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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.
  • Armed with superglue and transmitters small as a baby's thumbnail, a microtracking pioneer maps every zig and zag of tiny flying things. He wants to know where they go and what they're up to.
  • Critics of the fishing industry have long predicted that if over-fishing continues for much longer, "junk species" like jellyfish will start filling up the vacancies. Until recently, there was no evidence that the prediction would come true. But now, scientists report the largest jellyfish invasion ever, off southern Africa.
  • The Nature Conservancy, long known for its habit of buying environmentally sensitive lands and putting them off limits to development, has thrown itself into the ocean. The Conservancy is buying fishing permits owned by California fishermen; it then either retires the permits or leases them out.
  • A promising conservation effort to save Nepal's endangered rhinos is now in serious trouble, due to poachers and fighting between government forces and Maoist insurgents. But a new truce is giving conservationists hope for the future.
  • By the time a farmer hears a swarm, it's usually too late to do anything but wait for the plague to pass. At the moment, researchers have a hard time predicting the movements of locust swarms. But that may be changing.
  • As the world gets hotter, plants and animals have been trying to adjust by changing when they bloom, migrate, molt, and breed. For some species, these adjustments come off nicely and for others they don't. One European bird's chicks now hatch at a time of year when there's not much around for Mom to feed them.
  • Ants that limbo... lazy, sex-hungry mole rats.... and a parasitic worm that slithers out nostrils. All attracted the attention of serious scientists this week. The latest from the annals of strange-but-true animal research.
  • The U.S. government announces that it is expanding efforts to test wild and domestic birds for the deadly Asian bird-flu virus. Experts say it is a matter of when, not if, the virus arrives in the United States. We visit two Maryland chicken farms to see how U.S. farmers are preparing for the threat.
  • Health officials say migratory waterfowl like ducks and geese are spreading the H5N1 bird flu virus from Asia to Europe and Africa. Bird experts aren't so sure; they point to an illegal trade in infected poultry.