From the Field

Two Awards for Matt Miller

June 30, 2014

Matt Miller.

Matt Miller has done something extraordinary.

Actually, that sentence is hardly worth writing, since it applies to just about everything Matt himself writes.

On babirusas, ocellated turkeys and the secrets hidden in coyote scat.

On the impact of the polar vortex on wildlife (a wildly popular blog post that he wrote in an afternoon).

From the trout that ate 20 shrew to a tiny fish clinging to life in the Mojave Desert.

From car-chasing, gasoline-pouring-in-the-den-and-lighting battles between rattlesnake haters and researchers in New Hampshire to an alligator rescue at, of all places, a Texas butterfly preserve.

So allow me to amend: Matt Miller — the deputy director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy — has done something extraordinary, even for Matt Miller. He has won not one but two awards in the 2014 Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWWA) Excellence in Craft contest for his writing last year here on Cool Green Science.

Matt won first place in the OWWA “Conservation or Nature” blog category for his Cool Green Science post “Saved by Chance: The Incredibly Strange Story of the Pere David’s Deer” — about perhaps the only instance in history when breaking a wildlife law saved a species.

And then Matt won second place in the same category for his Cool Green Science post “Lose the Memory, Lose the Fish,” a plea for the importance of ecological history — like remembering the amazing fish bounty a river used to provide — to contemporary conservation.

Clearly, I told him, you’ve been lazy. What happened with third place?

Seriously: These awards confirm what those of you who read Cool Green Science already know. Matt Miller is one of the best writers on conservation and science working today.

They also confirm Matt’s achievement on Cool Green Science itself in the 17 months since he became its managing editor and we devoted the blog to conservation science.

When I gave Matt the assignment of managing Cool Green Science, I had one request: Post something every weekday — and make each post really good.

I did this because the blog was starting from nothing, with a new URL and a name that had little external reputation, and we needed to put out quality content with a frequency that would build an audience.

But I also knew my daily mandate would give Matt a reason to write as much as he could. And I knew that could only mean great things.

That’s because Matt is a wonderful field reporter, patient and observant, intrepid and a great listener. (He covers the best of Nature Conservancy science fieldwork for Cool Green Science, wherever it’s happening in the world.)

He also has astonishing range as a writer — rendering everything from hard science to personal narrative to travel guides to book reviews with intelligence and grace.

He’s also fearless about arguing controversial sides of raging conservation issues.

And he’s passionate about our field, and extremely well read in it.

That combination of talent, hard work, smarts and guts meant that he not only met the challenge I laid out for him — he made it seem unchallenging.

Under his guidance, Cool Green Science has not only published every weekday (and some Sundays, too). It’s become one of the most popular blogs in conservation. We had more than 72,000 visits last month alone.

All credit goes to Matt, who, in addition to making the blog a platform for his own writing — often three times a week — wrangles a great mix of content every week for Cool Green Science. He entices and cajoles our scientists, staff and others to contribute to the blog, and then edits their drafts with sensitivity and high standards.

It is hard enough simply to manage a top-flight blog. To nurture an organizational one from nothing to prominence in a year and win awards writing for it? Beyond rare.

So congratulations to Matt Miller for these awards. For an extraordinary year stewarding Cool Green Science. And for giving us one of the best feelings a reader can have: eager anticipation for whatever he’s going to write next.

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  1. Great job Matt! So great that your wonderful writing was recognized by the OWWA!