Knight Center director Eric Freedman explores the dark world of illegal trafficking of wildlife skulls in “The Bone Collectors,” the cover story in the winter issue of Earth Island Journal.
It’s a story of greed, intrigue, science, conspiracies, mysticism, collectors, corruption and investigators.
It’s a story of a wide range of animals, many of them endangered or threatened, including helmeted hornbills, Bornean orangutans, tigers, walruses, African antelopes and rhinos.
And it’s a story that stretches from the MSU Museum and the Smithsonian to Southeast Asia to Alaska to the U.S.-Canadian border.
As for long-term implications, Freedman writes, “Experts warn that the illegal trade in skulls and other wildlife parts creates a major obstacle to the preservation of biodiversity.”
A fishing ship abandoned as the Aral Sea shrank near Nukus, Uzbekistan. It’s part of what has been nicknamed a “ghost fleet.” Credit: Eric Freedman
Knight Chair Eric Freedman was a panelist on a podcast about climate change and environmental challenges in the former Soviet republics on Central Asia.
The Majlis podcast from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty examined the signs of climate change in the region and how the governments there are responding. Those signs include melting glaciers, extreme weather and habitat destruction.
The other panelists were Bakytgul Chynybaeva of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz bureau, who was reporting on the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference from Glasgow; independent journalist and environmental researcher Ryskeldi Satke; and Bruce Pannier, the author of the Qishloq Ovozi blog. RFE/RL media-relations manager Muhammad Tahir moderated the discussion.
Vivid evidence of desertification of most of the Aral Sea that spans the Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border. Once a vital fishing resource, the Aral largely disappeared when the rivers that fed it were diverted for irrigation to grow cotton and other crops. Credit: Eric Freedman
Freedman is a former Fulbright Scholar in Uzbekistan who has been a guest speaker and researcher in three other Central Asian countries: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. His books include Environmental Crises in Central Asia: From Steppes To Seas, From Deserts To Glaciers (Routledge).
The MSU School of Journalism is now collaborating on a capacity-building project with the Journalism & Mass Communication University in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. The project includes assistance in developing curricula on environmental, health and risk reporting and training for Uzbek faculty members and professional journalists.
A Kazakh villager carries a bucket of water from a well in a desert that once formed the bed of the Aral Sea. Credit: RFE/RL
To encourage collaboration between high school journalism and environmental science classes, we invite teachers to submit proposals for innovative class projects in which journalism students will report about field research by environmental science students. Our principal goals are:
- to help young prospective journalists better understand and explain to the public how science is done
- to help environmental science students learn to use the media to explain their work to the public.
- To promote environmental and science journalism.
The Knight Center intends to award 1-year grants of $2,000 to up to 3 high schools: $1,000 to the journalism program and $1,000 to the environmental science program for equipment, software or scholarships. In addition, the Knight Center will pair each school with a professional journalist to serve as a mentor to participating students and teachers.
Here are the details:
- Your proposal must include a project description (750 words maximum), the names and contact information for a partnering journalism and environmental science teacher from the same high school; grade levels of participating classes; and the estimated number of students in the participating classes. A proposal form is attached.
- Your projects must generate student-produced news or feature stories with visuals (photos and/or graphics) for print, online, audio and/or video that your school will disseminate. The Knight Center will also disseminate these stories to the public through our website, and some stories may be posted on Great Lakes Echo (greatlakesecho.org), the center’s award-winning online regional environmental news service.
- Grantees must comply with MSU financial reporting procedures.
- Grantees (students, teachers and professional mentors) will be invited to a one-day workshop at MSU in Fall 2022.
- Application deadline: November 29, 2021. Awards will be announced by January 14, 2022. Projects should begin in March 2022 and be completed with a final report by the end of December 2022.
- Read about the successful 2018-2019 grantees at https://knightcenter.jrn.msu.edu/2019/03/06/four-high-schools-win-journalism-environmental-science-grants-from-the-knight-center/
Send along a Grant Application Cover Sheet with the following information:
- School name and address
- Participating journalism teacher (name, email, phone)
- Participating environmental science teacher (name, email, phone)
- Project description (750 words maximum): What do you intend to do (scientific research
and journalistic coverage) and how? What are your goals for the project? How will you
- Titles and grade levels of participating classes:
- Environmental science
- Name, title, email and phone of administrator authorizing submission of the proposal:
Submit by November 29th to Barb Miller at email@example.com
If you have questions, email Eric Freedman at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism will award up to 3 grants of $3,500 each to support the making of environment-related documentaries (video, audio or other digital media) by MSU faculty-student teams.
Here are the essentials
Deadline for submission: November 29, 2021, at 5 p.m.
Decisions to be announced approximately January 14, 2022.
Open to faculty and students from all departments at MSU.
Maximum award: $3,500 for 1 year.
These must be documentaries, not public service announcements or advocacy pieces.
The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism must be credited for underwriting the project.
The Knight Center will be entitled to use your documentary, including linking on our website and presentation in classes, workshops and other activities.
Allowable expenses include travel, essential equipment, supplies, pay for students and festival & competition entry fees. All expenditures must comply with MSU procedures and rules. Any equipment purchased remains the property of MSU. Grant funds must be expended with one year from the date of approval by MSU Contracts and Grants.
What to Submit:
- Working title
• Medium: video, audio or other digital media
• Project summary (200 words maximum): What compelling story will you tell?
• Estimated timeline (Be realistic)
• Most likely audiences: Whom do you expect to watch or listen to it?
• For video & audio documentaries, what length do you expect the final version to be?
• Distribution plans: How will you disseminate your product?
• Budget plan: How do you plan to spend the money?
• Team members:
• Faculty: name, rank and department or school and project role, with abbreviated CV
• Students: name, year, major and project role, with resume
• Potential problems and obstacles
• Links to any relevant projects by team members or bring a CD to the Knight Center office at 382 Com Arts Building by the deadline
Email questions to Eric Freedman, Director, email@example.com
Email submissions to Barbara Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org