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About Scott Hadly

I’m driven by curiosity and a sucker for a good story.

 

I craft compelling narratives mostly about people, but I’ve written about science, crime, and war.


I've worked as a beat reporter covering crime and politics. I've done investigative reporting for newspapers and edited an environmental quarterly.

I've written for and edited a blog that explained the complexity of genetics.

As a writer and editor, I want to convey a sense of wonder and discovery to readers.

 

Prior to becoming a writer I did development work in the third world, and I've also held jobs as a bartender, gardener, and a gravedigger.

I'm married, and we have a daughter and a son.

My latest projects

Writing Samples

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23andMe Finds that Blood Type Plays a Role in COVID-19

Preliminary data from 23andMe’s ongoing genetic study of COVID-19 appears to lend more evidence for the importance of a person’s blood type — determined by the ABO gene — in differences in the susceptibility to the virus. 23andMe is still recruiting for its massive study, most recently seeking 10,000 participants outside of 23andMe who have been hospitalized and diagnosed with COVID-19. 23andMe researchers have yet to finish looking at what the genetic data indicate. But a first blush look at the information from the more than 750,000 participants in the study shows the following:

  • The preliminary data suggest that O blood type appears to be protective against the virus when compared to all other blood types.

  • Individuals with O blood type are between 9-18% percent less likely than individuals with other blood types to have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the data.

  • There appeared to be little differences in susceptibility among the other blood types.

  • These findings hold when adjusted for age, sex, body mass index, ethnicity, and co-morbidities.

  • Although one study found the blood group O only to be protective across rhesus positive blood types, differences in rhesus factor (blood type + or -) were not significant in 23andMe data. Nor was this a factor in susceptibility or severity in cases.

  • Among those exposed to the virus — healthcare and other front line workers — 23andMe found that blood type O is similarly protective, but the proportion of cases within strata is higher.

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Father’s Day Special

Deanna didn’t know what to expect when she met her father, Gus, for the first time a year ago. She didn’t know how he would react. She didn’t know what it would be like for him either. “I know it doesn’t turn out well for some adoptees when they first connect with their birth parents,” Deanna said. “But for Gus and me, it was like a fairytale… (it) was the greatest miracle of my life.” Deanna first met her birth dad a few weeks before Father’s Day in 2022. Gus was 91. He’d never married, had no children, and thought he was alone in the world. Deanna found him after connecting with a cousin using 23andMe’s DNA Relatives feature. “There’d been no hope of finding him otherwise, outside DNA… and God,” she said.  Gus was in a nursing home in Virginia. The former ballroom dance instructor and competitive dancer had fallen at home. The authorities found him on the floor after his doctor requested a welfare check because she became concerned after not hearing from Gus. In the nursing home, bedridden and alone, Gus awaited the end. Then Deanna called him. “One day, he woke up thinking he was alone in the world, and by that afternoon, he had a daughter, a son-in-law, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren,” she said. “I’m not alone in the world anymore,” he told her.

“No, you’re not. You’re not,” Deanna said.

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Taking Action for Health, A BRCA Story

When she began exploring her 23andMe results, Jenn Ford knew she’d learn something interesting about herself — her traits or her ancestry.

But she hadn’t expected to find out something so profoundly important for both her and her family’s health.“I believe that knowledge is power, and the more I know, the more I can do about it,” she said recently. A long-time customer, Jenn first began using 23andMe in 2016 when she learned that her family’s ancestry was primarily Italian, French, German, and Lithuanian. However, she was surprised that it also included a tiny amount of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, about .2 percent, according to her 23andMe Ancestry Composition report. It was all fascinating and fun, but nothing unexpected. That changed in 2018 when 23andMe released its BRCA1/BRCA2 (Selected Variants) Genetic Health Risk Report. When it became available, Jenn wanted to look at her report. So, she opened it up after opting in to receive the information and going through an educational module about the report. “Oh, that’s strange,” she said to herself after scanning the report while at a family cookout. The report indicated she had one of the three variants for which 23andMe tests. She quickly closed her report thinking she’d spend a little more time looking at it later. But, having spent almost ten years as an Oncology Technician at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Jenn knew she couldn’t ignore this. “I have a medical brain, and I can understand what something like this could mean,” she said.

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A Name and a Necklace

A name, a letter, and a necklace, that’s all Julia had of her birth mother for 22 years. “Those always have been my only connection to my roots,” Julia said.

