The Turtle Sitters Are Still Sitting

by Jennifer Keats Curtis

Some years ago, my daughter’s 3rd grade classroom shared space with two tiny turtles in tanks. These diamondback terrapin hatchlings were part of an authentic research project with an Ohio University professor and the Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) Environmental Literacy & Outdoor Education Program in Maryland. Baby turtles are placed with teachers in classrooms for the school year to get a ‘headstart,’ meaning they will grow throughout the winter to help increase their survivorship, explains Melanie Parker, Coordinator of Environmental Literacy and Outdoor Education. In May, some students and teachers help release those headstarted turtles on Poplar Island, a restored island in the Chesapeake Bay. My admiration for this extraordinary program, and the dedicated teachers, kids, and scientists involved, became the basis of Turtles In My Sandbox. This realistic fiction follows Maggie and her mom who raise and release terrapin hatchlings very much like the teachers and kids of Maryland’s terrapin headstart program.

In keeping with my current theme that science doesn’t end just because a book has been published, I was invited to the latest teacher terrapin orientation, (Ok, I invited myself; but they still let me in.) I wanted to know how the program had progressed and what had changed since the book was published.

Despite cold and rain, 86 teachers cheerfully bounded into a conference room at AACPS’s Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center. “At the teacher in-service, for our returning teachers, all anybody cares about is seeing if their turtle has been recaptured, it’s a highlight of the evening!” laughs Melanie, “They come to hear that and to pick up their babies.”

As the first in-person in-service since the pandemic, Melanie, and Teacher Specialist Amy Greif, were most excited about seeing the babies head out to their new homes, but also thrilled that 21 new teachers had signed up to adopt a terrapin.

The now named TERP (Terrapin Education Research Partnership), is a standalone program, based on teacher interest. Every teacher can’t have a turtle because there are not enough turtles and not enough permits. “Plus,” says Melanie, “the commitment is not small.” Teachers sign an agreement to “ensure their care and follow the protocols of the research project,” explains Amy, “Data on terrapins are collected by the students each month and input into a database for use by the researchers. It brings authentic research to the classroom. Students are active participants in gathering data – ‘real’ research – connecting them to the turtles and environment around them.”

This unique research program and cohorts include Dr. Willem Roosenburg of Ohio University, the lead researcher, and partners: The Maryland Port Authority, Maryland Environmental Services, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and a veterinarian from Greater Annapolis Medical Hospital. Further, as part of this collaborative partnership, the National Aquarium, Calvert County Public School and Prince George’s County Public School educators also raise terrapins as part of the collaboration with Dr. Roosenburg. The National Aquarium is the only partner that can offer the experience to schools across the state. They have changed their application process, though. Because the demand is so high, teachers can get turtles for two years and then they must go to the bottom of the list to give other educators a chance to participate.

During the pandemic, when schools shut down in March, Amy worked with the DNR so that teachers could bring all 84 turtles to Arlington Echo, where they could be vetted, tagged, and safely released in early April. (All turtles are tagged via a passive integrative tag (PIT), much like the microchip injected into cats and dogs, to allow for individual identification and tracking.) In 2021, teachers could not house terps in their classrooms. Instead, a virtual link for two hatchlings in a tank was live streamed on camera. (This tradition will continue for those who do not have turtles at their schools.)

Media specialist Sarah Bigelow is in her 9th year of the program. “We’re a turtle loving family,” she says, “I love it even though it can be a lot of work, cleaning the tank, measuring out food each day, and taking it home over breaks in case of power outages in the school building. It’s all worth it when you see that speckled little face peering at you through the glass.”

Sarah’s first terps, she proudly remembers, were Cruiser (named for the Baltimore Orioles player Nelson Cruz) and Peanut, because he was so tiny. By late winter, the students and I noticed Cruiser was growing but Peanut was not. As part of the data collected, the students measure and record the length and width of the turtles.

As it turned out, Cruiser was aggressively biting Peanut over food. Sarah had to place a screen in the tank to divide the two and suddenly “Peanut started eating and growing.” That rivalry is one of the main reasons teachers are now limited to one turtle per school. “When there were two in a tank, they nipped and bit each other and several ended up in our hospital tank,” explains Melanie.

