Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research
by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan
224 pages; ages 12-up
Chicago Review Press, 2022
Do you feed the birds in winter? Help salamanders cross the road? Safely escort spiders from your kitchen back to the great outdoors so they won’t get squashed? If so, you are an Animal Ally, just like the wildlife researchers highlighted in this book.
Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan features stories about fifteen women scientists from around the world who study animals. And since Elizabeth is a birder, it makes sense that the first women we meet work with birds. That’s okay, though, because she’s got the book divided into sections for women who study arthropods, sea creatures, amphibians and reptiles, and mammals. So if you’re a bug-lover (like me) you can dive right into your favorite section first, and read the rest later.
Having said that, I confess that I did, indeed open up to the section about arthropod researchers. Back in the last century I was the “ant lady” at a camping area on the Sonoran Desert. I studied the foraging behavior of harvester ants, so I wanted to read all about Dr. Corrie Moreau and her ant studies. Her first studies involved scattering crumbs and watching ants gather and carry them back to their nest. Now she uses DNA to learn more about the evolution of ants. Then, Elizabeth interviews the Bug Chicks – who, if you don’t know about them, you need to. They make learning about bugs fun and have scads of videos at their website. And there was a wonderful chapter about an ecologist who studies spiders in the city.
Each chapter highlights not only the wildlife science the researcher is engaged with, but also puts it into context. Sure, the bird scientists are studying birds, but their research intersects with biodiversity and conservation and, too often, the challenges of a changing climate. The scientists in this book are passionate about sharing their knowledge with others, often young people. And there’s one more thing that comes through, as we read our way from one chapter to the next: these women challenge the assumptions of who can be a scientist and what a scientist looks like.
And then there’s back matter! Elizabeth includes resources for young naturalists – apps such as Merlin and iNaturalist, tips about camera trapping, encouragement for becoming a community scientist, and how to take action on climate change. Chapter notes provide opportunities to learn more about specific points she makes throughout the book. If I rated books, I’d give it 4 wings.
I caught up with Elizabeth by email a couple weeks ago, and just had to ask her One Question:
Elizabeth: Yes, I wrote the book during the pandemic. So many scientists were unable to be out in the field doing work, I was able to interview them.
I love animals and wildlife and cared for a wide variety of pets when I was young. I love reading science biographies and I was a science educator for many years. I think those things combined inspired me to write this book. I had so much fun interviewing the scientists and I’m happy I was able to share their stories.
Elizabeth is a member of #STEAMTeam2022. You can find out more about her at her website.
Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.