John Platt is a science journalist who specializes in stories about the environment and technology. At the Scientific American blog Extinction Countdown ( http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown), he writes about species around the world threatened with extinction and the efforts to stabilize their populations. Follow him on Twitter as @johnrplatt (twitter.com/johnrplatt). Questions and answers have been edited.
Q: What first prompted you to report on endangered species?
It’s always been a topic I was interested in. It dates back to growing up and hearing about how bald eagles were suffering from DDT and seeing “Gorillas in the Mist.” I was working for IEEE doing all these online newsletters and in the process of writing all this technology stuff, I found all these news stories about endangered species that I thought no one else was talking about.
So I started this on my own, about eight years ago. It was just something I was doing on my own because I was passionate about it.
I still think it’s a topic most people don’t look at, aren’t concerned with. If you’re not talking about tigers or koalas, it’s going to get buried. You can’t write an endangered-species blog without writing about tigers, but I try to write about all the other things that are disappearing when people aren’t looking.
Q: Has public awareness of endangered species affected conservation efforts?
I would argue that the public isn’t all that aware. I think a lot of conservation efforts aren’t doing that well. There’s just not a lot of money for conservation efforts. It’s very difficult for people to grasp why they should care about a species only found in India if their house is in New Jersey.
You just try to shine a light on it as much as possible.
Q. It seems like covering endangered species means a lot of doom and gloom. Do you see reasons to hope?
Absolutely. I’ve reported on numerous extinctions over the years, and each one is a knife in the heart. Reporting on this stuff can be depressing. But the thing that keeps me going is that I get to report on the people out there passionately trying to conserve these species.
I write two articles a week. I could easily write eight or 10 and still have enough to write about. Being able to say these people are out there helping – it keeps me going.