AAAS Science Journalism Awards
2005 RECIPIENT: Radio
John Nielsen National Public Radio “Seeking Answers to Dolphin Death Mystery” 21 March 2005
Nielsen took listeners on a hunt for clues on why 65 dolphins stranded themselves in a mangrove swamp near the town of Marathon in the Florida Keys. Many of the animals died. As marine scientists were cutting up the dolphin carcasses, Nielsen was on the scene, providing his audience a graphic experience in hands-on research as well as an intriguing description of the matriarchal dolphin society that may have triggered the stranding event.
Dan Vergano of USA Today called the segment “a beautifully executed piece, with great use of on-the-scene sounds and very human quotes from the scientists involved.”
“This is a beautifully written piece that humanizes science in a way seldom seen,” said Lauran Neergaard of the Associated Press. “You feel you’re there, you feel [the scientist's] passion for his work.”
Nielsen said the story started out as a look at whether Navy sonar had affected the dolphins — the evidence suggests it had not — and turned to a closer look at Bill McClellan, the federal government’s “go-to-guy” for marine mammal post mortems. “He turned out to be so interesting we just followed him,” Nielsen said.