Monday, September 06, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - Project Seahorse

One of the things I love about working in academia is hearing my colleagues speak about their research. This summer I had the great pleasure of listening to a member of the biology faculty speak about her work with mosquitoes. It was both disgusting (did you know mosquitoes pee when they drink your blood?) and utterly fascinating (mosquitoes carry anticoagulants in their saliva so that blood doesn't clot while they're feeding). Not only was I engrossed in the topic, but thoroughly caught up in the excitement that enveloped the room during the lecture.

Whether it's mosquitoes or frogs or seahorses, it is this passion for their work that makes scientists such an interesting breed. It's also what makes the Scientists in the Field series so downright entertaining. Pamela Turner's latest title, Project Seahorse, is a fine addition to the series.
The first thing you should know is that this book is not entirely about the science of seahorses. Project Seahorse is the name of an organization committed to conservation and sustainable use of the world’s coastal marine ecosystems. Seahorses serve as the focus for finding marine conservation solutions.

The book opens describing a night dive in the waters just off Handumon in the Philippines. Scientists search for, find and measure seahorses and use them as a "barometer" of sorts to the health of the coral community. At the same time, a local fisherman is diving for his livelihood. Balancing the need to protect reefs with the need for locals to make a living is a problem that communities with coral reefs must work to solve. Project Seahorse hopes to find solutions to such problems.

At the end of chapter 1 was sucked in, but it was chapter 2 ("Mr. Mom") that sealed my fate. Reading about the work of Amanda Vincent made me want to strap on some SCUBA gear and head out for my own view of the reefs and their many unusual and beautiful inhabitants. Here's an excerpt that describes an experience of Amanda's.
Amanda still remembers a pair of White's seahorses she studies in Australia. The pregnant male was attacked during the night by another animal that bit a hole in his pouch and sucked out his babies. Amanda didn't expect the male to survive his terrible injury. Though nearby males tried to lure the female seahorse away, she refused to abandon her wounded mate. Every morning the female greeted her partner with the courtship dance that seahorse couples use to keep their reproductive cycles in harmony. After a few months, the male's pouch healed and he fathered another brood. "For any animal, that level of devotion is extraordinary," says Amanda.
After earning her degree, Amanda's work focused on examining the impact of fishing and trading on seahorse populations. Amanda not only continued her work as a biologist, but also took on the role of activist. In 1994 she joined forces with a Philippine environmental organization to "launch the world's first seahorse conservation project."

The remaining portion of Turner's narrative describes the lives of locals in Handumon and how they balance their reliance on fishing the reefs with their commitment to protecting them. Readers also learn about the work of conducting coral reef surveys and more about the efforts of Project Seahorse and the impact of education and conservation efforts.

There is much here to love, from vivid underwater photographs of seahorses and other coral reef inhabitants to a nonfiction narrative that is unusually compelling. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the work of real scientists or better understand the challenges of coral reef conservation efforts. Highly recommended.

Book: Project Seahorse
Author: Pamela Turner
Scott Tuason
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: July 2010
Pages: 64 pages
Grades: 4-8
ISBN: 978-0547207131
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. I am hosting this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Do take some time to check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I'm glad your reviewed this. The last review I read about it was rather lukewarm, so I hadn't made an effort to pick it up. (Although I wasn't sure how you could go wrong with the Scientists in the Field series _and_ seahorses :-)) I'll definitely look for it now.