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Nora and Hugh

Ecosystems Center Director Hugh Ducklow reads Sea Secrets:Tiny Clues to a Big Mystery to Nora Moran, daughter of Visiting Scientist Xelu Moran.

Children's Book Inspired by Antarctic and Coastal Research

Not many of us can say our work inspires children's books, but Ecosystems Center Director Hugh Ducklow's research in Antarctica was one of the inspirations for Sea Secrets: Tiny Clues to a Big Mystery.

Dr. Ducklow's Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, the Palmer Station, Antarctica, LTER, along with the California Current Ecosystem LTER at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, whose lead principal investigator is Mark Ohman, are featured in the book.

Sea Secrets, written by Beth Simmons, outreach coordinator for the Palmer, Antarctic, LTER site, and children’s author Mary Cerullo, tells the story of how climate change and its effect on one species, krill, has impacted the number of whales in the Southern Ocean, caused the penguins in the western Antarctic peninsula to move their colonies further south, and caused the seabirds, Cassin’s Auklets, to leave the Farallon Islands near California.

Dr. Ducklow, who as lead principal investigator of the Palmer Station, Antarctica, LTER was a consultant on the project, said, “We wanted to tap into children’s innate curiosity and to have them think as scientists.”

The book uses illustrations by artist Kirsten Carlson and photos to reveal clues that help children learn about basic ecological concepts and changes in ecosystems. At a recent story hour with first grade students at Fredericksburg Elementary School in Stafford, Virginia, teachers commented that “the combination of real photographs along with the illustrations held the children’s attention.”

Co-author Simmons, a former science educator at Riverview School in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and past research associate at the Nantucket Island Marine Laboratory, said, “The book is a vehicle to encourage discussions on more complex topics infusing excitement into reading and learning science.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and endorsed as a product of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008, Sea Secrets is a part of the Polar Books Club, (www.unep.org/publications/polarbooks) and, according to Ms. Simmons, “underscores Palmer Station LTER’s dedication to the process of promoting science literacy.”

Other additional financial support from the LTER’s Children’s Book Fund and NSF has allowed for the development of an activity guide. The guide is a growing collection of resources, case studies, fact sheets, experiments, and activities widening the book’s appeal to K – 12 grade levels, parents and families, and supporting the effort to take learning, “beyond the book.” For more information, see the book’s website. Over time, children’s art, additional photographs from each LTER site, recommended reading lists, downloadable lessons and other resources will be added to the site.

Sea Secrets: Tiny Clues to a Big Mystery is available at the MBL gift shop in Woods Hole or Moonlight Publishing.