Prowling the Seas: Exploring the hidden world of ocean predators, by Pamela S. Turner
Ok, I want Pam Turner's job.
And before you point out the obvious, I am aware that I have no excuse - Pam Turner obviously decided that her job was going to be tagging along with and interviewing biologists doing fieldwork. I know perfectly well that it's not like somebody called her up and said, "Hey, Pam Turner! Pack yer stuff, you're gonna go catch frogs with herpetologist (and fashion icon) Tyrone Hayes!" So, conceivably, you or I could wake up one morning, snap on our research gloves, and write a book proposal about a nineteen-year-old ornithologist who was recruited to spend six years in the Congo doing biology.
She didn't write that book. I'm thinking about writing that book.
But she wrote Prowling the Seas. She contacted the brilliant and dedicated folks at the Tagging of Pacific Predators Project (TOPP), listened and watched them and learned and read and asked questions, and produced this good little book, perfect for, say third grade and up. Four species are profiled, with strong, clear photographs (mostly provided by the researchers themselves), an outline of each animal's life cycle, maps of migration routes, and real-life episodes from the scientists' experience tracking the beasts.
We learn about white sharks, bluefin tuna, leatherback turtles, and the sooty shearwater, a predatory seabird. Interesting choice of animals, don't you think? Now the shark, of course - he's what you call charismatic megafauna: big and scary and high-profile. Ever since Jaws, you've got to contact Mr. Shark through his agent. And everybody loves a sea turtle. We were on Jekyll Island last spring when an injured sea turtle named Dylan was released back into the sea, and there must have been a thousand people on the beach to wave goodbye him. You'd have thought he was, you know, Dylan. Or at least... Dylan.
Gratifying, then, to see the tuna and the shearwater getting the same kind of attention as these more-celebrated species. The tuna, especially, is a lot more interesting than you'd have thought. And the picture of the researcher with his whole arm shoved down a shearwater burrow to retrieve a chick? Oh man, that is one dedicated biologist.
The TOPP personnel are doing a lot to extend our knowledge of these predator species, some of which, due to their pesky habits of diving deep and/or flying high over some of the most little-traveled segments of the globe, have life cycles, or at least life stages, that are considered cryptic. ("Cryptic life stage" - I spent the last twenty minutes trying to remember that phrase. How cool would it be to have a "cryptic life stage" as part of your own biography?)
This book makes it clear that by studying these animals, we can gain a more accurate picture of changing patterns in the sea, and in the air. And that's on top of learning cool things about interesting animals.