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Juliet Eilperin and Salwan Georges named 2022 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award winners

Juliet Eilperin and Salwan Georges named 2022 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award winners (AAAS)

Deputy Climate Editor Juliet Eilperin and Photojournalist Salwan Georges are among the 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Kavli Science Journalism Award winners. Juliet and Salwan have been named recipients of the Gold Award in Science Reporting – Large Outlet, for a story that revealed the forces of climate change by telling the story of a single tree. The awards, administered by AAAS, recognize distinguished science reporting for a general audience.

Here is a portion of the judges’ citation:

In an evocative piece from Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, reporter Juliet Eilperin and photographer Salwan Georges use a single majestic Sitka spruce tree, the height of a 17-story building, to spotlight the battle over the fate of increasingly scarce old-growth timber. The tree is estimated to contain at least 6,000 board feet of lumber worth $17,500. Just as impressively, it has locked up nearly 12 metric tons of carbon dioxide in its fibers, a repository for the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that threaten humanity.

“Covered in a riotous mix of pale lichens and deep-green moss,” Eilperin writes, “the tree’s flaky bark is marred by a long, electric-blue slash of spray paint running across one side of its wide trunk. Many months ago, the U.S. Forest Service chose the spruce to be cut down and extracted by helicopter — an elaborate process reserved for only the finest trees on this rugged hillside.”

And as Eilperin notes, “The spruce’s fortunes as ever, are bound in the politics of timber and climate change thousands of miles away in Washington D.C. Its blue death mark might as well be a question mark: Is this tree worth more to us alive or dead?”

In mid-July 2021, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack informed the Alaska congressional delegation he was reversing the Trump administration policy on harvesting old-growth timber. The magnificent Sitka spruce still stands, for now.

The judges praised the scientific, cultural and political scope of the story. “Eilperin offers a narrative that brings together the complexities of climate change, colonialism, industrial interests, and indigenous rights –– a remarkable achievement,” said one judge. Salwan’s beautiful photography and video are paired with immersive design to tell the spruce’s story. Another judge called the piece “a towering achievement to make a tree come alive.”

This story was part of a larger collaboration with editing by Trish Wilson; photo editing by Olivier Laurent; design and development by Garland Potts; design editing by Matthew Callahan; map by Lauren Tierney, graphics editing by Chiqui Esteban; copy editing by Anastasia Marks and Vince Rinehart; and project management by Julie Vitkovskaya.

Juliet and Salwan were among The Post’s recipients of a Silver Award for in-depth science writing in 2020 for coverage from the “2°C: Beyond the Limit” series.