Sidebar: Naming the turtle babies is a BIG deal. While teachers have their own criteria, at Jones Elementary, Sarah asks her students to observe for a week, noting physical and character traits. Traits of the turtle dictate the name. After a week, students place confidential suggestions in a terp decorated box. During “turtle time,” the dedicated time for turtle-related lessons, Sarah pulls out all the names to find the top three. Students vote with a show of hands.  (And, no picking your friend’s choice, she reminds them, pick the name you want.)

While kids and adults clearly love this program, the goal is specific and important—Is terrapin headstarting beneficial? Dr. Roosenburg and his graduate students are specifically researching the headstarted vs wild terrapins to determine if this conservation strategy is viable.

Dr. Roosenburg’s work, which all takes place on Poplar Island—terrapin monitoring, nest surveying and catch and release—can only be described as laborious.

From May through July, Dr. Roosenburg and his team search for nests (289 were found in 2022). In the sandy nest, the team first checks the color of the eggs. If they are pink, they’ve been laid within 24 hours. They are carefully counted and gently placed back in the nest. (In Turtles In My Sandbox, Maggie finds pink eggs, clearly, they were laid not long before she found them!) A screen may be placed on top of the eggs to keep away hungry crows.  If the eggs are white and chalky, that nest is older than 24 hours and is marked and flagged. The scientists won’t dig because of the danger of damaging the membrane and harming the terrapin.

While I knew mother terrapins laid about 13 eggs, what was new to me was that they can lay three clutches 15 days apart and it might only take her 20 minutes. Peak laying time is 10 am-2pm, the time of day that best warms body temperature.

During those hot summer days, Dr. Roosenburg and his students use fyke nets and turtle traps to catch turtles and determine if they are part of the headstarted turtles, control group or wild population.

Now in its 19th year, Dr. Roosenburg’s research shows that this conservation strategy for terrapins is working. The headstarted terps grow faster than wild terps and headstarted terps can lay eggs up to two years earlier.

As of April of this year, 3,001 terrapins have been released on Poplar Island and many teachers have proudly seen their recaptures. Dr. Roosenburg’s Facebook page is dedicated to providing information about the program and specifically naming those turtles who have been recaptured and which teacher raised them, https://www.facebook.com/roosenburglab/. (I’m not naming names here, folks, except for elementary school teacher Mary Ann Perret, one of the longest turtle stewards in the program and whose name frequently comes up with those recaptured turtles.) 

To me, one of the most special aspects of the headstart program is that kids have the opportunity to learn, hands on, what it’s like to temporarily care for a wild animal, to nurture it and help it grow for a time and then release it back into the wild.

Teacher Sarah Bigelow put it best: While the terrapin becomes part of our classroom, we keep our minds on the fact that we are not keeping this turtle. We don’t talk to it or take it out of the tank and play with her. Would you want to live your whole life in a tank? We are helping this turtle live the life she is supposed to live.  That said, she smiled and added one small qualifier: Look, I’m the turtle’s foster mom for the year so it’s even hard for me to see them released. (We won’t tell the kids she said that.)

For more information and to buy Turtles In My Sandbox, https://www.arbordalepublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=Sandbox 

To review Dr. Roosenburg’s work, https://www.facebook.com/roosenburglab/

To request a school visit, contact JKC at jenniferkcurtis@verizon.net or send a message through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Green-Author-Jennifer-Keats-Curtis-JKC-247737274654/) or Twitter (@JenniferKCurtis).

Baby terrapins awaiting adoption after teacher in-service at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center. Baby terrapin in Jones Elementary School’s media center. (Name not yet selected!) Baby terrapin to be transported to Jones Elementary School. (L-R. Teachers Meredith Simpkins of Ruth Parker Eason School and Sarah Bigelow of Jones Elementary School with their new “babies.”

Squirrels and Possums and Owlets, Oh My!

An update about Kathy Woods of Baby Owl’s Rescue and featured in Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators

by Jennifer Keats Curtis

When I was a young girl, my brother and I were those kids who found wild animals in need—a tiny bunny bitten by a cat, a cute chipmunk with a hurt leg, and all those baby birds that had fallen out of their nests. We did our best to help, but we were little kids with no real knowledge; and, the only animal experts we knew were the veterinarians who took care of our dogs. My little brother went on to become a vet and I became a writer. Even as an adult, I still kept finding those sick and injured critters and I still didn’t know who to call so that they could get better.

