The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species
Author: Peter Lourie
Pub Date: April 11th, 2011
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Intended for 10- to 14-year-old readers
Another in the “Scientists in the Field” series, The Manatee Scientists by Peter Lourie is a armchair adventure for young readers and their families. The author journeys from the crystal clear inlets of Florida to the warm waters of Brazil, and to the mysterious rivers of West Africa watching over the “watchers” of various species of manatees.
Manatees, such beautiful, gentle, and endangered creatures, were once mistaken for mermaids which is how they are classified into the group sirenians (for Sirens, a.k.a. mermaids). Dedicated scientists like John Reynolds, Fernando Rosas, and Lucy Keith study these remarkable creatures using technology, observation, and tons of patience in an effort to promote conservation and to ensure they survive for future generations.
A key theme of the book is “science informs conservation.” Watching manatee behaviors, both in captivity and in the wild, and using high-tech tagging and tracking instruments allows the scientists to understand “what’s normal” so they can best gauge their endangered status with the hopes of promoting growth of the various species.
Young readers will learn about the tools and instruments used, as well as getting a clear picture of just how much hard work and dedication goes into being a “scientist in the field.” (One of the author’s colleagues received numerous broken bones when tagging a manatee!)
The clear writing and sometimes humorous anecdotes* make this less of an “oh-do-I-have-to-read-this-science-book?!” and more of a “Wow-I’m-going-on-an-adventure” tale. The highly-readable style and personal touches, not to mention the beautiful photography, makes The Manatee Scientists a book I recommend with no reservations.
This is Daniel at a special “Behind the Scenes” look into Conservation at SeaWorld, Orlando.
* Reviewer’s note: Although this book is intended for older children, I read it to my 5-year-old who is very interested in marine science. He was especially tickled to hear about the importance of manatee flatulence in helping them maintain neutral buoyancy! Eating all that vegetation causes methane which manatees release to help them rise in the water. I’m pretty sure I’ll be embarrassed next time we visit the manatees at SeaWorld as he’s already calling his stuffed ones “Tooters.”