SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism Announces Winter 2015 Grantees

The Fund for Environmental Journalism awards
$44,915 in grants to journalists in the Winter 2015 cycle


SEJ’s Fund for Environmental Journalism has awarded $44,915 for 13 new story projects selected through the FEJ’s Winter 2015 round of competition. Coverage topics include land use, biodiversity, energy and climate change.

FEJ grants up to $5,000 for the Winter 2015 round were made possible by funds provided to the Society of Environmental Journalists by the Wyss Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Energy Foundation and Grantham Foundation for the Environment.


Congratulations to the grantees!


Reporting on land-use issues of North America:


Spike Johnson of Texas, for travel expenses and stipend to produce a multimedia report for a magazine, newspaper, the web, and an exhibition examining a controversial natural gas pipeline project through an ecologically fragile section of the Southwest

Spike Johnson graduated from the University of North Texas in 2011, where he was mentored by Thorne Anderson, while studying towards an MA in photojournalism. Spike photographs in the documentary style, exploring themes around environmentalism, religious friction, and self sufficiency, focusing on rural areas of Myanmar, the United States, and England. In 2014 Spike was funded by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting to continue work in Myanmar, and in 2012 he was awarded a scholarship to attend the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Thailand. His work exhibits internationally, publishing with outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vice Magazine, Foreign Policy, The Telegraph, Human Rights Watch, Marie Claire, and has won awards from National Press Photographers Association, The International Photography Awards, College Photographer of the Year, The Society of Environmental Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Associated Press.


Sharon Levy of California, for travel expenses to produce magazine features and a book chapter with a fresh angle on the toxic algae that's plaguing Lake Erie — restoring wetlands capable of soaking up the nutrient pollution fouling the water

Sharon Levy ( is a freelance science and environment writer based in northern California. Her articles have appeared in Nature, OnEarth, BioScience, New Scientist, Environmental Health Perspectives and other magazines. She is at work on "The Marsh Builders: the fight for clean water and wetlands," a trade book to be published by Oxford University Press. Her previous book, "Once and Future Giants: What Ice Age extinctions tell us about the fate of Earth’s largest animals," was published by Oxford in 2011.

FEJ-funded project:


Jim Malewitz (Texas Tribune) of Texas, for travel, records-development, and photography expenses to investigate orphan oil and gas wells in Texas for the Texas Tribune

Jim Malewitz reports for The Texas Tribune primarily on energy and its intersection with the environment. Before arriving in 2013, he spent two years covering energy and environmental issues for Stateline, a nonprofit news service in Washington, D.C. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, POLITICO Magazine and other news outlets. Malewitz majored in political science at Grinnell College in Iowa and holds a master’s from the University of Iowa, where he helped launch the nonprofit Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism.

FEJ-funded project:


Lisa Morehouse of California, for travel expenses and stipend to produce a radio report including web text and images for KQED radio's The California Report, on the ramifications of century-old practice of stocking high Sierra Nevada lakes with non-native trout, and the environmentally and socially controversial proposals to return some lakes to their once fish-less conditions

Lisa Morehouse is an award-winning public radio and print journalist whose work has taken her from Samoan traveling circuses to Mississippi Delta classrooms. She’s filed for NPR’s Morning Edition and Latino USA, PRI’s The World, KQED’s The California Report, Edutopia and McSweeney’s. She produced the public radio series "After the Gold Rush: The Future of Small Town California" and is at work on California Foodways, reporting county by county across the state exploring the intersections of food, culture, economics, history and labor. Morehouse’s first career was in education. She taught middle school in rural Georgia, founded and ran Teach For America’s Arizona office, and taught for ten years at San Francisco’s Balboa High School. Her students’ oral histories on immigration and migration were published in 2005’s I Might Get Somewhere. She continues teaching radio production to youth in the Bay Area and beyond.

FEJ-funded project:


Elizabeth Rush Mueller of Rhode Island, for travel expenses to produce a story for a magazine and additional multimedia outlets that looks at the contrasting impacts of rising sea levels on flood insurance premiums in affluent areas of South Florida and in a working-class community in Staten Island

Elizabeth Rush is the author of many books including the recently released "Still Lifes from a Vanishing City: Essays and Photographs from Yangon, Myanmar." She is the Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Pedagogical Innovation at Bates College where she is designing creative nonfiction courses that carry the environmental sciences and digital technologies into the classroom. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Granta, Orion, The New Republic, Le Monde Diplomatique, Al Jazeera, Witness, the Huffington Post, Frieze and others. There she is currently working on a book about five North American coastal communities responding to rising sea levels. Instead of predicting the negative effects of climate change, the book focuses on the lived experience, both past and present, of those already dealing with the results of a warming planet. It asks, how can we stay, against great odds, in the places that have defined us, and how will we know when it is time to leave?

