Tag Archives: zoology

The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery

They Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery. May 15, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 80 p. ISBN: 9780544635111.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.5.

The Hyena Scientist sets the record straight about one of history’s most hated and misunderstood mammals, while featuring the groundbreaking, pioneering research of a female scientist in a predominately male field.

As a scientist studying one of the only mammalian societies led entirely by females, zoologist Kay Holecamp has made it her life’s work to understand hyenas, the fascinating, complex creatures that are playful, social, and highly intelligent—almost nothing like the mangy monsters of pop culture lore.

Part of Series: Scientists in the Field

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 15, 2018)
A practiced and proficient team returns to the African plains to visit a field camp in Masai Mara, Kenya, where zoologist Kay Holekamp has been studying spotted hyenas for 30 years. This surprisingly engaging title introduces a species whose bad reputation is nearly universal. Holekamp disagrees. Her study of eight generations of hyenas has revealed the spotted hyena to be “an unexpectedly brave, smart, and extremely social species” as well as the “most formidable carnivore in Africa.” During their 10-day visit, Montgomery and Bishop go with the researchers for morning and evening observations, watch one sedate a young male with a dart gun so all can take measurements and specimens, see a skirmish in a war between rival factions of the large Talek West hyena clan, and, during a downpour, when flood threatens, help evacuate precious specimens and equipment. Montgomery’s graceful prose draws readers into the experience with clear explanations and vivid description. Bishop’s striking photographs show off the doglike hyenas’ furry cuteness. He includes close-ups of cubs at play and rest, researchers at work, and adult hyenas interacting with one another, as well as tent scenes, other wildlife, and the always-impressive scenery. Readers may be inspired by the stories of the white scientist’s diverse team of assistants: a retired medical social worker, U.S. graduate students, and a young Kenyan who hopes to study in the U.S. An appealing, elegantly designed introduction to another much-maligned species. (fast facts, bibliography, acknowledgements, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)

About the Author

Part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson, as the Boston Globe describes her, Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who has traveled to some of the worlds most remote wildernesses for her work. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, been hunted by a tiger in India, swum with pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been undressed by an orangutan in Borneo. She is the author of 13 award-winning books, including her national best-selling memoir, The Good Good Pig. Montgomery lives in Hancock, New Hampshire.

Her website is symontgomery.com

Around the Web

The Hyena Scientist on Amazon

The Hyena Scientist on Goodreads

The Hyena Scientist Publisher Page

Spineless by Juli Berwald

Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Juli Berwald. November 7, 2017. Riverhead Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9780735211261.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea’s imperiled ecosystems.

Jellyfish have been swimming in our oceans for well over half a billion years, longer than any other animal that lives on the planet. They make a venom so toxic it can kill a human in three minutes. Their sting–microscopic spears that pierce with five million times the acceleration of gravity–is the fastest known motion in the animal kingdom. Made of roughly 95 percent water, some jellies are barely perceptible virtuosos of disguise, while others glow with a luminescence that has revolutionized biotechnology. Yet until recently, jellyfish were largely ignored by science, and they remain among the most poorly understood of ocean dwellers.

More than a decade ago, Juli Berwald left a career in ocean science to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas, but jellyfish drew her back to the sea. Recent, massive blooms of billions of jellyfish have clogged power plants, decimated fisheries, and caused millions of dollars of damage. Driven by questions about how overfishing, coastal development, and climate change were contributing to a jellyfish population explosion, Juli embarked on a scientific odyssey. She traveled the globe to meet the biologists who devote their careers to jellies, hitched rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild, raised jellyfish in her dining room, and throughout it all marveled at the complexity of these alluring and ominous biological wonders.

Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless is the story of how Juli learned to navigate and ultimately embrace her ambition, her curiosity, and her passion for the natural world. She discovers that jellyfish science is more than just a quest for answers. It’s a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Discussion

Via C-SPAN

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 3))
Jellyfish are so alien to us as spinal cord-bearing, land-based animals that we can’t envision how a brainless blob of jelly can even be alive, let alone move, eat, and behave like an animal. And yet there are several thousand species of jellies in the world’s waters, and their enigmatic lives fuel the fascination of science writer Berwald in her quest to understand their role in the fate of the oceans. The author first became enamored of marine biology during a field course in the Red Sea, but marriage and kids sidetracked her into writing textbooks and science articles. Stumbling across jellyfish while writing for National Geographic, she discovered an obsession that took her around the world to talk to the scientists who study jellies. She swam with jellies, watched how quickly they disintegrate in fishers’ nets, ate them in Japan, and kept them in a home aquarium, and as she revels in these spineless animals, she teaches us to delight in them, too.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2017)
A close look at the biology and behavior of jellyfish combined with a personal history of the author, a former ocean scientist who was pulled back to the sea by these enigmatic creatures.As science writer Berwald notes, details about jellyfish—whose species number in the hundreds—are scant in comparison with what is known about other marine animals despite the fact that they have been on Earth for at least 500 million years. Because they reproduce quickly and can adapt to different environments, they’re notorious for disrupting ocean ecosystems and devastating fishing economies. For beachgoers, they are often just nuisances with a painful sting. But the further the author dives into her research, the more she suspects that jellyfish behavior may provide clues about how the Earth’s changing climate is affecting ocean life. In addition, jellies have sophisticated propulsion systems and collagen-based bodies that may guide bioengineers in developing new products. In this appealing combination of solid science writing, investigative journalism, and memoir, Berwald chronicles her travels around the globe interviewing leading jellyfish experts and viewing all types of jellies in aquariums and native habitats. What the author discovered is that jellyfish science is growing as it becomes more apparent that the animals are a robust source of information about the ocean’s conditions as well as many other facets of the natural world. After years of research, Berwald is convinced that “to research jellyfish is not just to look at a creature unfamiliar and bizarre to most, but to study the planet and our place in it.” While writing this lucid, eye-opening book, the author discovered that her place was, in part, inextricably entangled with jellyfish. In this lovely exploration of the mysterious jellyfish, Berwald both entrances and sounds a warning: pay attention to the messages sent by ocean life, and act to protect their environment, and ours.

