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John Nielsen

John Nielsen

John Nielsen covers environmental issues for NPR. His reports air regularly on NPR's award-winning news magazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. He also prepares documentaries for the NPR/National Geographic Radio Expeditions series, which is heard regularly on Morning Edition. Nielsen also occasionally serves as the substitute host for several NPR News programs.

During his years with NPR, Nielsen has reported on a wide range of topics, including the environmental records of the last three U.S. presidents; changing world population trends; repeated attempts to limit suburban sprawl; socially divisive water shortages in the Middle East; allegations of "toxic racism" in the United States; rhinoceros relocation efforts in the lowland forests of Nepal; and attempts to track and cope with the West Nile virus, toxic algal blooms, environmental problems related to economic globalization, and the causes of global climate change.

Before joining NPR in 1990, Nielsen was a Knight Fellow in the Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to that, he worked for the Los Angeles Times, The Orange County Register, and the Salisbury (North Carolina) Evening Post.

Nielsen's Condor: To the Brink and Back--The Life and Times of One Giant Bird (HarperCollins) was published in 2006 and is out in paperback in March 2007. The book focuses on the long-running fight to save the California condor, a giant rare vulture that used to be common near his childhood home, the tiny town of Piru, California.

Nielsen's freelance work has been published in a variety of newspapers and magazines. He has lectured at the University of Utah, Princeton University, and Yale University. In 2005 he was awarded the Science Journalism Award for Excellence in Radio Reporting by the American Association fo the Advnacement of Science.

He is a graduate of Stanford University, where he studied Shakespeare. Nielsen has three children and lives in Washington, DC.

  • Critics say the state's mitigation plan falls far short of what's needed to protect this former tourist mecca from the impact of the coming water transfer.
  • Scientists have found that female butterflies adapt to male-killing bacteria by becoming more promiscuous, while surviving males become exhausted and put less effort into mating.
  • A group of writers has collected more than 800 fading landscape terms in a new book — Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape-- in hopes of keeping them from going extinct.
  • NPR's John Nielsen examines the arduous process of finding the pieces of the shuttle Columbia that have been spread across such a large area. He explains the difference between shuttle "forensics" and the investigation of plane crashes.
  • A government report finds that efforts to limit human exposure to toxins aren't helping kids as much as they are helping adults. The report, issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that children between the ages of 6-11 are sponging up the chemicals found in cigarette smoke and soft plastic toys. It also found that Mexican-Americans have abnormal levels of the pesticide DDT in their bodies and that pregnant women carry more mercury than expected. NPR's John Nielsen reports that federal officials say they are concerned but not alarmed by the findings.
  • Paleontologists say they've found in China the fossilized remains of a small flying dinosaur with four wings. Experts on the links between dinosaurs and birds say this could be one of the most important fossils ever found. They also say this fossil could turn out to be a fake. NPR's John Nielsen reports.
  • Everyone who has ever pondered whether chicken wings serve a purpose beyond deep fat fryers and bleu cheese sauce will be bowled over by the apparent benefits of wing flapping in flightless birds. NPR's John Nielsen reports on a study in this week's Science magazine showing how true flight may have evolved from these beginnings.
  • In Central Africa, isolated hunters with primitive weapons are being replaced by well-funded, highly organized groups of foreign poachers that threaten wildlife and political stability. NPR's John Nielsen reports.
  • For the first time in 30 years, streams and wetlands throughout the United States could lose Clean Water Act protections under a proposal expected this week from the Bush administration. NPR’s John Nielsen reports.
  • NPR's John Nielsen reports on plants that make a stink. For example: the voodoo lily. When it blooms -- people wilt.