As fate would have it, I finally found Kathy Woods, a master wildlife rehabilitator, who founded the Phoenix Wildlife Center (in Phoenix, MD) in 1992. In absolute awe of this women’s seemingly magical powers—she heals baby squirrels and finds new parents for baby ospreys; she saves those baby birds on the ground; she cares for baby bunnies, raccoons, and a whole host of other mammals, reptiles, and birds until they are big enough to care for themselves—I knew I had to write about her.

Our first collaboration was a story for Maryland Life Magazine, where we nicknamed her Kathy (of the) Woods. (Clever, we know.) So that I could learn as much as possible, Kathy kindly let me ask millions of questions, observe (quietly), and even help under her careful supervision. (Those cages do not clean themselves!)

Luckily for us all, Kathy is as good with people as she is with animals. She has a wonderful way of teaching without preaching. She knows the best ways to care for wild animals and she knows teaching the right way is as important to people as it is to those animals. After careful deliberation on both of our parts, we decided that my talent was not as a wildlife rehabilitator (although I definitely received gold stars for my cage cleaning) but as a storyteller. With that thought, we chose an animal with quite the backstory as our first book—Baby Owl’s Rescue. The realistic fiction follows siblings who find a baby owl on the ground and want to help that owlet in the right way. Fortunately for this brother-sister duo, their mom is a wildlife rehabilitator (just like Kathy) who gets her children to rescue the baby properly (if with quite the dramatic flourish).

Baby Owl’s Rescue was published in 2009 and that book, and its success, only got us more excited to write more for children who want to do the right thing when they save wild animals. In another of my books, the nonfiction Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators, Kathy is one of four rehabilitators whose photos help young readers understand how wild animals might need help at a rehabilitation center and what happens to them under a wildlife expert’s care. While those two might be the only two books where Kathy “appears,” we have continued to collaborate, and I regularly seek her advice as I write my other books. When possible, Kathy even joins me during school visits so that students have the chance to interview a real expert about a subject so near and dear to their hearts.

While I’m plowing away at my desk and happily hunkering down with elementary school kids, Kathy continues to tirelessly care for more and more animals each year. Her all-volunteer staff has grown to 12 and she and her team continue to make an enormous difference in the community they serve. Since 2000, Kathy has worked out of her home in the basement clinic she and her husband Hugh built. In 2019, after nearly a decade of negotiations, many donations, and massive renovations, the new Phoenix Wildlife Center finally opened its doors on a property located on Gunpowder Falls State Park property. She and her staff continue to successfully rehabilitate upwards of 2,800 animals a year, from eagles to bats to groundhogs.

Phoenix Wildlife Center has also partnered with the nonprofit Baltimore Bird Club’s Lights Out Baltimore. She is among experts who advocate, explain, and teach the ways to keep migratory birds safe by turning out lights during peak migration and what people should do if they find a bird who has struck a window. In fact, Kathy is so determined to help these migrators that her facility has become one of only two in the country to tag and band these birds so that experts know what happens to them after they’ve recovered from a window strike and been released. There will be more on this incredible partnership in another blog! In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about the Phoenix Wildlife Center, please click here: https://www.phoenixwildlife.org/, then view 8th grader Graham Preston’s extraordinary video about the center’s work, https://bit.ly/3LWCC3e.

If you’d like to purchase Baby Owl’s Rescue and Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators, please click here. Royalties benefit the center.

Beary good news from Mark Boersen, the Michigan biologist featured in Baby Bear’s Adoption

In 2018, Arbordale published the fascinating realistic fiction, Baby Bear’s Adoption. The beautifully illustrated book explains a remarkable adoption program that takes place in Michigan. (To be clear, it is, of course, about scientists helping mama bears adopt baby bears not people adopting bears!)

The book is based on the work of real-life wildlife biologist, Mark Boersen, and his team, at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who safely place orphaned baby black bears with an adoptive family. As the narrative details, this is a multi-step process beginning with the very unusual process of placing an electronic collar on a large, denned mother bear in wintertime.  (Check out the bright collar on the big sleeping bear on the cover for a visual!)

Fortunately for the bears, Boersen and his team will continue to help cubs in need. In fact, Boersen has had quite the busy summer, placing an orphaned baby with a sow (mother bear) and her two cubs and tracking down another sow who had slipped out of her collar. 

This season, Boersen has added new tech to his bear toolbox—drones and drones with thermal camera. The flying equipment will save him and his team a tremendous number of hours walking the dense, snowy woods, seeking the bears’ locations. Once the leaves fall off the trees, he says, we can use the drones to look for curled up, warm bears, note their GPS coordinates and get to them much more quickly.

