Studying the Scientists Who Are Studying the Animals

The science standards of many states include the study of the nature of science and of the work of scientists.  I especially like these standards, because when I was growing up, we pretty much saw pictures of scientists only wearing their white coats in labs with beakers and Bunsen burners.  Here is a graphic novel and a science series that will show kids what scientists really do.

Primates Primates : The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks. 9781596438651. 2013. Gr 7-12.

The famous anthropologist Louis Leakey recruited three women to study primates in the wild—each who went on to become famous in her own right.

This graphic novel begins with Jane Goodall as a child, interested in everything Africa.  After she met Leakey, he sent her to Africa to study chimpanzees—and she discovered that chimps used tools…a skill that was thought to belong only to humans.

Dian Fossey’s research into the silverback gorillas made her realize the danger that these gentle apes were in, and she fought to protect them.

And finally, Birute Galdikas moved to the Indonesian jungle to study orangutans and and then stayed…helping to rehabilitate orphans and working to preserve the rainforest.  Back matter explains how the author decided what events to include, and where to find more information.

Tapir scientistTapir Scientist : Saving South America’s Largest Mammal (Scientists in the Field) by Sy Montgomery & Nic Bishop (photographer). 9780547815480. 2013. Gr 4-8.

My favorite author-photographer team from the award-winning Scientist in the Field series heads to Brazil to follow scientists that are studying the lowland tapir—a shy loner of an animal that is unfamiliar to most U.S. citizens.  It looks like “a cross between a hippo, an elephant, and something prehistoric,” but its closest relatives are the horse and the rhino.

As with other titles in this exceptional series, the animals share center stage with the crew of scientists that are tracking and studying them.  Readers will learn not only about the animal, its behavior, and its habitat, but also about the difficulty in finding a tapir among the bugs and in the heat, the frustration when one is sighted but gets away before it can be tranquilized and fitted with a collar, and the elation when an unfamiliar tapir is found.

During the research for this book, two new tapirs were trapped, collared, measured, etc.—and then given names:  Nic Bishop and Sy Montgomery.

I wrote an earlier post on this series, which is particularly good at showing the real work of scientists.  I’d also urge you to check out these titles which have come out since then:

The Polar Bear Scientists by Peter Lourie. 9780547283050. 2012. Gr 4-8.

The Wild Horse Scientists by Kathryn Frydenborg. 9780547518312. 2012. Gr 4-8.

Stronger Than Steel : Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope by Bridget Heos. 9780547681269. 2013. Gr 4-8.

The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner. 9780547716381. 2013. Gr. 4-8.

Sea Turtle Scientist by Stephen R. Swinburne. 9780547367552. January 2014. Gr 4-8.

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