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Using data to investigate the planet

By Haotian Mai

A panel of environmental reporters gathered at the 2017 CAR Conference to discuss stories based on public and private data sources.

Dinah Pulver of the Dayton Beach News-Journal helps build and maintain the paper’s database of shark bites.

In addition to their own database, Pulver also finds useful for a variety sources of data. She said she uses it to track water flow, temperature and quality in Florida. Many other resources are accessible on the U.S. Geological Survey website, where you can find data on phenomena like earthquakes.

Dianne Finch, a journalism professor at Kent State University, spoke to the importance of knowing how to work closely with scientists. Finch also suggested checking out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Conservation Program, which features data on coral bleaching.

David Heath, the data director at CNN, said that America’s system of identifying toxic chemicals is lagging behind, something journalists can and should cover rigorously. There are over 80,000 commercially available chemicals, but only a few hundred official risk assessments.

Heath suggested several resources for reporting on toxins:

  • IARC Monograph on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans
  • National Toxicology Program Report
  • EPA: Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS)
  • EPA: Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)
  • EPA: Enforcement and Compliance History Online
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