that bioaccumulate in aquatic life—polychlorinated biphenyls, metals, dioxins, and dozens of other toxics found in factory effluent, urban wastewater, and runoff from agriculture and cities.2,3 As a result, they—along with other groups that eat a lot of fish—face higher risks of developing cancer and other diseases attributable to these chemicals.
  • PFOA and Cancer in a Highly Exposed Community: New Findings from the C8 Science Panel. PFOA is the stuff that lines Teflon pans, popcorn bags, and waterproof jackets. This is a news piece that followed another I did last year: Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension “Probably Linked” to PFOA Contamination
  • I have a cool piece on a sustainable hog farm in North Carolina coming out in Discover Magazine's Notes from Earth department in April

And in no particular order…here are some images from my dad's place and my trip to Oregon. I didn't take any at Thanksgiving dinner - I was so busy eating the yummy food!

Before I went to dad's cabin for Thanksgiving, I spent a few days with my 7th grade BFF Kelli in Portland, and we went to her mom's cabin in Welches, OR and her family's restaurant, Skyway Bar & Grill - yum! I hadn't seen her mom since 7th grade!!
Kelli and I. She thinks she looks like a vampire here - haha!
Kelli and I at Skyway Bar & Grill. Her cousin gave us these cool tshirts from there!

During the trip, I got together with my two nieces, Kira (who was driving down to see my brother - her dad - with my mom and stepdad), and Mehz and her fiancé Jordan. Mehz is my brother's oldest daughter who was adopted through an open adoption 24 years ago.

Kira and I. She's growing up so fast!
Mehz and her fiance Jordan.
The frame of my dad's cabin

This ferny paradise looks so primeval! This is just down the driveway, before turning onto the rock road my dad's cabin is off of.

This was the forest of my youth. This fuzzy tree is just down the road from my dad's property. Love these huge mossy trees. My brother and I used to think we were so strong by pushing over old/dead still-standing trees. :)
A view of the cabin from the side. The front part is a greenhouse with plants.

The woodbox for the wood stove.
Ferns in the forest on my walk.

A view of the garden with the cabin in the distance

Another shot of the garden

Dad and Bev love to garden and I got to enjoy its bounty, both at Thanksgiving and in the stuff I got to take home.

Mint, sage, and a pumpkin from the garden.
Bev gave me homemade, canned salsa - with all the ingredients direct from the garden! It was sooooo delish. And the raspberry jam - Oh.My.God!!! Heaven!! I need to go back when the razzleberries are berrying in summer.
A mossy tree - maybe a huckleberry? Or maple.

I got to stop by the elementary school I attended in 3rd and 4th grade, Highland Park. What a trip!

I peaked inside a bit and took a photo before school folk came and chased me off because school was in session. I remember that my classrooms were upstairs.
This is a view just outside the "mud room" and the main entrance.

A view right from the cabin of the sun through the trees.

When dad harvested some trees from this part of his property, he kept these three trees, which was where my brother and my tree house was located. They're bigger than they look in the picture.

Me, hugging a very large tree on my walk down the road.

Trees and sky...
Dad built what he and Bev affectionately call the "West Wing" about a decade ago. It wasn't there when I grew up. This is where I stay when I visit.

The road… I like to walk from the cabin a mile or so up the road to get some exercise.

This makes me sad… This was a tree stump on dad's property. In Oregon you have to replant when you log, but those trees are still very small and young. I somehow managed to not get any good pics of dad and Bev so I leave you with this awesome pic from their wedding rehearsal in 2009 - laughing as they often are!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A visit to our nation's capital city!

A cool elephant sculpture at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington. DC. Copyright © 2013 Wendee Nicole

So at the end of October, I took a trip to DC to visit my friend Joe. The first thing we did was go see animals at the zoo! There were like a dozen otters running back and forth in their territory and it was the coolest thing ever! It was my second visit to the National Zoo. The first one was after taking my daughter to DC with her school class in 2006 (I blogged here)! I'd taken a separate flight and had extra time so went there to explore. There's a pic of the giant panda on that blog post, but they weren't on display this trip.

Loved this wall of panda stuffies in the gift shop!!

The main reason for my trip waste attend the Center for American Progress' 10-year anniversary conference, which included keynotes by Al Gore and John Kerry. I sat in the back of the room & this is an iPhone pic, but it's something! Seriously, Al Gore was on fire! He gave a dynamite speech!!

