2023 RAINFOREST INVESTIGATIONS FELLOW (BRAZIL)
Karla Mendes is an award-winning Brazilian journalist working as a Rio de Janeiro-based investigative and feature reporter for Mongabay.
She has been working as a correspondent for international outlets since 2015, and since 2017, she has specialized in covering environmental and land issues. She worked as a land and property rights correspondent for the Thomson Reuters Foundation from August 2017 to December 2018. She joined Mongabay in July 2019 as contributing editor.
Throughout her career, Mendes has won several national and international awards. In February 2023, she was a winner of the SEAL Journalism Environmental Award with distinction for her “powerful work covering the continued encroachment of global corporations into Indigenous Amazon lands.”
In July 2022, she won second place in the Society of Environmental Journalists Awards for outstanding investigative reporting for an 18-month investigation that unveiled how “sustainable” palm oil triggered deforestation and water contamination in Brazil’s Amazon, affecting Indigenous people and traditional communities. Published in both English and Portuguese, the investigation is being used as evidence to hold palm oil companies accountable for water contamination. In April 2022, the investigation won third place in the Fetisov Journalism Awards in the Excellence in Environmental Journalism category.
In December 2021, Mendes won first place in the Geneton Moraes Neto Journalism Awards for the article "Farmers Are Paid To ‘Produce’ Water in the Fight Against Scarcity," published in 2018 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Reuters Brazil.
In October 2021, the documentary film This Place Is Also Mine: Brazil’s Indigenous on Prejudice in the City, directed by Mendes, received the Jackson Wild Special Jury Recognition. The documentary is part of a series of eight data-driven stories she coordinated with support from the Pulitzer Center. The presentation text of the series is being used in a book for high schools.
In 2020, Mendes won the top award in the Outstanding Explanatory Reporting category in the Society of Environmental Journalists' Awards. She won for a project with Max Baring, published by Thomson Reuters Foundation about Maranhão's Guardians of the Forest. The documentary was honored in the Tulum WE Film Festival in July 2022 and by the Colorado Environmental Film Festival in 2020. It received an honorable mention at the Naples Human Rights Film Festival in 2019.
Prior to that, she was a business reporter for 14 years in Rio, Madrid, Brasília, and Belo Horizonte, including with newspapers O Globo, O Estado de S. Paulo, Expansión, and news agency S&P Global Market Intelligence. During that period, she won several top Brazilian business journalism awards as part of reporting teams and three top journalism awards individually with a series of investigative stories about Pirates in the Amazon, which uncovered high incidence of theft of diesel oil on ferries transporting cargo on the Brazilian Amazon rivers.
Mendes has a master's degree in investigative and data journalism from the University of King's College, Canada, and an MBA in finance from São Paulo's Fundação Instituto de Administração. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.