Jonathan Knight Receives ASM Public Communications Award

CONTACT: Barbara Hyde

Washington, DC-May 13, 2002--Jonathan Knight, a contributing correspondent for Nature, has been named the recipient of the 2002 American Society for Microbiology Public Communications Award. His winning entry, "Meet the Herod Bug," appeared in Nature on July 5, 2001.

Knight wrote about Wohlbachia, bacteria that can infect insect species and convert males to females for their own reproductive purposes. Wohlbachia transmit themselves through the ovaries, so to them males are useless. Some force sex changes on the males they infect, while others kill them in the egg to leave more resources for females infected with their siblings.

"Most people are blissfully unaware of this gender battle raging in their gardens," says Knight. Wohlbachia are among the most common parasitic microbes in the world. The range of species they infect is growing every year, and it's now clear that Wohlbachia infections are endemic to nearly every corner of the globe. In response, insects have evolved a variety of defensive tactics to try to keep a better balance of the sexes.

Knight holds a PhD in molecular biology from the University of California, Berkeley and a Certificate in Science Communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The ASM Public Communications Award recognizes outstanding efforts in increasing public knowledge and awareness of the many facets of microbiology. The award carries a $2500 honorarium plus presentation of an award plaque at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. This year's presentation will take place on May 19 in Salt Lake City.

Judges for this year's contest were Julie Ann Miller, editor, Science News; Charles Petit, U.S. News and World Report; and Barbara Rice, deputy director, News and Information, National Academy of Sciences.

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 42,000 scientists and health professionals. Its mission is to promote research and research training in the microbiological sciences and to assist communication between scientists, policy makers, and the public to improve health, the environment, and economic well-being.

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