Want to learn more? You can read the multilingual digital version of this book for free all September in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, French and Thai!

How are humans helping animals in need? National Wildlife Day

National Wildlife Day on September 4 brings an awareness of the plight of animals around the globe, whether in your own backyard or one you might see in a zoo or aquarium. Animals may need help for a variety of reasons, some of which are caused by humans and others not.

  • Development causes habitat loss and/or fragmentation.
  • Pollution may not only affect what animals eat and drink but some trash can trap animals and injur or kill them.
  • Injuries by car or other human-caused injuries (which may result in animal orphans)
  • Changing climate
  • Natural disasters
  • Some animals may just not survive their “childhood.” In some cases, the animals give birth to multiple young as the offspring may not be expected to survive. In other cases, it may be something like a bird falling out of a tree in your backyard.

Some of these issues may not just case an animal or two to be affected but entire animal species may be affected, or to become threatened, endangered, or even critically endangered. We certainly don’t want them to become extinct!

From fledgling birds falling from a tree, to breeding programs for endangered animals, there are “animal helpers” all around.

  • You might have a wildlife rehabilitator living near you! They are your “go-to people” for helping injured or orphaned animals you may find. They are trained and licensed to care for specific kinds of animals. The goal is to get these wild animals cared for and then released back into their natural environment. Sadly, not all animals can be released and they will then often be found at zoos, aquariums, and nature centers where they are cared for and protected so people can learn about them. You can learn more about these animal helpers by reading Baby Owl’s Rescue, Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators and Animal Helpers: Raptor Centers.
  • Some animal helpers are very specialized like the folks at Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research who rush to oil spills to clean oil from the animals. You can read all about how they do that in River Rescue.
  • Then there are sanctuaries that take exotic pets (like big cats, bears, or even pigs) when the owners realize the animals aren’t safe to keep. These Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries may be affiliated with zoos or other non-profit organizations.
  • Some injured wildlife go to “animal hospitals” often affiliated with zoos, aquariums, or other non-profit organizations. The SC Aquarium has a sea turtle hospital that cares for a wide variety of sea turtles (Carolina’s Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too!) and places like The Marine Mammal Center specialize in sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals like Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal or Astro: The Steller Sea Lion. As explained in the book, Astro refused to return to the wild and now has his “forever home” at the Mystic Aquarium where you can visit him.
  • Orphaned animals may also need help. Firefighters at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska saved The Lucky Litter wolf pups when a wildfire killed their mother. The pups found their forever home at the Minnesota Zoo. Kali (Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear) travelled by snow mobile and then by plane to the Alaska Zoo, onto the Buffalo Zoo and again to his forever home at the Saint Louis Zoo. Go see him! One of the most fascinating animal adoption stories is featured in Baby Bear’s Adoption where biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources trick a mother bear into adopting an orphaned cub! It’s nice to know that the little cub stayed wild. You can read this book in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, French, and Thai this September at Arbordale’s Free eBook of the Month.
  • As mentioned in a previous blog, zoos and aquariums around the world are not just fun places to see animals but are very involved in conservation issues. Many Animal Helpers: Zoos and Animal Helpers: Aquariums participate in breeding programs to help endangered animals avoid extinction. Some of these programs have been highly successful in releasing the offspring into the wild. They educate visitors about animals and any conservation issues that may be affecting the animals and, in some cases, also support conservation projects for those animals in their native homelands. They are stewards of the animals in their care and take great pains to ensure the animals are kept healthy in mind and body. The animals are “enriched” through a variety of ways that you can read about in Primate School. When it is not in an animal’s best interest to remain at a location for some reason, the animal is moved to a better location. For example, elephants are very social animals and need herd mates. When Maggie Alaska’s Last Elephant was left alone after her herd-mate died, the Alaska Zoo sent her to the PAWS elephant sanctuary in California where she was happily accepted into a large herd.
  • Similar to or as part of breeding programs, head-starting programs raise some wildlife young until they are better prepared to live on their own in the wild. These animals are carefully raised to not interact with humans so they have a better chance at survival in the wild. While they may be fed, the feeding is done in such a way that they still have to find their own food. After a While Crocodile: Alexa’s Dairy shares how young Costa Rican students head start American crocodiles at their school and Turtles in my Sandbox features a young girl head starting diamondback terrapins.
  • Then there are volunteers that walk beaches every morning to look for sea-turtle nests during nesting season. They mark the nests so people don’t walk on them and, if the nest is below the high-tide line, they move the eggs to protect them. They watch the nests carefully and try to be there when the hatchlings make their big crawl to the ocean, keeping people and animals from disturbing them. You can read about that in Turtle Summer: A Journal for my Daughter.
  • Sometimes the animal helpers are locations giving endangered animals safe places to live. For example, critically endangered Florida panthers (Felina’s New Home) find safe places to live in the Everglades National Park and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Biologists study animals to learn as much as possible. This knowledge helps them (and us) better understand the animals and their needs so that we can all better protect them. Read how The Lizard Lady and the Pooper Snooper (and his scientist trainer) learn about, study, and care for critically endangered animals. A young girl and her biologist father explore the life cycle of salamanders and vernal ponds in Salamander Season. After studying and watching a few salamanders grow, they release them back to the wild.
  • Biologists aren’t the only ones who can study and learn about animals. There are several citizen science projects with which children and their families can participate! check out Bat Count and Moonlight Crab Count (horseshoe crabs). You can explore ways to participate in similar projects near you at SciStarter or CitizenScience.gov.

