America's National Parks were created to preserve wilderness and wildlife. To succeed in this mission, they have also become places of scientific inquiry, much of it being conducted by park scientists. Author Mary Kay Carson and photographer Tom Uhlman travelled to three of the country's national parks to meet "Scientists in the Field" and learn about their import work. They report in Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America's Own Backyard.
Their first reports focus on Yellowstone National Park, which stretches across a might volcanic caldera in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Carson and Uhlman followed geologists who monitor the ever-changing eruptions of geysers on the western side of the park. Then they joined biologists who study the park's population of grizzly bears.
Saguaro National Park in Arizona was their second stop. Here they worked along side the scientists who study large lizards called Gila monsters before joining scientists and local students conducting a census of the park's saguaro, who may live up to 200 years.
Then they crossed the country to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles Tennessee and North Carolina. After spending days with biologist Amy Luxbacher finding endangered salamanders in the park, they turned their attention to night-time research of Photinus carolinus, a rare type of firefly that blinks in sync with others of its kind, putting on amazing light shows.
Being a big kid who has been to two of the parks, I enjoyed learning more about the parks, the wildlife, and the people who work there. If I were a kid, I might be inspired to become a nature scientist. In any case, I would understand and learn to care about the conservation of the great places.
Carson, Mary Kay. Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America's Own Backyard. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 76p. ISBN 9780547792682.