The journalists behind Winged Warnings

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Marla Cone, Editor in Chief of Environmental Health News, spent 30 years at newspapers, including 18 at the Los Angeles Times. Growing up near Lake Michigan, she probably was exposed to nearly as much DDT and PCBs as the Great Lakes birds that triggered concern about pollution. One of her favorite assignments was covering battles over the California gnatcatcher, a tiny, endangered songbird with the misfortune of inhabiting ocean-view real estate. Author of the book Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic, she is a two-time winner of the national Scripps Howard Meeman award for environmental reporting. Cone lives in Long Beach, Calif., where she shares the shoreline with pelicans and the nation's busiest port complex.

Alanna Mitchell, an award-winning science journalist, book author and playwright in Toronto, has birdwatched on every continent. A highlight was an hour monitoring an elusive, massive Harpy eagle as it tended its nest deep in the forests of Suriname. More recently, she spotted a delicate, red-beaked Austral rail, thought extinct for much of the last century, in Patagonia. Her biologist father organized elaborate Christmas Bird Count rituals every year of her childhood on Canada’s prairies, and she never missed them, binoculars at the ready, parka and knit cap firmly in place, glasses freezing up. Her most recent book, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, won the prestigious Grantham Prize for excellence in environmental journalism.

Christopher Solomon is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter based in Seattle. A contributing editor at Outside magazine, he has written for the New York Times magazine, Scientific American, Runner’s World and others, writing about topics ranging from the future of wilderness to the emergence of disease in a warming Arctic. He can't tell the difference between a canyon wren and a Swainson's thrush, but he now knows an osprey when he sees one. He calls osprey “the ultimate locavores” and “tremendously gifted fishermen” so they tell us a lot about the state of their environment.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kenneth R. Weiss writes about science, environment and public health. At Midway Atoll, he spent a week with about 1 million nesting Laysan albatross while researching the Los Angeles Times’ Altered Oceans, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. His wife, Nancy Baron, is an avid birder who wrote the guidebook Birds of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Weiss, who lives in Carpinteria, Calif., prefers to watch birds from atop his surfboard between sets of waves. When he’s not writing or surfing, he tends his avocado trees and maintains a nesting box for barn owls, relying on these rat-eating raptors to protect his avocados.

Cheryl Katz is a San Francisco Bay Area-based science and environmental writer and former newspaper reporter. She grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota to the haunting and beautiful call of loons. In the Arctic, she saw immense cliffs covered with nesting kittiwakes and guillemots and was struck by the determination and endurance of Arctic terns, which travel from pole to pole. Near the Antarctic peninsula, she observed the terns fishing from ice floes. After spending a week with scientists studying Iceland’s seabird colonies, she grew to appreciate another of their skills: Divebombing intruders. Fortunately, she returned unscathed.

Jane Kay, based in San Francisco, knows from her experience as an environmental journalist that the planet's fragile birds signal disruption of the natural world. For San Francisco’s newspapers, she's watched clapper rails fending off non-native foxes on the edge of San Francisco Bay, and marbled murrelets felled by logging of ancient coastal redwood forests. Reporting from warming Alaska, she's seen trumpeter swans rebound, at least for now, and black-capped chickadees mysteriously turn up with deformed beaks. Kay, who taught and founded an environment program at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism, won her first national awards covering air and water pollution at the Arizona Daily Star.

Brian Bienkowski is senior editor and a staff writer at Environmental Health News. He began researching birds at a young age to figure out which species were on some of his favorite baseball players’ caps. As a Great Lakes-based journalist, his bird reporting began with comeback stories of Kirtland’s warblers and peregrine falcons. A graduate of Michigan State’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Bienkowski now focuses on the impacts of legacy and emerging contaminants. When not writing about the environment, he tries to spend some time out in it, including fly-fishing Michigan’s blue ribbon trout streams while making sure birds of prey don’t mistake his miniature dachshund for dinner.

Lindsey Konkel is an editor and staff writer at Environmental Health News, where she focuses on writing about pollutants and other threats to women, children and wildlife. She keeps a set of binoculars by the window and pursues a hobby of backyard birding from her home office in Worcester, Mass. A graduate of New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program, Konkel also has written for Environmental Health Perspectives, OnEarth Magazine, Reuters and elsewhere.


Helen Fields is a freelance journalist who will write about more or less anything, but focuses on biology and is particularly fond of the science of poop. Her writing has appeared in Science, Discover and Smithsonian, and she previously worked for U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. In recent years she traveled to the homelands of the keel-billed toucan, the tufted puffin and the hoopoe, and spent six weeks on an icebreaker in the Bering Sea, but she also enjoys watching house sparrows grabbing seeds off the grass near her apartment in Washington, D.C.

Tristan Picotte graduated in 2014 with honors from Phoenix's Maricopa High School, where he was on the varsity track team. Although he is studying engineering at The School of Mines and Technology in South Dakota, he enjoys writing, especially to spread messages about Native American values. He was awarded a 2014 national scholarship for an essay about Lakota traditions and how they are reinforced by respect for eagles. He is a Lakota Sioux, born and raised on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Eagle Butte, S.D. He has lived in Nevada, Washington, Arizona and Nebraska. 

Pauli Hayes is a senior editor for Environmental Health News and designs our original content pages, including the Winged Warnings pages. She first learned to love birds while listening to the haunting call of the Canyon wren during many backpacking trips in Utah’s Canyonlands. She lives out in the sticks of Virginia and has taken an avid interest in watching resident bird species change as a cleared pine forest regrows nearby. A graduate of James Madison University’s media arts and design program, she has spent 30 years writing, editing and designing.

Leslie Carlson, owner of Information Design, is a graphic artist who produced Winged Warnings' global, interactive map. She won a Pulitzer crystal for her graphics in the Los Angeles Times' Altered Oceans series. Carlson, who lives in the Hollywood Hills, is an avid hiker and often observes a blue heron flying over her house on its way to the Hollywood Reservoir.






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