While a postdoctoral researcher in 1986, Professor of Biology Dobson studied the chemical and behavioral ecology of bee-flower interactions involving several local solitary bee species on the island of Öland, located in the Baltic Sea in southeast Sweden. "Part of my research addresses how flower-specialist solitary bees, which are associated with specific genera of plants, locate their host flowers," Dobson explains. While we hear frequently about the Eurasian domestic honey bee, which is a social insect, most bee species live a solitary lifestyle, with each female making her own nest and with the adult bees being active for only a specific period in the spring and summer.

She began taking small groups of Whitman students on her research trips starting in 1994, and she returned almost every summer. Recently, Dobson was interviewed on Swedish television channel 4 about the decline in the population of one bee species, Chelostoma rapunculi, on Öland.

This bee is a specialist on bellflowers, from which it gathers all its food (nectar and pollen), and over the past decade, the very localized populations on Öland have been in decline "due mainly to the way in which the county and private landowners manage the wildflowers along the roadsides, which are the main habitat of the bellflowers upon which this bee depends," Dobson said.  

Because the county cuts the native flowers back near the beginning or peak of the bellflower bloom, the food source for the bees is reduced, resulting in fewer bee progeny each successive year in areas where there have previously been well-established populations.

Dobson discussed her research in a television interview along with Dave Karlsson, the resident director of the Station Linné, where the research takes place.