Supporting climate reporting in Americans’ backyards

Launched in spring 2021, the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative’s Journalism Fellowship supports freelance or staff journalists associated with U.S. local/regional newsrooms in developing a high-impact news project that connects local perspectives, values and priorities with climate change science and solutions. The Fellowship is part of ESI’s Here & Real project, which directly engages with U.S. states and communities as they face climate impacts, solutions and an emerging low-carbon economy.

Fellowships provide scientific, design and financial support to outstanding journalists in support of longform or serial local reporting that opens conversations about climate change solutions and impacts. Read our MIT ESI Journalism Fellowship Impact Report 2021 to learn about the accomplishments of the first year of this fellowship program.

Meet our inaugural fellows

Tristan Baurick

New Orleans, LA: The Times Picayune | New Orleans Advocate

Tristan Baurick is an environment reporter for The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate. His work focuses on coastal restoration, fisheries, and the oil industry. He was named the 2018 Louisiana Newsperson of the Year by the state’s managing editors association and was a Pulitzer Center Connected Coastlines grant recipient in 2019. He worked with ProPublica on a series about industrial pollution that earned the Society of Environmental Journalists’ top investigative award last year. Before joining the Times-Picayune, he spent a year as a Ted Scripps environmental journalism fellow at the University of Colorado and worked for his hometown newspaper, the Kitsap Sun, near Seattle.

Fellowship project: Winds of Change: How the Gulf of Mexico could be the next offshore wind powerhouse, a five-part, front page investigative series in The Times Picayune | New Orleans Advocate

Dustin Bleizeffer

Casper, WY: WyoFile

Dustin Bleizeffer has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 22 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily covering the energy industry in Wyoming. He is a 2021-22 Report for America Corps member covering education at WyoFile, a nonprofit news organization based in Wyoming. Previously, he served as Communications Director for the Wyoming Outdoor Council, a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, and WyoFile editor-in-chief. He lives in Casper, Wyoming.

Fellowship project: A three-part series in WyoFile: “Wyoming climate data holds ominous clues about life, economy,” “Wyoming residents observe a changing climate and quality of life,” “Gilette, Campbell County plan for post-coal economy

Nora Hertel

St. Cloud, MN: St. Cloud Times

Nora Hertel is the government and investigations reporter for the St. Cloud Times in central Minnesota. She likes to tie personal stories to policy, data, and public records. Before moving to Minnesota, Nora reported for the Wausau Daily Herald in central Wisconsin, The Associated Press in South Dakota, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. She earned her master’s in journalism at UW-Madison. She’s a big fan of solutions journalism, Irish music, dog walks and time with family.

Fellowship project: Six reported pieces on farm and forest carbon sequestration in the St. Cloud Times, a short explanatory video on “How plants can help combat climate change through photosynthesis,” and the six-episode podcast series “Future-Facing Farms

Melba Newsome

Charlotte, NC: North Carolina Health News

Melba Newsome is an award-winning independent journalist with over 20 years of experience contributing news, health and investigative features to some of the country’s most widely-read publications. In the past decade, her reporting has focused primarily on education, health and issues of social justice. Thanks to a grant from Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, she has reported extensively on the physiological, emotional, and societal impact of the novel coronavirus on the Black community. That reporting revealed the role environmental racism has and continues to play in the pandemic.

Fellowship project: A two-part series in NC Health News: “Unchecked growth of industrial animal farms spurs long fight for environmental justice in Eastern NC” and “Decades of legal battles over pollution by industrial hog farms haven’t changed much for eastern NC residents burdened by environmental racism,” and an interactive map project forthcoming in 2022

Alex Schwartz

Klamath Falls, OR: Herald & News

Alex Schwartz is an environmental journalist and Report for America corps member at the Herald and News in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Originally from Central Florida, he has traded subtropical swamps and beaches for the mountains and high deserts of Southern Oregon and Northern California. Alex earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science journalism from Northwestern University, and his freelance work has appeared in Popular Science, Gizmodo and Atlas Obscura. His current position focuses on water issues, research on endangered species and the largest dam removal effort in U.S. history. In his free time, Alex enjoys baking and exploring the outdoors.

Fellowship project: An interactive website “Project Klamath: Saving a watershed in an era of climate change” produced with the Herald & News



About the Here & Real Project

This Fellowship is part of ESI’s Here & Real project, which directly engages with U.S. states and communities as they tackle real conversations around climate impacts, solutions and an emerging low-carbon economy. The project localizes conversations about climate change by combining world-class research with local values and economic realities, supporting decision-makers and residents as they work to create a resilient future. Here & Real’s approach is to listen thoughtfully; respect communities’ deep-seated values and experience; and pursue shared, science-based solutions across political lines.

Fellowship Advisors

Deborah Blum, Director, Knight Science Journalism Program, MIT

Prof. Jim Paradis, Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing and Comparative Media Studies, MIT

Research Collaborators

Dr. Adam Schlosser, Senior Research Scientist and Deputy Director for Science Research, MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Joshua Hodge, Executive Director, MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research


Laur Hesse Fisher, Program Director, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative