When you think of national parks, you may think of hiking, wildlife and getting away from it all, but probably you probably don’t think of science. Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard by Mary Kay Carson and photographs by Tom Uhlman goes a long ways toward remedying that omission.
Out this week, this newest addition to the Scientists in the Field Series shows not only how scientists can help develop a better understanding of the organisms and resources in national parks, which allows park employees to manage them better, but also that parks are ideal locations for many types of research that couldn’t be done elsewhere.
For example, studies of the giant saguaro cactus in Arizona have shown certain species of desert trees act as “nurses” to protect the seedlings and young cacti. In the early years, many of the trees were cut down, which meant the no young saguaros were able to get started. Fortunately, when the desert trees were allowed to grow back through park management, the numbers of young saguaros rebounded.
The husband-and-wife team of Uhlman and Carson are veterans of the Scientists in the Field Series. They know exactly what will catch a reader’s attention, from geysers and grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park, to salamanders and fire flies in the Great Smoky Mountains. They have also chosen a range of people to focus on, from park rangers who are also geologists to high school students who are citizen scientists. Young people interested in science will realize that there are a number of ways to participate in science besides becoming a PhD scientist at a college or university.
In addition to the gorgeous photographs, the book also has many maps and graphic representations of data. Each section starts with facts and resources about the particular park that is featured.
Because Scientists in the Field has been such a popular and long-running series, it is easy to not pay as much attention to the individual books as they come out. That would be a mistake, because Park Scientists has a lot to offer. The timing of the release is perfect to catch the interest of youngsters who are headed out to take a vacation at a national park this summer. Get this book in their hands and it is likely they will want to do some science, too.
Free discussion and activity guide to download at Mary Kay Carson’s website.
Here’s the very informative and beautiful book trailer:
Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Grade Level: 5 – 9
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (May 13, 2014)
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