Glennda Chui and Richard Stone win AGU journalism awards

April 10, 2001

WASHINGTON - Two experienced science writers have won the American Geophysical Union's journalism awards for 2001.

Glennda Chui, science writer for the San Jose Mercury-News, won the David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Writing-News, for her story, "Acid Mountain," and Richard Stone won the Walter Sullivan award for Excellence in Science Writing-Features for his freelance article in Smithsonian magazine, "Vostok: looking for life beneath an Antarctic glacier."

Chui's story, published March 28, 2000, describes the most acidic water ever found in nature, registering pH -3.6, on a scale in which 7.0 is neutral and battery acid is around 1.0. Negative pH readings had never before been confirmed outside laboratories, Chui writes. This pond, strong enough to dissolve a shovel blade, was discovered by U.S. Geological Survey scientists and Canadian colleagues deep inside a mine at Iron Mountain, near Redding, California. There, miners had extracted over a billion dollars worth of minerals over the years and left, in Chui's words, "an environmental disaster." She describes both the chemical processes that make the water so acidic and the societal impact of acidic runoff from the mountain.

Stone, who is European News Editor for Science, wrote his winning story on Lake Vostok for Smithsonian's July 2000 issue. This lake, perhaps the largest on Earth that has never been seen by humans, lies approximately 2.5 miles (4.0 kilometers) beneath the ice in southeastern Antarctica. Stone outlines the state of knowledge about this body of water, approximately half the size of Lake Ontario, and describes ways the lake might be explored by robotic devices. He also discusses the implications of finding life, even on the microbial level, in such a dark, hostile environment. If there is life in Lake Vostok, he writes, it is possible that there is also life on Europa, a moon of Jupiter that is believed to hold a vast liquid ocean under an ice covering of less than six miles (10 kilometers) thickness. The full story may be seen online at

The AGU science journalism awards are named for David Perlman, science editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, and the late Walter Sullivan, science writer for The New York Times. They consist of a plaque and $2,000 stipend, "for work that enhances public awareness and understanding of the sciences encompassed by AGU": the study of the Earth, Sun, solar system, and their environments and components." The awards are presented during Honors Evening at an AGU meeting.
Notes for journalists:

Glennda Chui [pronounced "choo"] may be contacted at (408) 920-5453,

Richard Stone may be contacted at +44 1223 326500,

The announcement of the 2002 competition for the Sullivan and Perlman Awards will be made in June 2001. Several modifications to the rules for eligibility and nomination are expected to be announced at that time.

American Geophysical Union

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