EJN Wraps Up Three-Year Biodiversity Media Initiative Project

Red frog with blue legs sits on leafy log
EJN Wraps Up Three-Year Biodiversity Media Initiative Project

Biodiversity issues have gained traction in recent years, with new regulations passed and world leaders committing to the Global Biodiversity Framework to end species loss by 2030, however public awareness of these issues is still lacking and biodiversity data remains inaccessible to many.

Internews’ Earth Journalism Network launched its Biodiversity Media Initiative (BMI) to support journalists reporting on biodiversity issues around the world and address information gaps. The program’s first phase ran from 2016 to 2018, and was relaunched from 2020 to 2023 with support from Arcadia.

As we wrap up the project, we look back at the project’s key activities and outcomes.

Story and media grants

Since 2020, BMI has supported 32 journalists to produce 51 stories. Awardees investigated new threats to biodiversity as well as innovative, potentially scalable conservation solutions. Stories covered sustainable snake venom harvests in southern India, falcon trafficking in northeastern Syria, the environmental impacts of Russia's war in Ukraine, and more.

Journalist Luiz Fernando Toledo, who received a grant to investigate how illegal timber from Brazil’s forests is used to make musical instruments, said, “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to dedicate myself for months to an investigation on a topic of fundamental importance to my country that had been forgotten. There was a wealth of content to be published, and it could not have been accomplished without the partnership with the Earth Journalism Network."

EJN also awarded media grants to 11 organizations around the world to strengthen the capacity of journalism networks and media organizations to report on biodiversity and conservation issues. Activities ranged from capacity-building workshops in Mongolia to a course on data-driven investigations in the Amazon to the launch of a first-of-its-kind biodiversity podcast in Latin America.

Grant awardees Oxpeckers and InfoNile used funds to collect data for their #WildEye mapping tool, a joint project that tracks environmental crimes globally. “EJN's support was critical to helping us expand this important data-driven map to new countries in eastern Africa where wildlife trafficking and poaching is a problem. It also helped us to train dozens of journalists in eight countries in how to report on wildlife crime and build our network of skilled investigative data wranglers,” said Annika McGinnis, co-founder of InfoNile.

A stack of cut logs
Brazilwood trees in Pau Brasil National Park, a protected area for plant and wildlife species in Brazil / Credit: Joana Moncau for piauí magazine.

Journalists attend environmental conferences and COP15

Travel scholarships enabled 11 journalists to report from major international conferences on biodiversity and conservation, including the International Whaling Commission in Portorož, Slovenia, the EcoSummit 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia, and the International Congress for Conservation Biology in Kigali, Rwanda.  

Journalist and travel scholar Duda Menegassi said, "EJN's grant gave me the opportunity to go to the ICCB, in Rwanda, where I learned incredible conservation stories and expanded my networking with researchers from around the world! I've been covering Brazilian biodiversity for the past years and it was amazing to have a global view of what's happening in other countries, especially in Africa, and learn from them."

Journalist Yao Hua Law, who attended the conference of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation in Tamil Nadu, India, added: 

“I spoke with scientists on everything from centipede evolution to mangrove restoration and how birds follow driver ants. I collected a bagful of story ideas and many new connections—all made possible thanks to EJN's grant."

EJN's fellowship program also took 10 journalists to the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) and provided six virtual fellowships for journalists covering the event remotely.

“I didn't know anything about biodiversity policy or the comings and goings of negotiations, how one word or expression can cause conflicts for weeks on negotiations or the perspectives on biodiversity action,” reflected journalist and fellow María Camila Bonilla. “I think my reporting improved through finding new angles on these deeply technical issues. Not only was it a great learning space, but I met a bunch of talented people that either have helped me with new story ideas or have reached out to me to collaborate."

Webinars and biodiversity course

Since 2022, EJN has hosted 27 webinars on key biodiversity topics such as biopiracy, Indigenous land rights and policies, and the connections between viral diseases and bushmeat.  

EJN also launched a free-to-access online course on biodiversity reporting in 2022. To date, 264 journalists have registered and started the course.

Vinaya Kurtkoti, a freelance journalist from India, said, “I definitely plan to use all the resources shared in this course. I had no idea there were so many resources and data available to supplement my stories. This is a great course for anyone interested in biodiversity reporting, even if they are senior journalists. Anyone with an interest in this field should do the course."

Evaluation report

To wrap up the BMI project, EJN contracted independent evaluator Insight in Action to conduct an extensive review, through analyzing data, documents and reports, conducting online surveys and case studies, and carrying out in-depth one-on-one interviews with grant awardees.

The researched the impact, sustainability, challenges, and effectiveness of the project’s activities, and were able to identify strengths as well as areas for improvement. Some key learnings were:

  • BMI's five core components—media grants, story grants, fellowships, the webinar series and e-learning course—were extraordinarily effective in building journalists’ capacity, skills, knowledge and networks around biodiversity reporting in low- and middle-income countries.
  • The possibility for continued or repeated funding for organizational grantees was highlighted, as well as supporting organizations in non-financial ways such as mentoring, when these organizations may already have access to funding.

Program manager for the BMI project, Mike Shanahan, said, "There is no shortage of stories to tell about living nature, the gifts it gives us and the many threats it faces, but too often journalists lack the resources and editorial support needed to tell these stories. The Biodiversity Media Initiative supported hundreds of journalists around the world to report on these topics. The project has led to some significant impacts and given many journalists the knowledge, skills and resources they need to report on biodiversity and conservation issues in the years ahead.”

Read more stories produced by the BMI project here


Banner image: A poison dart frog rests on a tree limb in Costa Rica / Credit: Jelle de Gier via Unsplash.

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