What are some other ways humans help care for wildlife? Feel free to share your story of how you help animals!

Year of the Toads?

By Jennifer Keats Curtis

Even after a book is published, the wondering does not stop.

A few years ago, my friend, J. Adam Frederick, and I wrote the book Salamander Season after he dragged me to a vernal pool to show me the light. Who knew amphibians could be so cool? Luckily for me, Adam is an environmental biologist and the Maryland Sea Grant, Assistant Director for Education at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore, Maryland. Not only is he happy to answer my questions, he always encourages them.

That is how I knew I could ask him about all the toads that I’ve seen around my house lately. So, I plucked him out of my favorites and called him. (Our ongoing joke is that nobody asks more questions than me. Still, he picked up.) I’ve been in the same house for six years and I’ve seen toads, skinks, and even a couple of treefrogs. But this year, there have been way more toads than I’ve ever seen. During our research of Salamander Season, I remembered Adam mentioning the sensitivity of amphibians to the environment so I called to tell him I’d been wondering if this could be a good sign.

Fortunately, the answer is yes. Adam says amphibians are excellent indicators of what is happening in our environment and as we squeeze their space with development and the use of chemicals that impact water quality, their decline continues. (Plus, it’s been warm and rainy, which the toads also like.)

“I wonder” is often embedded in school lessons to recognize students’ connections and to encourage curiosity. Looks like you don’t have to be a school kid to appreciate the technique, especially if you have a scientist on speed dial.

If you are looking for amphibian-related curriculum or more information, here are a few links. If you know of others, please share in the comments below to help other educators, thanks.

National Science Teacher Association for grades K-4: Amphibian Curriculum

Want to read more? Check out this article about Carroll County (MD) students raising salamanders: https://www.mdsg.umd.edu/onthebay-blog/host-most-raising-marylands-spotted-salamander-larvae-students-study-unique-example

Eastern American Toad on JKC’s deck…one of many this summer.

How would YOU weigh an elephant?

Zoo animal curators and veterinarians constantly monitor animals to ensure they stay healthy in mind and body. Just as humans have regular health physicals, so do animals. I suspect we can all relate that one of the first (dreadful) things we do during a health screening is to step onto a scale. So how do zoos weigh large animals like elephants?

Thanks to George Richey and the Birmingham Zoo for these photos showing how they weigh elephants today. In the photo collage, you can see the elephant coming into a small area where it will end up standing on a large (very large) scale.

Typically, zookeepers will train the animals to step forward or to go places and stand where the keepers and veterinarians can give physical exams or quick lookovers. Just like many of us train dogs with treats, the zoo animals might get treats during training too. I suspect that this elephant received treats (maybe peanuts?) to help guide it to and from the scale.

Back around the year 200 in Ancient China, there was a need to weigh an elephant. They did not have huge fancy scales like today’s zoos do, so how did they weigh it? Interestingly, it was a six-year-old boy named Cao Chong who figured it out. This was the first documented case of someone using Archimedes’ principle!