About the Author

Juli Berwald received her Ph.D. in Ocean Science from the University of Southern California. A science textbook writer and editor, she has written for a number of publications, including The New York TimesNatureNational Geographic, and Slate.

She lives in Austin with her husband and their son and daughter. Her website is www.juliberwald.com

Teacher Resources

Jellyfish Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Spineless on Amazon

Spineless on Goodreads

Spineless Publisher Page

Dolphins: Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey

Dolphins: Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey. January 23, 2018. Delacorte Press, 197 p. ISBN: 9781524700867.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6; Lexile: 1070.

A thrilling journey into the spiritual, scientific and sometimes threatened world of dolphins. Based on Susan Casey’s bestselling adult work Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins, this young readers adaptation, which includes an 8-page photo insert, explores the extraordinary world of dolphins in an interesting and accessible format that engages as well as entertains.

Inspired by an encounter with a pod of spinner dolphins off the coast of Maui, author Susan Casey embarked on a two-year global adventure to study these remarkable beings. Casey details the extraordinary connection between dolphins and humans, including shared characteristics such as capacity for emotion, playfulness, sociability, and intelligence, the sophisticated navigation ability innate in dolphins, and the dangers they face from people who aim to profit by putting them in captivity or far worse. Includes an 8-page photo insert that offers a glimpse of these magical creatures in their natural habitat.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Animal cruelty

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 5-8. Reeling after the death of her father, Casey took to the sea, fleeing the oppressive concrete of Manhattan for the clear waters of Hawaii. It was in Maui that, while swimming alone, she encountered a pod of spinner dolphins that swam with her for a time before continuing on its way. Deeply moved, Casey traveled the world learning about the connections between dolphins and humans. Part memoir, part scientific exploration, this young readers’ adaption of Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins (2015) takes readers through both the highs and the lows of human-dolphin relationships. In Greece, Casey saw ancient artwork depicting dolphins; in Ireland, she met Fungie, the “Most Loyal Animal on the Planet,” that took up residence in Dingle Bay. In Taiji, Japan, however, she joined a group protesting the whaling town’s seven-month dolphin hunting season. For dolphin-lovers and aspiring marine biologists, this provides a fascinating look into a rarely seen world, and a glimpse of cultural differences around the globe.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2017)
In this middle-grade adaptation of Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins (2015), Casey escapes her city life and journeys around the world to better understand how dolphins live, think, and relate to humans.After experiencing a life-changing swim with dolphins, Casey puts her job on hold and begins researching and writing about cetaceans. The book includes interviews with experts, her experiences traveling the world, and fascinating tidbits, including how dolphins evolved from “mammals that resembled small, hooved wolves.” She encourages readers to delight in the animals’ gifts by highlighting their brain science and complex personalities. With approachable prose and engrossing detail, she describes everything from how a dolphin pod saved a suicidal girl to how their sonar works. Casey is tough on the marine-park industry, poachers, man-made underwater acoustic smog, and humanity’s pollution of the Earth and its waters. She writes explicitly about the slaughter of dolphin populations at the hands of humans, candidly addressing their extermination in Taiji, Japan. The final chapter, on dolphins in Minoan art, is an unsatisfying tangent even though the overall book is a riveting look at the world of dolphins. A compelling and eye-opening story of the interconnected worlds of humans and dolphins that’s full of engaging detail and vivid language. (acknowledgments, selected bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Susan Casey is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks and is the editor in chief of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is a National Magazine Award–winning journalist whose work has been featured in EsquireSports IllustratedFortuneOutsideNational Geographic, and the Best American Science and Nature WritingBest American Sports Writing, and Best American Magazine Writing anthologies.

Casey lives in New York City and Maui. Her website is www.susancasey.com.

Around the Web

Dolphins: Voices in the Ocean on Amazon

Dolphins: Voices in the Ocean on Goodreads

Dolphins: Voices in the Ocean Publisher Page