Some of my fondest childhood memories are camping with my family. My dad was from Idaho, and worked in the summers in college for the forestry service. He instilled in me my love of the outdoors and respect for the land. We visited numerous national parks over the years, Yellowstone, located primarily in Wyoming, being my favorite. Where else can you find geysers, bears, wolves, moose, elk, and more? I have a dear memory of my young daughter attempting to get a photo of a mama and baby moose there. Thus, I was quite excited to find Park Scientists!
I like that the author, Mary Kay Carson, describes the parks as “natural laboratories and living museums.” Not only does the author describe the unique features of Yellowstone, but she also explains the research the scientists are doing in the park. It is like shadowing two researchers, Hank and Cheryl, as they make observations and collect data. Their goal is to not only keep visitors safe, but also to monitor the Yellowstone hydrothermal system.
Next we learn about grizzly bears in Yellowstone. I did not realize they were considered a threatened species that has become stable. Researchers collar the bears with a GPS device to reveal their range and particular locations. Closing dumps to end confrontations between bears and tourists has assisted in returning their populations to normal levels. Also monitored is the food supply and habitat of the bears. Understanding what the bears eat aids in planning future meals for the bears.
New vocabulary is presented along with stunning photographs, charts, maps and tables to give the reader a complete picture of the park being studied. Some biographical background on the researchers is also provided to give the student more information about why this career was chosen. I especially like the “Find out More” links in each chapter.
Two more parks with very different habitats are presented. One is the Saguaro National Park in Arizona, and explains their Gila monster research, and why counting cacti is important. The other one is Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, and discusses both salamanders and lightening bugs! While planning your summer destinations, all of these parks are worthy of consideration!
Study of these parks ties in with the Next Generation Science Standards, especially the Middle School level ones dealing with ecosystems. Some middle school science text books even have a unit on national parks (IQWST) I have found a variety of opinions as to what grade levels match this book. One source indicated grades 4—8, and I concur!
MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.