Washington, DC -- March 20, 2007 -- Los Angeles Times reporters Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling have been named recipients of the 2007 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Public Communications Award. Their 5-part series, "Altered Oceans," was a result of their 18-month investigation into human-caused microbiological changes that are creating a biological imbalance in the worlds oceans.
The award recognizes outstanding journalistic achievement in increasing public awareness, knowledge, and understanding of microbiology. It carries an honorarium of $2,500 plus travel to the ASM General Meeting, May 21-25 in Toronto, where it will be presented.
The series explains how humans, through overfishing and waste dumping, have created a situation of "evolution in reverse," where primeval life forms, like algae and bacteria are multiplying at an alarming rate from basic nutrients that are being dumped into the ocean, while their natural buffers, competing sea life and wetlands, are being diminished. Judges called the series "just beautiful," and a "superbly told story, deeply researched." The series, pictures, videos, and graphics are available online at www.latimes.com/oceans.
Weiss, who received his bachelors degree in folklore from UC Berkeley, has been a reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times since 1990, covering the California coast and the worlds oceans for the last five years. For "Altered Oceans" he spent more than 18 months traveling around the world, interviewing experts, and immersing himself in scientific literature.
McFarling spent six years working for the newspapers science desk, covering earth science with a particular focus on climate change. She earned a bachelors degree in biology from Brown University and a masters in biological psychology from UC Berkeley.