Richard Harris

Award-winning journalist Richard Harris has reported on a wide range of topics in science, medicine and the environment since he joined NPR in 1986. In early 2014, his focus shifted from an emphasis on climate change and the environment to biomedical research.

Harris has traveled to all seven continents for NPR. His reports have originated from Timbuktu, the South Pole, the Galapagos Islands, Beijing during the SARS epidemic, the center of Greenland, the Amazon rain forest, the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro (for a story about tuberculosis), and Japan to cover the nuclear aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.
In 2010, Harris' reporting revealed that the blown-out BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was spewing out far more oil than asserted in the official estimates. That revelation led the federal government to make a more realistic assessment of the extent of the spill.

Harris covered climate change for decades. He reported from the United Nations climate negotiations, starting with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and including Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009. Harris was a major contributor to NPR's award-winning 2007-2008 "Climate Connections" series.

Over the course of his career, Harris has been the recipient of many prestigious awards. Those include the American Geophysical Union's 2013 Presidential Citation for Science and Society. He shared the 2009 National Academy of Sciences Communication Award and was a finalist again in 2011. In 2002, Harris was elected an honorary member of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society. Harris shared a 1995 Peabody Award for investigative reporting on NPR about the tobacco industry. Since 1988, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has honored Harris three times with its science journalism award.

Before joining NPR, Harris was a science writer for the San Francisco Examiner. From 1981 to 1983, Harris was a staff writer at The Tri-Valley Herald in Livermore, California, covering science, technology, and health issues related to the nuclear weapons lab in Livermore. He started his career as an AAAS Mass Media Science Fellow at the now-defunct Washington (DC) Star.

Harris is co-founder of the Washington, D.C., Area Science Writers Association, and is past president of the National Association of Science Writers. He serves on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

A California native, Harris returned to the University of California-Santa Cruz in 2012, to give a commencement address at Crown College, where he had given a valedictory address at his own graduation. He earned a bachelor's degree at the school in biology, with highest honors.

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Environment
5:00 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

Caribbean Coral Catch Disease From Sewage

White pox disease on a frond of the endangered elkhorn coral on Carysfort Reef in the Florida Keys. The bacteria the overlying coral tissue, exposing the coral's white limestone skeleton underneath.
James W. Porter University of Georgia

Human beings occasionally get diseases from animals, such as swine flu, rabies and anthrax. A new study finds that humans can also spread disease to wildlife, with grim results. A bacterium from our guts is now rampaging through coral reefs in the Caribbean.

Those reefs were already in slow decline, but they took a huge hit starting in 1996, when a disease called white pox appeared in the Florida Keys.

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Animals
6:14 am
Sun August 7, 2011

Fighting Decline, Micronesia Creates Shark Sanctuary

Micronesian islands have declared vast areas of the Pacific Ocean to be a sanctuary for sharks. It's the latest move in a trend to create zones where sharks can live undisturbed.

These top predators are in serious decline around the world because they are being over-fished. Mostly, they are caught to feed an insatiable appetite for shark-fin soup in Asia.

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Space
4:59 am
Fri August 5, 2011

Dark Streaks On Mars May Be Sign Of Liquid Water

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Originally published on Fri August 5, 2011 1:58 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Scientists have discovered features on Mars that could be signs of running water. If that's true, it would be big news for scientists looking for signs of life on Mars. After all, practically everywhere on Earth where there's running water, there's also life.

NPR's Richard Harris has the story.

RICHARD HARRIS: First off, we already know that Mars has water on it, lots of water. But Phil Christensen, a long-term Mars watcher from Arizona State University, says that knowledge isn't all that exciting to biologists.

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Energy
12:01 am
Wed July 6, 2011

At U.S. Nuclear Reactors, Crews Train For The Worst

Engineers at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Generating Station in Mississippi practice disaster and emergency situations in a mock-up control room. Every nuclear plant in the U.S. has control room simulators that are nearly exact replicas of the real facilities.
Richard Harris NPR

Some nuclear industry officials say if Japan had U.S.-style training for its operators, they might have fared better during the multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. In Japan, workers train on generic simulators. Here, every nuclear power plant has an exact mockup of its control room so plant operators can practice more realistic disaster scenarios.

Take for example the Grand Gulf Nuclear Generating Station, south of Vicksburg, Miss., on the Mississippi River.

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The Science Of Japan's Nuclear Crisis
12:01 am
Tue July 5, 2011

What Went Wrong In Fukushima: The Human Factor

Workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant spray a substance to help reduce dust on April 1. Experts say it's likely that workers at the plant could have reduced the severity of the accident if they had made different decisions during the crisis.
TEPCO

Japanese officials are still trying to understand all the factors that contributed to the meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Officials already have concluded that the plant was not designed to withstand the 40-foot tsunami that hit it on March 11. But it is also likely that workers at the plant could have reduced the severity of the accident if they had made different decisions during the crisis.

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