Vermont Science Writer David Dobbs Wins Journalism Award

David Dobbs

This is a cool bit of news in from Seven Days: writer David Dobbs has won the Kavli Science Journalism award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science!

His article, The Social Life of Genes, was published on September 3rd, 2013 over at Pacific Standard:

A few years ago, Gene Robinson, of Urbana, Illinois, asked some associates in southern Mexico to help him kidnap some 1,000 newborns. For their victims they chose bees. Half were European honeybees, Apis mellifera ligustica, the sweet-tempered kind most beekeepers raise. The other half were ligustica’s genetically close cousins, Apis mellifera scutellata, the African strain better known as killer bees. Though the two subspecies are nearly indistinguishable, the latter defend territory far more aggressively. Kick a European honeybee hive and perhaps a hundred bees will attack you. Kick a killer bee hive and you may suffer a thousand stings or more. Two thousand will kill you.

Working carefully, Robinson’s conspirators—researchers at Mexico’s National Center for Research in Animal Physiology, in the high resort town of Ixtapan de la Sal—jiggled loose the lids from two African hives and two European hives, pulled free a few honeycomb racks, plucked off about 250 of the youngest bees from each hive, and painted marks on the bees’ tiny backs. Then they switched each set of newborns into the hive of the other subspecies.

You can read his entire, award-winning article here.

The AAAS noted the following on their announcement for the 2014 awards:

Stories exploring the complexities of human biology, including our interactions with the trillions of microbes we all harbor, the influences of our fishy evolutionary forebears on how we look, and the enduring challenge of understanding cancer, are among the winners of the 2014 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards.

The awards, administered by AAAS since their inception in 1945, go to professional journalists for distinguished reporting for a general audience. The Kavli Foundation provided a generous endowment in 2009 that ensures the future of the awards program.

The full list of winners and the announcement can be found over on their website.

Back in July, Seven Days profiled Dobbs:

Science writer David Dobbs is obsessed with orchids, but not because of any love for the plants themselves. Those fickle flowers provide an apt metaphor for a genetic theory that he believes explains a great deal about human adaptability.

“The orchid hypothesis,” as it’s come to be known, holds that most human beings are like dandelions, in that we can take root and thrive just about anywhere. But a few of us are more like orchids, thriving only if “cultivated” in just the right environment. Dobbs, in several widely discussed essays as well as a forthcoming book, explores the controversial notion that the genes that seem to steer “dandelions” toward damaging behavior may be the very genes that permit “orchids” to be especially creative and successful.


Read the full article and interview here.