Mérida, Yucatán




Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

Biodiversity and climate change are the focus of InquireFirst environmental investigative journalism workshop

MERIDA, Mexico – “There’s no more important work than the work being done by journalists,” said Brian O’Donnell, director of Campaign for Nature, during a February 2020 environmental investigative journalism workshop organized by InquireFirst.

As the world witnesses a “massive acceleration in extinction” of species, coverage of biodiversity by environmental journalists can underscore the growing crisis and the need for large expanses of land and sea to be protected from logging, agriculture and fishing, he said.

O’Donnell told 21 Latin American journalists who attended the InquireFirst workshop focused on environmental investigative reporting that as climate change has dominated the news, biodiversity has gotten “just a fraction of the coverage.”

With the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity scheduled later this year, organizers and participants have set an ambitious goal.  “We need to protect at least 30% of the planet by 2030,” O’Donnell said.

Environmental journalists from throughout Latin America attended the four-day InquireFirst workshop in Merida, Mexico.  Print, radio, television and online science journalists from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador and Mexico participated in the Feb. 16-20 workshop.

Brazil “is an exceedingly important player in this effort,” O’Donnell said of international biodiversity efforts. “For this strategy to work it has to be a global goal. We need to make progress as a planet. Brazil can either be a leader or a blocker.”

The InquireFirst workshop, which was sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and National Geographic, focused on cutting-edge environmental science as well as professional development sessions for journalists.

InquireFirst also announced the launch of its Cross-Border Science Journalism Project, a new initiative to encourage cross-border reporting by Latin American journalists on science, health and the environment, during the workshop. The initiative, which is being conducted in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will provide financial support in 2020 to four teams of Latin American journalists.

A two-person team, Alexa Vélez of Mongabay in Peru, and Fabiano Maisonnave of Folha de S. Paulo in Brazil, was selected for the first cross-border project, which will focus on the Amazon. InquireFirst has launched a new website on the initiative, HistoriassinFronteras.com.

Gael Almeida, senior international director for Latin America for The National Geographic Society, talked with journalists about effective strategies for pitching story proposals to National Geographic as well as upcoming grant opportunities.

Elisabeth Malkin, correspondent for EcoAmericas and former correspondent for The New York Times in Mexico, spoke about collaborating across borders to conduct environmental investigative journalism in Latin America.

During an intensive training session, journalists worked on fact-checking and the use of data bases for collaborative journalism with Ronny Rojas, editor of Centro Latinoamericano de Investigacion Periodistica and adjunct profession at CUNY’s Craig Newmark School of Journalism.

Journalists also attended a half-day session with Jodi Upton, professor and Knight Chair of data and explanatory journalism at Syracuse University, on accessing data for science and environmental journalism.

During a day-long field visit to Celestún, a bioreserve for flamingos and hundreds of other bird species on the Yucatan Peninsula, journalists met with José Isaías Uh Canul, president of Guardianes de los Manglares, a cooperative which protects mangroves and ecosystems in the estuaries of Celestún.

They also talked with two conservation program directors at Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatán, Ernesto Gómez and Anuar Hernández, about the successful rescue of ecosystems in Celestún.

The visit to Celestún included a canoe trip through the mangroves that allowed journalists to witness firsthand the impact of conservation efforts.  This unique visit “gave us the opportunity to see the issue in situ,” one journalist said.

Journalists said the InquireFirst workshop prompted them to think about opportunities for collaboration on environmental projects and it suggested new approaches for environmental reporting.

“I have learned new things and I’ve made important contacts,” a journalist based in South America said at the conclusion of the workshop. “The workshop served as a stimulus for new ideas. I’m going home with recharged batteries.”


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Science and Health Symposium

Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

November 2020
Mexico City, México
Science and Health Symposium

This seminar will focus on urgent health issues in Latin America such as cancer and diabetes and HIV, as well as public health issues such as resistance to vaccines and sexual and reproductive rights. More than 40 journalists and health care professionals from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico will attend the high-level seminar in Mexico City.

We’re headed to Mérida, México in 2020!

InquireFirst launches Cross-Border Science Journalism Project in Merida, Mexico


Fabiano Maisonnave (left), Amazon correspondent for the influential Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, and Alexa Vélez, senior editor of Mongabay Latin America, react during an InquireFirst workshop to the announcement that they will receive a reporting grant for a project focusing on the environmentally sensitive Amazon. Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

MERIDA, Mexico – InquireFirst is pleased to announce our first regional reporting project which will be conducted by two South American reporters as part of a new initiative to encourage cross-border reporting on science, health and the environment by Latin American journalists.

A partnership with The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Department of Science Education, the Cross-Border Science Journalism Project was launched in February with the awarding of financial support to Fabiano Maisonnave, Amazon correspondent for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, and Alexa Vélez, senior editor for the online environmental news site Mongabay Latin America.

The project proposed by Maisonnave and Vélez was selected during an environmental investigative journalism workshop organized by InquireFirst in Merida, Mexico from Feb. 16-20, 2020. The project, which focuses on the environmentally sensitive Amazon, will be published in May 2020.