A social worker told her that her birth mother had returned to El Salvador, and Julia didn’t ever have much hope of learning more. That all changed late last year after Julia used 23andMe, first connecting with an older brother she didn’t know. Although she knew that her birth mother had two other children, a boy and a girl, Julia was initially skeptical that he was indeed her brother. They exchanged some messages. Julia learned the person who matched as a potential half-brother was also from a town just 20 minutes from her own, so it didn’t quite mesh with what she thought she knew about her birth family.

“Then he said, ‘do you still have the necklace that our mother gave you?'”

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23andMe Paper on Transatlantic Slave Trade Published

Published in The American Journal of Human Genetics, a paper by 23andMe researchers leveraged genetic data from close to 50,000 people to detail one of the most comprehensive investigations of the transatlantic slave trade ever done. The study confirms genetic links between regions in the Americas with areas along the Atlantic coast of Africa that align with routes of known slave voyages documented in shipping records.

The researchers were able to date the arrival of specific African populations to different parts of the Americas and the representation of specific African communities in those regions of America. “Last year marked 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in what was to become the United States of America,” said lead author Steven Micheletti, Ph.D., and a 23andMe population geneticist. The study documents genetic links to Africa in the Americas, Steven said. “It’s important that we understand the rich history and contributions of African people and their descendants, to the culture and history not only of the United States but also to all the Americas. In looking at the genetic landscape that resulted from this forced migration, one gets a deep and profound sense of the continuous hardships people of African descent have endured.”

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23andMe’s Drug Discovery Process Explained

For scientists at 23andMe, the recent announcement of taking our first wholly-owned cancer drug into a clinical trial is beyond exciting. This is a huge milestone for the company and for our Therapeutics group. As a scientist and vice president for human genetics at 23andMe, I would love for more people to understand how important this is; not just for us at 23andMe, but also as a demonstration of how genetic research is transforming drug discovery.

So, I’m writing this post to explain how our unique database shapes our approach to drug target discovery. The intent is to share more about how we use both genetic information and non-genetic information together in the largest database of its kind. We are generating insights backed by human genetics at an unprecedented scale so that more people can benefit from what we learn about the human genome. The two things to know is that at 23andMe, it all begins with human genetics, but it doesn’t end there. But before diving into that, let’s take a detour using a real-world example to explain a bit about 23andMe’s unique research model and how it sets us apart.

MORE (written with Adam Auton)

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Embedded — A Blog from Iraq

While in Iraq I wrote a daily blog. It was meant to be observations not included in the stories I filed. Some of it was pretty raw.

 

Last night I went out on another patrol with these guys. They set up an ambush around 3 a.m. near this abandoned village. As everyone moved into position one of the big Mine Resistant Armored Protection trucks (MRAPs) hit a mine. The blast blew the crap out of it, took off the whole front end and engine. No one was hurt seriously but the thing caught fire and started popping off ammunition. With the smoke and the beat of rounds cracking it actually felt like combat for a while. Scared the shit out of me. We ended up waiting in these reeds until 10 a.m. It was so fucking hot that I sweated through my clothes. My boots were soaked. Everyone looked like they'd taken a dip in the pool and that was before we started marching. Went through this village and they started clearing houses. Also scary shit because yesterday a guy got blown up and killed when he went into the wrong house. I didn't get blown up and killed however. That was good.

The hardest thing to see was after that we crossed this canal and went to a little farmhouse...

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Reporting from Iraq: Violence still flourishes in Diyala

DIYALA PROVINCE, Iraq — A black burn mark covers one corner of a mud brick wall.

The stain, less than a block from the Wajihiyah City Council office, marks the spot where two weeks ago, a young woman wearing a black hijab blew herself up. It's believed she intended to detonate the bomb strapped to her body amid a group of new Sons of Iraq recruits, citizen soldiers enlisted to help battle insurgents and members of terrorist cells operating in the province. The woman first went to the city offices but was turned away. Then she started running toward where the Sons of Iraq are garrisoned, and she tripped, setting off the bomb.

Army Capt. Travis Cox, commander of Fire Squadron Alpha in the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, walks past the spot without much notice. He's meeting with the mayor, Mudiyar Waysi, a man with a thick build, a thick black mustache, and gold-rimmed glasses. A Turkish cigarette wrapped in brown paper is perpetually held between his fingers. Cox doesn't trust the man, but he hopes that the Iraqis in Diyala will join with American forces, as they've done elsewhere in Iraq, to help push out the entrenched forces of al-Qaida. There are bright spots for the US in Iraq, but Diyala is not one of them. "This is the most dangerous spot in Iraq right now," said Cox, a 31-year-old West Point graduate from Washington state.

