Two More Scientists in the Field

Lynn: I am writing about the two new entries in Houghton’s Scientists in the Field series today.  Seriously people – just put this series on standing order and be done with it!  Each book is a treat and you don’t want to risk missing one.  I’m an unabashed fan of the series.  The books focus on working scientists and what it is like to BE a scientist as well as on the actual research work they are doing.  The writing is excellent, the photography breathtaking, the research projects wide-ranging and fascinating and the book production outstanding.  I look forward to each and every one and more importantly; they are really powerful with children and teens.  Just hand one to a kid and you’ll see what I mean.

58237656The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson (Houghton 2010) chronicles some really dedicated people studying a highly misunderstood species.  Pull on your mental boots and walk with Merlin Tuttle into the Bracken Bat Cave near San Antonio.  Millions of bats (270 tons of bats!) hang overhead, bat poop rains down constantly piling up on a floor seething with millions of guano-eating beetles and a he wears a respirator to protect his lungs from the searing ammonia.  Tuttle has been fascinated by bats since his teens even doing important research as a high schooler.  Now a conservationist as well, Tuttle works to educate the public on the incredible ecological importance of bats and trying to protect bats as their habit disappears.  One small brown bat can eat 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour making them critically important for pest control.  Tom Uhlman’s photographs are spectacular.  Pictures of a tiny rescued bat being fed milk and one licking its mother’s face help to dispel the misapprehension many people have of bats as flying vermin.  An outstanding list of additional resources and a list of terms rounds out this exceptional book.  Readers will gain a tremendous respect for these amazing scientists, this misunderstood creature and a clear understanding of the life of a working scientist.

58629523 Can there be a more irresistible creature than a seahorse?  Capture for home aquariums is only one of the many factors putting this fish with its “oddball  biology” in serious jeopardy.  In Project Seahorse (Houghton 2010) Pamela S. Turner follows two scientists investigating this fascinating species. They are also founders of Project Seahorse, a conservation effort with local Philippine fishermen that has established an underwater reserve, trying to protect the seahorse and other species as well.

Turner follows Amanda Vincent and Heather Koldewey as they study the tiger tail seahorse.  The biologists must search at night for their subjects because during the day their subject hides in holes and crevices.  The tiny seahorses reverse the usual parental roles with the male carrying the eggs in his brood pouch and giving birth to the babies.  This unique and beautiful creature is in difficulty because of over-fishing and from damage to its habitat.  Vincent and Koldewey realized that any effective conservation effort was going to need the help and support of the local people who make their living from fishing.  Turner introduces readers to Rodrigo Paden and his family, enthusiastic supporters of the underwater reserve effort.  Paden is a fisherman who catches and sells sea horses for the traditional Chinese medicine market but he understands the importance of the reserve and its role in stopping the alarming loss of fish and coral.  Turner clearly defines the often conflicting issues of human/ecological needs and the inspiring success of an effort like Project Seahorse that works through education to benefit all.

Scott Tuason’s wonderful photographs make this book a visual delight.  The full page photographs beautifully display the vivid colors of the reef and its inhabitants and the close-ups of the tiny seahorse are especially intriguing.   A short list of resources is included as well as a page about “How To Help Seahorses”.  It is hard to imagine any reader of this book not falling in love with seahorses or being inspired by the work of these two dedicated scientists.

Our focus group are big fans of this series too although they aren’t yet able to read the text by themselves.  These are books we read together first but they return to the books on their own again and again to look at the photographs.  We can’t wait to see what comes next in 2011 in this truly stellar series!

nonfictionmonday1Please visit Shelf-Employed for today’s Nonfiction Monday books.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

2 Comments on "Two More Scientists in the Field"

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  1. font@umich.edu' Kristin says:

    I adored Bat Scientists when I read it via NetGalley … which is saying a lot considering it’s a book about … bats.

  2. Thanks for your generous review. Bats desperately need our help these days.

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