Crown Reporting Project awards journalism fellowships

The University of Montana School of Journalism has awarded two student-mentor teams fellowships to tell richer stories about climate change, communities and conservation in the Crown of the Continent.

The 2016 Crown Reporting Project fellows are Nicky Ouellet and Katy Spence, both graduate students in the master’s program in environmental science and natural resource journalism. NPR Senior Health and Science Producer Jane Greenhalgh will mentor Ouellet, while Spence will work with Hillary Rosner, an independent science and environment writer.

“Both mentors are stellar journalists who know the region and have ample experience in covering science and the environment,” said Henriette Lowisch, journalism graduate program director. “Their guidance and example will be invaluable to our student fellows as they report, produce and pitch their stories from the Crown of the Continent.”

Ouellet’s radio feature will explore at how decisions made by forest supervisors affect individuals and communities that depend on the Crown’s forest products for their livelihoods.

“The Crown Fellowship is the biggest opportunity this school has to chase down an in-depth story about how people are connected to landscapes,” Ouellet said, “and I’m really excited to do that in radio because that takes a lot of time – you have to be there to capture the voices of the people – and this fellowship really makes that possible.” 

Spence will report on how citizens on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border perceive the link between beavers and climate change. A native of Kansas, she hopes her outsider’s perspective will allow her to approach the story with few preconceptions or biases.

“So many people are excited about the possibility of using beavers as a natural water mitigation strategy, but just as many think of them as pests,” Spence said.

While the students report their stories in the field, their mentors will recommend sources, edit drafts and help place the final product in a regional or national publication.

Greenhalgh, a Portland, Oregon-based producer and editor for NPR who specializes in science and health coverage, said she enjoys mentoring younger reporters. “I loved Nicky’s pitch, so I’m excited by the prospect of working with her,” she said.

Rosner, an award-winning journalist who covers science and the environment for National Geographic, Wired, Scientific American and other publications, said she is eager to work on an important story with a young writer one-on-one. “Katy seems like a sharp and talented reporter, and I’m looking forward to seeing her project unfold,” the Colorado-based writer said.

Now in its second year, the Crown Reporting Project aims to advance quality storytelling on landscape-level conservation, conflicting demands for natural resources and community efforts to build climate resilience. The program was inspired by Ted Smith, a pioneer of large-landscape conservation who recognized a need for journalists trained to engage communities by explaining the science behind the policies.

In 2015, graduate students Ken Rand and Celia Talbot Tobin worked with Chris Joyce  of NPR and Ted Alvarez of Grist and Backpacker Magazine to report stories on aquatic invasive species and mining waste.

To learn more about the fellowship program, visit

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