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Chasing The Big One

"Shark Park," a spot miles offshore of Santa Barbara County, looked deceptively placid. On the deck of the 75-foot Condor Express, ten seasoned surfers, six photographers, two videographers, two writers, a medic, and a water rescue specialist watched to see if it was big enough to break. There was a palpable sense that maybe they'd be out of luck. But peering out over the surface as it rippled like a rustling teal blanket in the early morning light, they focused on a set of waves racing toward the submerged rock reef, wondering if it would break. Pointing at one wave as it bunched up on the reef, Dan Curry, a 46-year-old, barrel-chested, Carmel-based big-wave surfer and personal trainer, muttered, "There it is."  The wave warped ominously, jacking up as high as a four-story building half a city block long before the wall of water curved over, exploding in a cavernous thundering barrel. Sounding like a jet engine on overdrive, the explosion of white water sent a concussion of rippling "wavelets" as big as six feet into the channel.  Mr. Curry and the other surfers smiled. Game on.

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HALACO: What Went Wrong

Gary Moss felt the soot in his throat before he saw the blue cloud descend on the back lot like a heavy fog. His eyes burned. His fillings hurt. His co-workers gasped for air as the pungent metallic tang assaulted their noses and throats. "It was unlike anything I'd ever smelled," said Moss, his dark skin wrinkled from a life of working outside. That day on the job in 1970 at Western Kraft, a paper recycling plant near Ormond Beach, was Moss' introduction to neighboring Halaco Engineering. "It was usually worse at night," said Moss, a maintenance mechanic at what is now Weyerhaeuser, which is across the road from the now silent smelters. Like many people who lived or worked in that part of town, his first whiff of the sprawling, beat-up magnesium and aluminum recycling plant was overpowering.

As officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consider including the bankrupt metals recycling plant on a list of hazardous Superfund cleanup sites, some of those people are looking back at the years of seeming inaction and wondering what took so long. Halaco operated for 40 years because the company followed the law and wasn't polluting, said Dave Gable, the former general manager. "Magnesium is the least harmful of any metals," said Gable, pointing out that the 710,000 cubic yards of waste at the site is primarily magnesium oxide. "Have you ever heard of milk of magnesia?"

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Noted Geologist with Gift for Mapping

Even when his vision failed him, Thomas Wilson Dibblee Jr. could see what most couldn't.

 He read the drama of epochs in the landscape and the color bands of rock where the earth bent and pushed itself upward, or cracked and dipped along seismic fault lines.

 Mr. Dibblee, who died Wednesday at 93, was the Mozart of mapping California's geology. On foot, often alone, he traversed and charted more of the state than any other geologist before or since. In a lifetime, a talented geologist might produce 40 or 50 maps. Mr. Dibblee sketched out 500.

He mapped the Mojave Desert, the Imperial and Coast ranges, the Transverse ranges and the San Andreas Fault -- more than a quarter of the state, or 40,000 square miles. Often he sustained himself on wild lettuce, chickweed and water.

Helmut Ehrenspeck, his former associate and friend who died in 2001, once tried to describe the magnitude of what Mr. Dibblee did by suggesting one image: the six-hour drive from Santa Barbara to the San Francisco Bay Area on Highway 101.

"Basically everything your eye can see in every direction is stuff Tom has mapped," Mr. Ehrenspeck said. "On foot."

EXCERPT

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Last Roundups

On a horse named Bullet, Jed Dillon gallops across a verdant ridgeline after a few dozen head of cattle.

He drives the cows down a hill and into a wide green meadow bordered with oaks, joining up with another 100 head of cattle that are being coaxed along by three other cowboys on horseback.

They fan out on their horses, driving the herd through a winding expanse of grassland dotted with scrub brush and oak trees, and toward a corral where 400 head of cattle are already kicking up dust.

It is a timeless scene branded into the American consciousness--cowboys working with cattle in the billowing dust. It’s also a scene that has played itself out in Ventura County for nearly 200 years, dating back to when the land was part of a Spanish land grant. But for many ranchers this is the closing act on their way of life, as highways and homes push into the county and squeeze them out. Along with the rumble from the hooves of hundreds of head of cattle in the corral, one can hear the low hum from the Simi Valley Freeway as it cuts into Ventura County from Los Angeles.  The cowboys here know it’s not a matter of if the land they ranch on is developed, but when.

“Maybe we have 10 more years,” says Pete Mokler, a rancher and architect who leases 4,000 acres of grazing land.

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