I love this picture of Joe & I at the Spy Museum! The museum was really cool. 
Joe in a Russian hat at the Spy Museum gift store. We both have Russian/Jewish ancestors! 
My grandfather was a Russian Jew. Like the Russian hat?
Hahaha I LOVED MAD Magazine as a kid! This brought back memories. 

We went for a walk to an awesome Korean restaurant Mandu for dinner with my friend Heidi and her guy Randy. This pic didn't turn out great but the sunset over the bridge was really nice. It was a lot of fun!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Mongabay Prize for Environmental Reporting!

Ferns in Oregon. Copyright © 2013 Wendee Nicole

I'm thrilled to announce that I was awarded the first Mongabay Prize for Environmental Reporting! You can read the announcement here: Prize exploring the next big idea in rainforest conservation announced

The prize sought proposals to explore the question of "What's the next big idea in tropical biodiversity conservation?". After a two-month application window and a month of deliberations, this week an independent panel of journalists, conservation practitioners, and tropical forest specialists selected environmental journalist Wendee Nicole as the first recipient of the Mongabay Prize for Environmental Reporting. 

Nicole's reporting will examine the wider topic of innovation in tropical biology conservation, with focus on polycentric governance in Uganda and Peru. Her work will center around the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom's theories of polycentric governance and decentralization: putting power in the hands of locals. Nicole will spend time in both countries, interviewing on-the-ground actors and looking at the struggle to combat poverty while preserving shared resources like forests and biodiversity. In the process, Nicole will produce a series of articles on what's working and what's not in the world of forest conservation.

The 6-month, $20,000 grant will allow me to travel to Uganda and Peru to report on projects that exemplify polycentric governance. Though that's a mouthful, it is a very important and exciting concept. Ever heard of the "tragedy of the commons" where people are thought to always act selfishly and therefore deplete a common patch of land, such as the classic example of livestock overgrazing? Ostrom reviewed myriad real-life scenarios as well as conducting her own behavioral research and found that sharing a commons does not always end a tragedy. Rather than taking power away from local people and putting it in the hands of a national government, she found that giving local people a say and allowing them to have an influence on rules related to managing a forest, grassland, a fishery, or public health will allow sustainable management of that common good. It's cool stuff, and as my last post on "Mini miracles in Chattanooga" mentioned, I felt like I knew a trip to Uganda to see mountain gorillas and report on the amazing work of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) was destined after I ran into Dr Gladys (CTPH founder) at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference.

Here's a link to my bio and project info on the Mongabay Special Reporting Initiative Fellows page. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that I will be traveling to Uganda to be face to face with mountain gorillas within a few months!! I have been rereading George Schaller's Year of the Gorilla and need to get another copy of Dian Fossey's Gorillas in the Mist because mine is falling apart.

I just returned from a week in Oregon, and will post some photos from my trip soon. First I still have a post from a visit I made to DC in October. I'm getting behind on my blog!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mini Miracles in Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Tellico River in Tennessee. We visited, snorkeled, and waded through the river as part of the 2013 Society of Environmental Journalists Conference Copyright (c) 2013 Wendee Nicole.

I got back from the Society of Environmental Journalists Conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee a couple weeks ago and, as usual, had a fantabulous time. SEJ conferences are the absolute best writers' conferences in the world! They have the right mix of craft sessions and topical sessions, which I get a lot of great story ideas from. I love the Thursday Tours they have every year, where you go in the field along with a smaller group of SEJers, as well as biologists, business folk, politicians, or other people who tell us about whatever the tour topic is. I went on a "Biodiversity" Tour which involved snorkeling! We were supposed to go to one place in a National Forest but had to change it due to the federal government being shut down. Ahem. The conference seemed very small this year, probably because of the absence of federal government employees! That meant that several panel members for various sessions were missing in action, and it definitely affected the conference experience.

I called this post Mini Miracles because the most amazing thing happened! Well, a couple miracles - which will play themselves out in time - but the first one is so stupendous that my jaw still drops to the floor when I think of it. So the week of the conference, Monday and Tuesday respectively, I turned in my application for two grants -- the brand-new Mongabay Special Reporting Initiative (on the topic of tropical forest conservation) and the Alicia Patterson Fellowship. The focus of my grants was polycentric governance, a concept so revolutionary it won Elinor Ostrom the Nobel Prize in Economics. I won't get into the details here but to say, it essentially presents rules for how commonly shared resources -- forests, fisheries, air, water -- can be managed in a way to avoid the infamous "Tragedy of the Commons."