Would you have thought of it? Read the book to learn how Cao Chong did it. Winner of NSTA Best Stem Book, NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People and a Mathical Honor Book. The book is available in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese print at your library or wherever you normally purchase your books. The multilingual digital book (powered by Fathom Reads) with native narration includes those three languages plus Arabic, Indonesian, Thai, and Japanese (Japanese audio coming soon).

weighing elephants

Pooper Snooper Author and Pup Jasper Featured on Freakonomics New Podcast, Off Leash

Pooper Snooper Author and Pup Jasper Featured on Freakonomics New Podcast, Off Leash

This summer, Alexandra Horowitz launched Off Leash, a new podcast from the Freakonomics Radio Network. The bestselling author (Inside of a Dog; The Year of the Puppy) invites “an interesting person and their dog to join” her on a walk. And that is how Arbordale author Julianne Ubigau (Pooper Snooper), and her detection dog Jasper, found themselves in the very first episode of Off Leash, aptly titled Smell.

As seems typical these days with our knowledgeable and fun-loving Julianne, the pair “somehow ended up at a dumpster in a parking lot.” The first words out of the mouth of this education and outreach coordinator of Conservation Canines, University of Washington Center for Environmental and Forensic Science are: Our freezer is just a beautiful library of scat from studies going back 20 years now.

To learn more about what this esteemed author talked to Horowitz about, check out this URL: https://freakonomics.com/podcast-tag/julianne-ubigau/.  

Jasper and Julie

The science and scientists don’t stop after a book is published!

In 2018, The Lizard Lady launched.

The beautifully illustrated nonfiction follows the real Lizard Lady, herpetologist Nicole Angeli, as she chops through rough Caribbean terrain to find and save a critically endangered ground lizard on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix. The slithery little St. Croix ground lizards nearly became extinct after a cute but invasive mammal was brought in to eat the rats that were eating farmers’ crops. (Spoiler alert: The Lizard Lady and her team find a way to save these reptiles from extinction!)

The Lizard Lady, now officially Dr. Angeli, was finishing her doctorate (Ph.D.) as she and author Jennifer Keats Curtis (JKC) worked on the book. Today, Dr. Angeli is the Director of Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources. And (drumroll please), she has BIG news to share about the St. Croix ground lizards. Hear more about it as Dr. Angeli and JKC (who clearly have become fast friends) discuss the Lizard Lady’s latest on their last Zoom call video.

To learn more about The Lizard Lady, click here. The book is available in English and Spanish (La Dama de las Siguanas) wherever you normally buy your books or through Arbordale, Amazon, or an independent bookstore near you.

Where’s the Pooper Snooper this summer?

by Jennifer Keats Curtis

School may be out for the summer but working dogs are still, well working. This week, I had a chance to learn what was occupying the time of one of my favorite human-dog duos, Julianne Ubigau and her dog Jasper. Julianne, the education and outreach coordinator of Conservation Canines, University of Washington Center for Environmental and Forensic Science, and I are the authors of Pooper Snooper. This gloriously illustrated (by Phyllis Saroff) nonfiction details how Julianne and her dog detective work together to help scientists investigate and track endangered animals. (Yes, the title gives it away: The snoopers’ clue? Poop.)

 In addition to teaching her dogs to sniff for the scat of endangered animals, Julianne and her canine helpers are also working with scientists and environmentalists to seek out invasive plants and animals, such as garlic mustard plants and bullfrogs. In her spare time (which she could not possibly have), Julianne is talking with students, interested groups and podcasters to explain how the incredibly useful snufflers of rescued dogs can be. This month, Phil Hatterman, host and producer of Dog Words Presented by Rosie Fund, interviewed Julie to get at the heart (or at least the nose) of the matter. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/dog-words/id1496693461?i=1000568974499.

Photos courtesy of Julianne Ubigau: Sampson, Julianne’s current pooper snooper, readies himself to sniff out bullfrogs.

Shark Awareness Day July 14

Sharks… just the word may evoke fear in some. The reality is that one is more likely to be hit by lightning than be attacked by a shark.  

There are over 500 species of sharks that play important roles in the balance needed for healthy oceans. Some sharks are at the top of the ocean food web keeping marine populations healthy. Other sharks keep the ocean clean by eating animal remains (detritus).

You may find shark teeth at the beach. Sharks loose up to 30,000 teeth over their lifetime and replace them very quickly.

You’ll never find shark bones. Shark and ray skeletons are not made of bones like we have. Their skeletons are made with cartilage, like we have in our ears and noses!

Learn more about sharks and rays by reading some great books today. Look for these and other shark books at your library or online at www.arbordalepublishing.com.

And when you are finished reading, here are some great activities from members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help young children learn more.