Today we have a book that is part of the outstanding Scientists in the Field Series. Sea Turtle Scientist by Stephen R. Swinburne follows Dr. Kimberly Stewart in her efforts to investigate and conserve sea turtles on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts. But be warned, reading this book will make you want to jump on a plane and become a sea turtle scientist, too.
Sea turtles have been around for a long time, but are now facing a myriad of problems that are causing their numbers to decline. In fact, as is mentioned right at the outset of the book, in most places only one in a thousand sea turtle eggs makes it to adulthood. Those are not good odds. Dr. Kimberly Stewart wants to change the odds through her research and education outreach efforts.
Although sea turtles are vulnerable to a number of threats, human-caused deaths are taking a steep toll. For example, local fisherman on St. Kitts have been known to kill sea turtles, even though there are rules against it. Dr. Stewart met with poaching fisherman, not to chastise them, but to use the deaths as an opportunity to collect important data. Over time she has been able to create a trusting relationship with the poachers. Using this trust and mutual respect, she has suggested alternative sources of income such as creating and selling beach glass art, and tourism. She has also educated the poachers about the importance of conservation. In fact, Chapter 3 tells the story of a local fisherman, Theophilus Taylor, who used to poach sea turtles. Now Mr. Taylor volunteers with the sea turtle conservation efforts and no longer harvests them. You can see him in this video trailer for the book, demonstrating how hatchlings move across the sand:
Part of the excellent Scientists in the Field series, Sea Turtle Scientist also stands out on its own. The story is particularly compelling and well written. As with others of the series, it reveals what it is like to work as a scientist, trudging through sand in the middle of the night or taking samples from poached sea turtles. I appreciated that the photos and text were more balanced by talking about and showing both the scientist and locals impacted by the conservation effort.
Sea Turtle Scientist would be a useful title to include in units on oceans, animals, reptiles, and conservation. It is sure to inspire budding scientists and veterinarians, as well.
Now, about that flight to the Caribbean…
Want to explore more? See our sea turtle science post at Growing With Science blog.
Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Grade Level: 5 – 9
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (January 7, 2014)
Disclosures: This book was supplied by my local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.
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