Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

Special reporting grant awarded to Amy McDermott

(January 21, 2016) Amy McDermott, now studying at the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Science Communication Program and already a prolific reporter, writer and editor, has won a $5,000 special reporting grant from CASW’s Taylor-Blakeslee university graduate fellowships program.

McDermott will travel to Alaska and New Mexico to visit scientists in the field as they monitor communities of sentinel species for signals of forest health, air pollution and climate change. Her project, combining field reporting and photography, is intended to generate magazine articles and blog posts.

A panel of CASW board members chose McDermott's proposal over three other impressive entries, commenting that her plan is not only ambitious but is particularly well focused on a specific, manageable goal. It also is about a fresh topic most lay readers will never have encountered. 

The judges added that McDermott’s plan reveals a deep appreciation for the reporting opportunities of immersing oneself in team research—and showing the public how vital to modern science are the data fed by such studies.

McDermott is one of four graduate students currently supported by Taylor-Blakeslee University Fellowships. With support from the Brinson Foundation, which underwrites the fellowships, CASW invited the Fellows to compete for a follow-up grant to help launch their careers. 

“We set up this competition to challenge our Fellows to propose high-impact enterprise projects that would leverage their graduate training and entrepreneurial talent,” said CASW Executive Director Rosalind Reid. “Every one of them met the challenge magnificently. Although we are able to fund only one project, we hope all of them are undertaken. They are all writers of extraordinary ability and commitment."

McDermott, who holds a master’s degree in evolutionary biology from Columbia University, aspires to a national magazine career as a writer and editor focusing on environmental science. Before joining the UCSC program, she launched the online magazine Hawkmoth.