The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species by Peter Lourie, part of the respected Scientists in the Field series, follows scientists from around the world trying to learn more about manatees in a race protect them from extinction.
Manatees are fascinating. Distantly related to elephants, these large, lumbering herbivores live exclusively in warm waters. They are found in Florida, the Caribbean, the Amazon, and West Africa.
As the title suggests, the book follows leading manatee scientists in their studies. Peter Lourie documents the techniques the scientists use and the problems they encounter. In the Amazon River basin, the author accompanies Fernando Rosas on a boat trip to follow radio-tagged manatees that have been released from captivity. He flies with John Reynolds, who does an aerial count of manatees in warm Florida waters, and shows researcher Lucy Keith rescuing West African manatees trapped behind a dam in Senegal. Sadly, one of the problems the scientists encounter in trying to preserve the wild populations is that the people who live along the rivers in both South America and Africa rely on manatees for food.
Peter Lourie is a photographer as well as author, and took many of the numerous color photographs. His narration adds a real sense of adventure to what the scientists are doing.
Cybils notes: It would have been nice to see a bit more about what the scientists were finding out. By that I mean I wondered what their results were, not just their methods. For example, it would be nice to learn if manatees really are useful to keep down vegetation in lakes that serve hydroelectric plants. Also, it would probably have been appropriate to mention the Steller’s sea cow, a relative of the manatees that really did go extinct.
The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species has been nominated for a Cybils award in the MG/YA nonfiction category. It will be a big hit with nature lovers and budding scientists. For informal science, use the book to accompany a trip to an aquarium that houses manatees, or even better, a trip to Florida to see manatees in the wild.
Video of Florida manatees in action:
Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (April 11, 2011)
Stem Friday is at Celebrate Science today. Click through for links to more excellent STEM books.
If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to Booktalking blog for more information.