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School of Engineering

Pulitzer Prize finalists

Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Rosanna Xia, A11, and Terry Castleman, E16, of the Los Angeles Times, have been named 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalists for examining coastal erosion in California.
Illustration of coastline and nearby town
Screen capture of The Ocean Game designed by Rosanna Xia, Terry Castleman, and Swetha Kannan.

Tufts alumni Rosanna Xia, A11, and Terry Castleman, E16, have been recognized as Pulitzer Prize finalists for their Los Angeles Times multimedia piece, The California coast is disappearing under the rising sea. Our choices are grim.

The article, authored by Xia, examines the difficult choices that Californians must make as climate change erodes the coastline. Her exploration of the topic included in-depth conversations with public officials, residents along the shore, and coastal scientists. The discussions not only documented the challenging environmental and economic consequences of beach erosion, but explored the emotional attachments that residents have to their coastline.

The story was complemented by a game developed by Castleman, who majored in computer science and economics at Tufts, and data journalist Swetha Kannan. The Ocean Game: The sea is rising. Can you save your town? puts the reader in charge of a California town that is in danger of being washed away. The player has eight turns to protect the community by implementing solutions discussed in the article such as building rock walls, adding sand to the beach, and buying homes to relocate residents. Players must manage a limited budget while reacting to residents’ concerns and an ever-encroaching sea.

Xia and Castleman first met when Castleman joined the staff at the Los Angeles Times. The duo bonded over their Tufts roots, and Xia invited Castleman to join the sea level rise team. Their collaborative effort to communicate the consequences of coastal erosion earned them a 2020 Pulitzer Prize Finalist nomination for Explanatory Reporting. The Ocean Game is the first ever news video game to be recognized by the Pulitzers.