Northern California Science Writers Association

NCSWA News - August 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:18 AM | Anonymous

NCSWA's Coming Attraction


September 26 event: New View at the Exploratorium

NCSWA members are invited to get an inside look at the Exploratorium’s new digs on San Francisco’s waterfront on Thursday evening, Sept. 26. We’ll hear a speaker talk about the Wired Pier Project, where scientists collect data to see how incoming tides affect water conditions, surface currents and the ecosystem of the Bay; how weather affects air quality in San Francisco; and how human behavior and seasonal patterns affect carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and Bay waters. Plus, there will be a catered reception and time to roam the exhibits. Save the date! More information coming soon to your email inbox.

Upcoming Awards, Conferences and Events 

On September 6, join NASA Ames for an evening celebration of the LADEE lunar mission from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The event is free of charge but tickets are required. NASA’s LADEE observatory is a robotic mission that will orbit Earth’s moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. If all goes according to schedule, participants will watch a live televised broadcast of LADEE being launched to the moon from NASA’s facility in Virginia. For more information, visit 

October 2-6 is the time, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the place…for the Society of Environmental Journalists 23rd Annual Conference. This year’s event will be all about sustainability, and the program will include presentations on Chattanooga’s fiber-optics system that uses a smart grid and energy-saving street lights. You must be a member or join SEJ by September 9 to get the member registration rate.  For more information, visit SEJ’s website.

October 4 is the deadline to apply for the Society for Neuroscience Science Journalism Student Awardwhich enables students pursuing a science or medical journalism degree to attend the SfN’s annual meeting. Recipients get complimentary meeting registration, four nights’ lodging and $750 to help defray the expenses of attending the meeting. More information is available at

November 1-5 are the dates for ScienceWriters 2013, the annual gathering for the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and the National Association of Science Writers. This year it will be in Gainesville, Florida, offering the usual workshops, science briefings and field trips. Discounted early-bird registration ends September 17, and regular registration closes on October 16. Travel grants are available to lower the cost of attending, with deadlines for applying from September 3 to 12. For more information and registration, visit

November 1 is the deadline to apply for the James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. This award is given to recognize, encourage and stimulate outstanding reporting to the general public that increases knowledge and understanding of chemistry, chemical engineering and related fields. Work may be in print, radio, television, films, the lecture platform, books, or pamphlets for the lay public. Winners receive $3,000 and traveling expenses to the next American Chemical Society national meeting. For more information, visit the ACS website, click on “Funding & Awards” and “browse awards”  or e-mail

NCSWA Around Town

Tom Abate became associate director of communications at Stanford School of Engineering at the end of July. In that role he will write about the faculty and graduate research at the school. Immediately prior to this, Tom worked for two years as a local editor for, and from 1992 through 2010 he was technology, biotechnology, and economics reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Science filmmaker Ruth Carranza of Silicon Run Productions was awarded a National Science Foundation grant for the production of two educational videos on emerging technologies.  Previews of the first video, "MEMS: Making Micro Machines," and the new "Nanotechnology: The World Beyond Micro" can be viewed at Carranza's videos are designed for undergraduate courses and industrial training programs.

Andrew Fraknoi, Foothill College astronomy instructor and chair of the astronomy department, has won the 2013 Faraday Science Communicator Award from the National Science Teachers’ Association. The award is given each year to an individual who has inspired and elevated the public’s interest in science. Before coming to Foothill College, Fraknoi served for 14 years as the executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, an international scientific and educational organization, headquartered in San Francisco.

Jan Hopson’s article on the long-term brain effects of binge drinking in high school and college appeared in the August/September issue of Scientific American Mind. You can read a synopsis of the article on the magazine’s website

Erin Jarvis, graduate student at UC-Berkeley’s integrative biology program, recently took over as editor for the Berkeley Science Review Blog, UC-Berkeley affiliates are welcome to send submissions and story suggestions her way (non-Berkeley affiliates considered). Jarvis would like to hear from any NCSWA members willing to volunteer their science writing expertise for a workshop for grad student science writers (neuroscientists, chemists, physicists and biologists with little journalism training).

Robin Marks, NCSWA president, says six brave teachers will pilot the first semester of a yearlong anatomy and physiology curriculum she is writing for the National Academies Foundation. She hopes the lessons inspire at least a few 10th graders to more deeply appreciate their phalanges, gastrocnemii, and cerebral cortices. 

On the weekend of Aug 16, about 20 NCSWAns, including some science-writer offspring, visited the Sagehen Creek Field Station, one of 38 nature and research reserves in the UC Natural Reserve System. They enjoyed some beautiful weather while being hosted by reserve manager Jeff Brown. Saturday morning, Jeff gave a presentation of some of the work going on at Sagehen, most notably a project for forest and fire management that has garnered the approval of environmentalists and timber resource companies, and is being expanded by the Forest Service to include 400,000 acres in the Sierra. The group was also able to have a look in the fish house, which is below water level and has a glass wall letting them see the fish. Meanwhile, Sagehen volunteers photographed small mammal specimens for their data collection and let NCSWAns examine the sampling of bats and chipmunks. Jeff also gave a tour of the reserve, showing the weather station instruments and taking NCSWA members to a plot of forest where the experimental management techniques have been implemented. Afterward, the group enjoyed a plentiful potluck dinner, followed by a heated battle of Bananagrams till the stars came out. 

Christopher Salentine is transitioning from a career as a research scientist, where he did a lot of science writing, into a career as a science writer.

Students in the UC Santa Cruz science writing program, who attended several NCSWA events this past year, graduated on June 7 and scattered across the country for internships. They are:

Liz Devitt: Nature Medicine, New York
Ryder Diaz: KQED radio, San Francisco
Paul Gabrielsen: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
Chris Palmer: The Scientist / National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD
Laura Poppick:, New York
Kelly Servick: Science, Washington DC
Rina Shaikh-Lesko: CA Institute for Regenerative Medicine, San Francisco
Jessica Shugart: Science News, Washington DC
Thomas Sumner: American Geophysical Union, Washington DC

Nick Weiler, a graduate student in neurosciences, invites NCSWA members to check out NeuWrite-West, a community of scientists and writers at Stanford University “who are passionate about finding the elegant space between clarity and accuracy in communicating scientific ideas with society.” The group holds biweekly writers' workshops, hosts guest speakers from the world of science journalism, writes articles for Stanford's NeuroBlog, and produces a weekly podcast, called NeuroTalk. “We would love to include more local writers in our meetings, either as regular members or occasional visitors,” Weiler says. If interested, please contact for more information or to sign up for the mailing list.

New Members

Hal Cobb, South Bay Writers

Nira Datta, freelance

Sasha Harris-Lovett, UC Berkeley

Jahlela Hasle, UC Berkeley

Erin Jarvis, UC Berkeley

Suzee Lee, UC San Francisco

Sybil Lockhart, ProZyme, Inc.

Anne Marie Nguyen

Christopher Salentine

Erin Salter, Owen Software, freelance

Lisa Winer, independent



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