FEJ-funded project:



Reporting on biodiversity and climate-change impacts in North America:


Mary Papenfuss of California, for travel expenses and a stipend to produce an article and video for Reuters that explores the cause and implications of a prolonged die-off of sea lion pups along the California coast

FEJ-funded project:


Drew Rush (Drew Rush Photography) of Wyoming, for travel expenses and a stipend to produce educational photos and video, for the web and public speaking engagements, that document the impact a warming climate is having on the ability of the lynx to find and catch its primary prey, the snowshoe hare

Drew Rush’s work has appeared in numerous international and local publications, scientific journals and books such as "National Geographic: Complete Photography." His photographs have also been displayed at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. Drew has recently spent years working in the national parks on several long-term photographic assignments for National Geographic magazine, covering wildlife and wildlife management issues in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

FEJ-funded project:

The posts below directed people to follow the project feed:


Keila Szpaller of Montana, for travel expenses to produce a multimedia story for the Missoulian newspaper and website on a cultural exchange between United States experts and their counterparts in Zambia on the challenges of conservation and maintenance of national parks in the face of climate change and other pressures

Keila Szpaller is a reporter for the Missoulian newspaper in Missoula, Montana, and a freelance writer and editor. Her coverage of the city of Missoula’s eminent domain fight against a global equity firm for ownership of the local water system won a 2015 enterprise award from the Montana Newspaper Association. She continues to cover the condemnation case along with higher education. She’s earned awards for watchdog journalism, breaking news and blogging. She’s been a Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism, a fisherwoman in Alaska and a ranch hand in Brazil.

FEJ-funded project:


Malavika Vyawahare of Washington, DC, for travel expenses and a stipend to produce a magazine article and multimedia for the web on diverging prospects for cod fisheries in Canada and New England as a warming climate increases water temperatures in the North Atlantic

FEJ-funded project:



Reporting in the open topic, including international category:


Kiah Collier (Texas Tribune) of Texas, for travel and document-access expenses and photography to produce an investigative story, with data and photos, for newspaper syndication and interactive website. Topic: the state of Texas’ lax enforcement of illegal natural gas leaks, particularly in rural areas. 

Kiah Collier reports on the environment and public education for The Texas Tribune, where she began working in July 2015. Since graduating with honors from the University of Texas at Austin in 2009 with degrees in philosophy and multimedia journalism, Kiah has reported on politics and policy for publications across the Lone Star State, including the Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman. Kiah began her career at the San Angelo Standard-Times in West Texas, where she won awards for her reporting on the state’s oil-and-gas boom and recently-ended drought.


Clare Fieseler of Washington, DC for travel expenses and archival research fees to produce radio and multimedia stories about Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, where introduced species have flourished, to re-examine the merits of using biodiversity as a yardstick of ecological health

Clare Fieseler (@clarefieseler) is a freelance photojournalist represented by National Geographic Creative. This FEJ-funded photo story is her first for National Geographic Magazine. She is a recent contributor to NPR’s Invisibilia, and before that was a freelance science reporter for WAMU 88.5. Clare holds a master’s degree in Environmental Management and will complete a PhD in Ecology in Fall 2016. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband. Her research publications and creative content can be found at

FEJ-funded project:


Mark Olalde of Illinois, travel and document-access expenses to produce an investigative story with photography for a newspaper and online news organization on the health and environmental impacts of abandoned mines in South Africa

Mark Olalde is a multi-media journalist from Chicago who has reported in the U.S., the Caribbean and southern Africa. He has published stories on mining and energy policy in Yale Environment 360, The Arizona Republic, Inter Press Service and numerous South African newspapers. He is an associate at the Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalism and an honorary research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand's City Institute. His current investigation into South Africa's abandoned mines comes from a year of reporting, some of which can be found on his website:

FEJ-funded project:

U.S. and Europe-based media

Published in South Africa across Independent Media titles

Published in South Africa in Oxpeckers and republished in miscellaneous, top titles


Peter Schwartzstein of Connecticut, for travel and fixer expenses to produce a story for magazine and radio about how loss of food security in Iraq, complicated by man-made and environmental disruption, has contributed to the rise of ISIS in the turbulent region

Peter Schwartzstein is a roving freelance Middle East correspondent. He writes mostly about food, water, energy, refugees and the destruction of cultural heritage for National Geographic, among other news outlets. He has reported from 16 countries across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region, and in 2015, he received a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting to travel the length of the Nile.

FEJ-funded project:




Thanks to the following generous foundations and many individual donors for making this cycle of grants possible:

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Grantham Foundation for Protection of the Environment
The Wyss Foundation

If you would like to help experienced environmental journalists produce rich, rigorously investigated and unbiased stories about issues affecting the environment. Make a gift to the Fund for Environmental Journalism on SEJ's secure website.