Margaret Munro received the David Perlman Award at the 2008 Joint Assembly Honors Ceremony, which was held on 29 May 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Munro was honored for “Ice Shelf Collapse Sends Chill,” which chronicles the breakup in under an hour in August 2005 of a huge Arctic ice shelf, aptly portraying the monumental scale of the event, the suspicion that climate change was the cause, and the implications for the future.
It was a great pleasure to nominate Margaret Munro for AGU’s David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Journalism, for her Canwest News Service article, “Ice Shelf Collapse Sends Chill: Canada’s North Changing. Global Warming Suspected Cause of Huge Breakup on Ellesmere Island.”
The story capped a year during which Munro, the senior science writer for Canwest News Service, focused much of her reporting on climate change. Her reports took her from Canada’s prairies for stories on carbon sequestration to the western Arctic where she documented vast slabs of ancient permafrost tumbling into the ocean and rising sea level destroying homes and roads in the low-lying village of Tuktoyaktuk.
But few stories reverberated like the report on the Ellesmere Island breakup, and it perfectly demonstrated her ability to identify the stories that bring science alive for readers.
After a researcher made a passing mention of the ice shelf collapse during a presentation at a conference, Munro tracked down the scientists who had been documenting the collapse and quickly put together a dramatic account of the transformation taking place on Ellesmere, Canada’s most northern landmass.
Weaving informative interviews with compelling imagery, the exclusive story documented the stunning picture researchers were piecing together using seismic monitors and Canadian and U.S. satellites.
After appearing prominently in 11 major daily newspapers in Canada, the story was picked up by media outlets around the world.
As University of Laval researcher Warwick Vincent noted after several “crazy” days of interviews once Munro’s story broke, “additional interview requests keep pouring in, but classes have started and I am very pleased to get back to my day job….”
A senior writer with Canwest News Service since 2003, Munro brings a wealth of expertise and tremendous energy to her role, having reported previously for the National Post, Vancouver Sun, and Ottawa Citizen.
This award rightfully honors a reporter whose instincts, inquisitiveness, and vivid reporting make scientific discovery accessible to millions of Canadian readers.
—TERESA HONEYMAN, Canwest News
It’s an honor for me to accept this year’s David Perlman Award, which is named after a science-writing master and has been previously won by many writers I look up to.
I’d like to share credit for the story on the ice breakup on Ellesmere Island with Teresa Honeyman and Eric Dawson, my editors at Canwest News. Not only do they give me the time, freedom, and encouragement to pursue stories off the beaten path, but they also edit my work and ensure its safe passage into print.
Even more important, I would like to thank the scientists who helped me pull together the story. Luke Copland at the University of Ottawa, Warwick Vincent at Laval University, and Derek Mueller at the University of Alaska Fairbanks made the time to describe the demise of the Ayles ice shelf, and patiently walked me through the various lines of evidence they had gathered on the ice shelf collapse. They also interrupted their holidays to deal with the media frenzy that ensued after the story broke in late December, good-naturedly fielding calls from around the world and engaging the public in the story that speaks to the remarkable change unfolding in Canada’s north.
In my work I interact with researchers across the disciplines, from human genetics to high-energy physics. I find it refreshing to work with Earth scientists, and I am often struck by the incredible generosity, enthusiasm, and openness with which they share and explain their work on everything from undersea volcanoes to melting permafrost.
It is with much respect and many thanks that I accept this award from AGU.
—MARGARET MUNRO, Canwest News