Kathleen Masterson

New England News Collaborative Reporter

Kathleen Masterson is VPR's New England News Collaborative reporter. She covers energy, environment, infrastructure and labor issues for VPR and the collaborative. Kathleen comes to Vermont having worked as a producer for NPR’s science desk and as a beat reporter covering agriculture and the environment.

Kathleen covered food production for Harvest Public Media while based at Iowa Public Radio in Ames, Iowa. She wrote stories ranging from the risks of antibiotic use in livestock feed to how hedge fund managers visit corn fields to bet on the commodities market to how the fracking boom has spurred sand mining in Iowa. As a digital producer for NPR for several years, Kathleen reported science and health stories and produced multimedia series for NPR.org. She covered topics that ranged from human evolution to swine flu to the Affordable Care Act to plastic chemicals BPA and phthalates.

Kathleen has contributed work to NPR, Marketplace, Grist, and NPR-affiliates including KQED and WGBH. She also worked as a digital producer for PBS NOVA, a science writer for University of California, San Francisco and the Morning Edition producer/reporter for VPR.

Ways to Connect

violetkaipa / Thinkstock

Having a chronic disease like diabetes or heart disease or migraines is hard enough on its own. But some people also suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression, which exacerbates their other disease.

Courtesy UVM

Doctors and medical students from the University of Vermont College of Medicine stepped out of the hospital halls recently and onto the stage. The team put on the Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Wit,” to raise awareness about end-of-life issues and to spark discussion on a topic many people find to uncomfortable to talk about.

Courtesy of Community Sailing Center

Sailing is often an expensive sport, and that means it’s not always accessible to everyone who might be interested. But the Community Sailing Center on Lake Champlain in Burlington is working hard to give all kids the opportunity to get out on the water. 

Sally McCay

When politicians get busted for taking bribes or awarding contracts to their supporters, it’s often a governor or a lawmaker who lands in the hot seat. But reporter Eric Lipton uncovered how corporate lobbyists are targeting another group for favors: attorneys general in states across the U.S.

Alford et al. / Lake Scientist

While much discussion of water pollution in Vermont focuses on excessive nutrients, there’s another problem pollutant in our waters. 

Tiny bits of plastic – coming from everyday sources such as degraded plastic bags and flecks of fleece jackets – are seeping into Lake Champlain. Often smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, the plastics may seem inconsequential, but scientists say they carry chemicals, are being eaten by fish and moving up the food chain.    

Kathleen Masterson / VPR

One of the challenges to stemming the flow of pollution into Lake Champlain is that so much of runoff comes from disparate sources across the vast watershed. And one source of water pollution is hidden-in-plain-sight: roads.

Kathleen Masterson / VPR

About 40 percent of the nutrients that run off into Lake Champlain come from farms. But surprisingly, about half that manure produced in the state actually comes from small farms. In the case of dairies, that’s defined as operations with fewer than 200 cows.

Angela Evancie / VPR File

More than two-thirds of the problematic phosphorus overload in Lake Champlain comes from Vermont. To clean up its act the state recently signed Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Act. It tackles runoff coming from sources varying from roofs and roads to forests and farms.

Over The Edge USA

If you happen to be in downtown Burlington on Sept. 5, don't be alarmed if you look up and see scores of people rappelling down the side of a tall building. It's not a SWAT team, it's a brave and dedicated group of ordinary folks taking part in a fundraiser for the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts.


This year marks the third year The Independent Television and Film Festival will be held in Dover. For seven years the festival took place in Hollywood, but the executive director decided to move it out of the busy city to a Vermont mountain town.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Long before Tropical Storm Irene, University of Vermont professor Dan Baker and other community planning researchers were concerned about the vulnerability of Vermont’s mobile homes to floods and other emergency events.


August is “Tree Check” month.  It’s the time when ecologists are out surveying the forests to see if invasive insect species are showing up in the state. Here in Vermont scientists are primarily on the lookout for Asian longhorned beetle, Emerald ash borer, and hemlock woolly adelgid.

Steve Zind / VPR

Gov. Peter Shumlin joined VPR by phone on Monday to debrief the chain of events beginning on Friday afternoon that left four people dead in Central Vermont.

James Boase / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Every fisherman has a story about the "one that got away." But Chet MacKenzie is dedicated to making sure that this particular species of fish in Lake Champlain doesn't get away – or disappear. 

Martin LaBar via Flickr

Injuries to the human lung can be life-threatening, and also very difficult to treat. When there's a hole that punctures the lung, some sealants exist to patch it, but breathing in and out means air is moving around, and keeping that patch in place is tricky to say the least.


Shrugging off its ignominious downgrading from planet to dwarf planet status a few years back, Pluto burst back into the public spotlight when a space probe passed closer to it than any spacecraft ever had before, returning some stunning images of Pluto and its moons. 

Eric Bégin via Flickr

Hydro-Quebec, a government-owned utility in Canada and a key energy producer for Vermont, has a new a chief executive officer. Éric Martel comes to Hydro-Quebec after heading up the successful business aircraft division at Bombardier.

Courtesy Circus Smirkus

Meet "The Smirkos." That's the affectionate name for the troupe of young performers who diligently train and eventually appear in shows put on by Circus Smirkus, an award-winning international youth circus.

This year’s theme, “Bon Appetit,” is celebrating food — the acts include using plates as props, vaulting off tables and creating human pyramids. 

cmackenz / iStock.com

The number of monarch butterflies that overwinter in Mexico’s forests is down by 90 percent or more over the past two decades. And about half of these butterflies come from the U.S. Midwest, where their larvae feed on common milkweed. Part of the problem: A recent study cites a huge decline in milkweed in the Midwest, in part due to the use of agricultural pesticides. 

Vermont Department of Health

A new state program will monitor and test all 22 drinking water systems that pull water from Lake Champlain, with a focus on detecting blue-green algae blooms.