Maisonnave, who is based in Manaus, Brazil, has been reporting from the Amazon for the past three years.  As an international journalist, his reporting has taken him to 32 countries and he has reported from Caracas, Washington, D.C. and Beijing.  Maisonnave has a master’s degree in history from the University of Connecticut and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2016.

Vélez is the senior editor of Mongabay Latin America, a media organization headquartered in Lima, Peru that focuses on global environmental issues. Founded in 1999, Mongabay has teams of journalists in the United States, Indonesia, Latin America, India and Brazil.  Vélez’s work has been recognized with numerous reporting and editing awards.

The editor of the project is Iván Carrillo, a science journalist with more than 20 years of experience as a writer, editor and television anchor. Carrillo is part of the 2016-2017 generation of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT. He is an independent contributor to National Geographic and the Latin American editions of Newsweek and has collaborated with Discovery Channel and CNN en Español.

In 2020, InquireFirst will issue three additional calls for cross-border reporting proposals. In March, the editorial focus will be on health, in May the focus will be on water and/or ocean conservation, and in July the focus will be on nutrition, biotechnology and/or food production.

To ensure credibility and fairness, an international panel of judges will select the winning team in each category.  The winners will be announced on InquireFirst.org.

By launching this regional initiative, InquireFirst and HHMI’s Department of Science Education aim to convene, inspire and encourage the work of science writers in Latin America.  Across Latin America, science journalism plays a vital role in providing rigorous and current information to increasingly diverse audiences. Through our support of collaborative projects, we hope to strengthen the network of experienced Latin American science writers by providing them with reporting resources and new outlets where they can publish their outstanding work.


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We’re headed to Mérida, México in 2020!

We’re headed to Mérida, México in 2020!

photo by Luis J Jiménez/InquireFirst

We’re off to a great start in 2020 with our first-ever environmental investigative journalism workshop on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

On February 16, more than 20 science and environment journalists from the Amazon and Andean regions of South America and from cities throughout Mexico will arrive in Yucatan’s capital city of Merida for our four-day workshop.

We’d like to thank our sponsors — the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and National Geographic Society – for their support of our regional environmental workshop.

During this special edition of our science, health and environment program, InquireFirst will provide Latin American environmental journalists with intensive training on issues related to climate change, biodiversity, clean water and air, environmental policies and the impact of deforestation in the Western Hemisphere.

Journalists will participate in interactive sessions on new techniques for conducting environmental investigative journalism, as well as data journalism and fact-finding protocols. A strong emphasis will be placed on climate change and its impact on Latin America, as well as making global problems understandable and relevant at a local level.

A key session during the workshop will be a visit to a biological reserve on the Yucatan Peninsula to meet with farmers trying to end centuries of deforestation and rely on ecotourism as a means to generate income. Our discussion will focus on the economic and environmental viability of this effort to rescue critical areas of forest from destruction.


Join us via Facebook and Twitter @inquirefirst as we travel to Merida for this unprecedented science journalism program!






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Gabriela Minjares

Gabriela MinjaresGabriela Minjares, an investigative journalist who is co-founder of La Verdad de Juárez in Ciudad Juárez, México, reports that her news organization received a grant in June 2019 from the International Center for Journalists which is providing seed funding and technical assistance to develop new business models to ensure the economic sustainability of La Verdad de Juárez. Gabriela credits InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop with providing her with new ideas which she and her colleagues included in their successful grant proposal.

Aldo Benítez


Aldo BenitezAldo Benítez, deputy editor of the in-depth Sunday section of La Nación in Asunción, Paraguay, conducted a 4-day workshop at the Escuela D Periodistas in May-June 2019 during which he taught Paraguayan journalists the tools and techniques he learned during InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop. The subjects he covered included interview techniques and ethical treatment of sources; steps for reporting and writing an investigative report; and cybersecurity protocols.

Lucía Mimiaga


Lucia MimiagaLucía Mimiaga, editor of the Investigative Unit of El Debate in Culiacán, Sinaloa, produced a documentary about femicides and the disappearance of women in Mexico which generated a high number of views on the newspaper’s FaceBook page. Lucía says the interview techniques she learned during our Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop helped her with the delicate and sensitive interviews needed for this project.

Gustavo Cabullo Madrid

Gustavo Cabullo MadridGustavo Cabullo Madrid, a transborder documentary producer who works with the Universidad Autónomo de Ciudad Juárez, reports that based on presentations by prominent journalists and professors during InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop, he is now collaborating with the career coordinator at the university to offer sessions to journalism students on fact-checking, cybersecurity, protection of data and equipment, high-impact reporting and backpack journalism.

Mariana Mondragón

Mariana MondragonMariana Mondragón, general director of NotiGAPE Radio in Matamoros, México, conducted an investigative journalism conference for journalism students at the University of Matamoros in May 2019.  Mariana says she instructed the students – the next generation of journalists in Matamoros – on tools and techniques for investigative reporting that she learned during InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop.