'Shady Streams, Slippery Salamanders’ sends readers on a scientific adventure
A new children’s book, set in the mountains of western North Carolina, connects their love of rambling in the woods with the science behind a healthy ecosystem.
“Shady Streams, Slippery Salamanders,” published this summer by the Coweeta Long-Term Ecological Research Program, draws upon real research done by the program’s scientists and collaborators, including biologists from the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and Mainspring Conservation Trust.
The story follows two boys, Jonathan and Christopher, who live in the southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. These mountains, some reaching more than 6,000 feet, are among the oldest on Earth and are the origin of many rivers.
One day, while exploring near a stream, the boys discover a type of salamander they had never seen before. Eager to find out if they have a new species of amphibian, the boys soon find themselves working side-by-side with scientists to explore the connection of trees to overall stream health, including the health of fish and salamander communities.
As part of their adventure, Jonathan and Christopher learn from characters who are real-life scientists, including Bill McLarney of Mainspring Conservation Trust who has been conducting fish surveys in the upper Little Tennessee river for nearly 30 years, and Kristen Cecala, who researched salamanders as part of her doctoral degree at UGA.
“I tried my best to tie the story to the important research that has been conducted by Coweeta Long-Term Ecological Program scientists and their collaborators, especially research focused on examining the relationship of vegetated riparian buffers to stream health,” said author Jason Love, associate director of the Highlands Biological Station, part of Western Carolina University. He said the boys in the book were based on his own childhood experiences of exploring the woods and creeks.
Illustrator Joyce Mihran Turley has illustrated many children’s books depicting the unique ecosystems of our national parks. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. The 32-page book is published by Muddy Boots, an imprint of The Rowan and Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
The book was written for children in grades second through fourth, although older students can also find the scientific content useful. About 400 copies of the book will be delivered to local schools and libraries in western North Carolina, and it’s also available at Amazon.com, Target, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers.
“Shady Streams, Slippery Salamanders” was supported by the National Science Foundation through the Coweeta LTER grant, which is administered by the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia. Significant funding was also contributed by the Tennessee Valley Authority through a grant administered by Mainspring Conservation Trust.