Monday, November 3, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Park Scientists by Mary Kay Carson, photographs by Tom Uhlman

Park Scientists is another entry in the award-winning Scientists in the Field. This book visits three different national parks and examines two scientific studies of natural phenomena and wild animals in each park.

The book opens with a map of all the national parks in the United States (and now I want to go up north to the only one near Wisconsin - Isle Royale!) and a brief introduction to how scientists use national parks.

The first park is Yellowstone. We start with the facts - "How big? How old? How Busy?" as well as "Reasons to go" and websites to find out more about the park and its attractions. The chapter on Yellowstone examines two facets of the park - the famous geysers and the grizzly bears. The reader follows two geologists, who are also park rangers, as they keep a close eye on the geysers and the volcano that fuels them. Additional information about geysers is included in inset boxes and in a full spread. The second chapter on Yellowstone features grizzly bears and a wildlife biologist who does research in Yellowstone. This chapter includes information about the history of bears in Yellowstone and how contemporary scientists are studying them as well as the challenges they - and the bears - face.

The second park is Saguaro. After the initial facts, there is a chapter on Gila monsters, the largest indigenous reptile in the US. Herpetologists are studying the Gila monster not only to gather information on this elusive animal, but also to track their well-being in the park. The chapter includes information on citizen scientists, helping to track the Gila monster, which ties into the next chapter on the saguaro cactus, which is also being tracked by citizen scientists. This chapter includes a lot of historical information, as the study of a section of these cacti (Section 17) is "one of the longest-running annual monitoring programs for any species in the U.S. national parks.

The third park featured is the Great Smoky Mountains national park. We first meet a biologist studying salamanders, specifically red-cheeked salamanders, with attention to projections as to whether their population will survive the rapidly changing temperatures in their small habitat. The second chapter features fireflies and scientist Lynn Faust who first reported the unique phenomena of synchronized flashing, previously thought to exist only in Asian fireflies.

The book ends with a glossary of "words to know", a brief bibliography, and an index.

Verdict: I didn't feel as though I got to know the scientists as well in this volume, since there were so many different groups of them, but I definitely learned interesting things about the three national parks. This will not only appeal to kids interested in science and animals, but also to parents planning family trips to national parks. A great entry in the series that's a definite must for your library.
ISBN: 9780547792682; Published 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

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