Ostrom turned the idea of the tragedy of the commons on its ear. So in my grant proposals, I chose several examples of polycentric governance in action, including the crown jewel of the application in my mind, which was this amazing project in Uganda called Conservation Through Public Health. Ugandan Vet Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka started this nonprofit to help improve the lives, health, and well-being of the people living immediately outside Bwindi Impenetrable Park, home to half the world's remaining mountain gorillas (and, my favorite animal!). The people living outside the park live in abject poverty, and because gorillas and people are so closely related they can and do pass diseases back and forth. Tourism to see gorillas in Uganda has picked up since the 1990s, meaning the gorillas are now more habituated to humans and they leave the park more than they used to because they don't see people as a threat. That has led to gorillas getting human diseases like scabies mites and tuberculosis, and gorillas are a critically endangered species. CTPH has helped empower the local people to take charge of their health, family planning, and well-being. That involves not just education but also teaching local individuals to become leaders in their own right, passing these messages of human health, family planning and about gorilla conservation and attitudes, to others especially people living in remote areas. CTPH also created a network whereby local healers report possible cases of tuberculosis and other diseases to health clinics for better monitoring of these health ailments. It's pretty cool stuff.

I first found out about CTPH through the Wilson Center, where Dr Kalema-Zikusoka had given a seminar (which I watched online), the week before the conference. I had emailed her and we exchanged a few brief emails about my project, but not too much since she was busy traveling. So like I said, Monday and Tuesday I submitted these grant apps on their deadlines. Wednesday I get up for my 530am flight to Chattanooga, I arrive at noonish, get a shuttle to the conference, and walk into the Population session halfway through the day - and who is there before me, across the room, but Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka!! I went over and introduced myself and she was so sweet and gave me a big hug. We were able to talk a bit more during the conference about what it's like to travel to Uganda, and the logistics, and my project ideas. I had no idea she would be there. What are the chances? It felt like a mini-miracle to me, and a blessing. I also spoke a bit with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ken Weiss, formerly of the LA Times, who has been to Uganda and reported on the work of CTPH. So keep your fingers crossed and pray for me that this works out and I get to go over there! I also submitted an app for funding through the Pulitzer Center. I am excited about reporting on these projects and hope I am able to get some sort of funding.

Ugandan Vet Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka from Conservation Through Public Health in Uganda & Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ken Weiss on a panel at the SEJ conference.

Thursday was the "Tour" day and as mentioned above, I went on the "Biodiversity" Tour which went to the beautiful Tellico River. Everyone got in hip waders to walk into the shallow, wide river to watch biologists catch some fish and amphibians while telling us about various conservation efforts in the area.

Me in hip waders -- because I like to go with the sexy wader look at conferences.

The biologists used electrofishing to stun the fish so they could show us journalists. This shows several spotfin chub, a federally threatened fish reintroduced into the Tellico River by Conservation Fisheries Inc (CFI).

A red-lined darter biologists caught by electrofishing in the Tellico River. The fish biodiversity is very high in the Appalachians.

Rock bass & other fish from the Tellico River.

A crawdad!

After we had lunch and the sun came out, it was time to get in the water and snorkel. This is myself and a new friend, Liz Kimbrough, who works for Mongabay.

The picture didn't capture this well because I actually didnt have my camera in the river, but at one point all the biologists in their wetsuits started walking across this part of the stream with sharpish rocks towards where one of the biologists have captured a young hellbender salamander, and someone called out that they all looked like zombies moving and THEY DID!! It was hilarious!!! Everyone was moving slowly and deliberately and with their arms sort of outstretched, and it was so funny.

Thursday night was the "schmooze & booze" otherwise known as the Hospitality Events! Various companies and nonprofits set up sections with hors doevres and drinks and information. That night, VW unveiled a new vehicle, too: the electric Volkswagen XL1 - pretty bad ass!

Two of my favorite SEJers, Dale Willman and Jim Motavalli.

On Friday night, the conference had their annual soiree at the Chattanooga Aquarium which was so nice! We had libations and food and people were milling around the entire place. In fact, the place was so spread out that it took 3 hours to get through the whole thing and I'm not sure I even saw everything. But around 10pm I met Joe Romm (blogger at Climate Progress). Me, Joe, and some other friends went to a bar next door, Blue Plate, and stayed til 2am!

Silly iPhone pic Joe took. It was a lot of fun. He's such a sweetheart!

Jeff Burnside and Heidi Ridgley, who hung out with us that night. Heidi is an editor at Defenders Magazine and is who I traveled to Costa Rica with earlier this year.