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The Alaska coast’s sea stars, and the scientists who study them, are the stars of “Is Alaska Safe for Sea Stars?” (Credit: KCTS via YouTube)

A mini-documentary about the die-off facing the West Coast’s sea stars has won KCTS producer/photographer Katie Campbell one of the country’s most prestigious science journalism awards.

The TV tale – titled “Is Alaska Safe for Sea Stars?” – focuses on scientists who are studying why starfish off the coast of Alaska were able to dodge the outbreak until now. It aired last year in October as part of KCTS’ “IN Close” documentary series, and now it’s won the top prize in the 2015 Kavli Science Journalism Awards’ spot news/feature reporting category for television.

Katie Campbell
KCTS’ Katie Campbell is one of the winners of the 2015 Kavli Science Journalism Awards. (Credit: KCTS via AAAS)

“This piece was about far more than starfish,” David Baron, a former science editor for PRI’s “The World” who served as one of the competition’s judges, said in today’s announcement of the winners. “By showing how biologists painstakingly collect data to understand the natural world, the story beautifully demostrates what it means to be a scientist.”

Campbell said she was “ecstatic” to be included among the winners, and said the award also recognizes “the important work being done by researchers on the front lines of the massive sea star wasting epidemic.”

The Science Journalism Awards are funded by the Kavli Foundation, administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and judged by independent panels of science journalists. (In 2002, one of the awards went to yours truly.) As a Gold Award winner, Campbell will receive $5,000 at the AAAS’ annual meeting in Washington, D.C., next February. For the first time, the awards program is also giving out Silver Awards worth $3,500, and honoring international as well as U.S.-based journalists.

Here’s the full list of winners:

Large newspaper (Circulation +150,000)

Small newspaper (Circulation < 150,000)


Spot news / feature reporting (20 minutes or less)

In-depth reporting (more than 20 minutes)




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