Friday, April 19, 2024

Unexpected Discoveries!

 The Lost Forest: An Unexpected Discovery beneath the Waves
by Jennifer Swanson
56 pages; ages 9-14
‎Millbrook Press, 2024

This book takes readers on an expedition to an underwater forest. Not a forest of kelp or coral, but a forest of cypress trees. Wait! What? Yes – a forest that once grew along the southern gulf coast of the US that is now submerged in 60 or more feet of salt water.

Author Jen Swanson introduces us to the scientists and their story about finding the forest, taking core samples of the sea floor, carbon-dating, and more. Along the way she tosses in sidebars for deeper info dives and QR codes (with links provided) for videos so you can see what the scientists saw.

Here’s the thing: the ancient underwater forest is around 60,000 years old. Our world looked much different then. With so much of the planet covered in ice sheets, the ocean didn’t cover as much of the gulf coastline as it does now. These forests grew on solid ground some 30 to 60 miles farther into the gulf than the current shoreline. Makes one wonder what would happen if the remaining ice sheets melted…

The book is organized in six chapters, with one focused on the first dive, one showing what the scientists looked for – and discovered, and one detailing their attempts to map the forest. There’s a great graphic (and accompanying text) showing the steps of gene sequences. And there’s a discussion about how scientists continued their research during the pandemic.

For me, the final chapter was the most meaningful, as it asks how current ocean depth might provide insight into how climate has affected the ocean in the past. I particularly liked seeing how quickly animals can adapt to unique environments, such as when hurricanes uncovered the forest from layers of mud. The newly emerged trees created micro-ecosystems, providing places sea creatures could use for shelter. The discovery of the forest also raises questions about what might happen to the future of our current coastlines as the planed warms.

I also like the back matter, which includes hands-on activities and more things to explore.

After reading The Lost Forest, I had some questions for Jen:

Me: In your author notes you mention that you were an “adjunct” member of the team. How did that happen?

Jen: I am lucky enough to be good friends with one of the scientists on the team at Nahant Marine Science Center. Dr. Brian Helmuth was one of the experts on my Astronaut-Aquanaut book and we've stayed in touch since then. He called me one day and told me about the underwater forest project and I was sooo excited. He was like, “Hey, would you like to be a member of our team? And maybe even write a kid's book about it?”

I said, “Brian, are you giving me the exclusive on your story?” and he said, “I guess I am.”
My response was, “I'm in!”  I was invited to go on one of their research trips into the Gulf, but those were postponed due to covid. But instead, I got to participate in several of the online team meetings they had. They gave me access to all of their reports, the photos, and the videos. The entire team helped to edit the book and were with me every step of the way. They are SO great to work with! I'm very proud to tell their story.
Me: You love to visit scientists in the field and in the lab. Why is that an important part of your research?
Jen: Seeing the science in action is the best! You can't beat it. You get to watch the scientists perform experiments. You're there when they make connections with the research, and if you're very lucky you're there when they make the discoveries. For me, it's so exciting to see the scientists in their labs, out on the boats, or just be in the meetings while they are discussing what they've learned. It's like how many feel being front row at a concert or something. Yes, I'm a true science geek!

Me: I like how the book ends with considerations of climate change. Because, back in the time of heavy glaciation, the ocean was 30-60 miles away from the current shoreline. And that makes me wonder what a 1-foot sea level rise might look like 25 years from now. Your thoughts?

Jen: Well, that's a good question. And one that we probably don't want to learn the answer to. From what I've read, a 1-foot sea level rise would be devastating to many, particularly the ones that live on any of the coasts near the ocean. For me, I live about 5 miles from the ocean. That might bring the ocean literally to my doorstep as there isn't much in Florida to stop the water once it rises. The one thing I've learned from living near the coast for over 25 year is that water wins! It goes where it wants to, and it's very tough to stop. So, let's hope that this doesn't happen.

Jennifer is a member of #STEAMTeam2024. You can find out more about her at her website, She is also the creator and co-host of Solve It! for Kids podcast

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.



  1. What a thrill to see the science you write about - great story!

  2. Very interesting book, and how exciting to work directly with the scientist. Happy MMGM to you

  3. I never realized that there was an underwater forest and that it could exist in salt water. How cool!

  4. This sounds absolutely fascinating. I have requested the Sacramento Public Library to order copies, so I should be able to read it soon. Thanks for the review.

  5. This type of non-fiction book should really appeal to kids and teachers. It's great how the author is able to connect with scientists and their work, then share it with us, Thanks for review and Happy MMGM!

  6. This sounds absolutely fascinating! Also what a nice invitation to get! Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. New life goal: to be invited along on a scientific expedition and write a kids book about it!

  8. This sounds like an amazing book. I'm also from Florida-- definitely going to keep her in mind and see if I can interest our school in a visit from her. :)