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!

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.

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.