The Bat Scientists
By Mary Kay Carson
Photography by Tom Uhlman
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2010, $18.99)
The Bat Scientists is not exactly a biography: rather, it is a profile of five scientists – and the much misunderstood animals they study. In addition to exploring the day-to-day work of bat biologists, author Mary Kay Carson discusses bats’ habits and ecological roles, debunking many myths in the process. Tom Uhlman’s breathtaking photos of individual bats, bat colonies, and bat flight allow readers to marvel at bats alongside researchers.
Braving beetles, bad smells, and bat feces, Carson and Uhlman follow scientists into caves and under bridges. The researchers discuss how their childhood passion for nature led them to bat biology, but Carson and her subjects are more interested in discussing their present work than their career path. Through Carson, readers meet field researcher Merlin Tuttle, Barbara French, who rehabilitates orphaned and injured bats, cave biologist Jim Kennedy, Mylea Bayless, who researches bat dwellings, and ecologist Liz Braun de Torrez. Each bring a different perspective to the study of bats. Through these experts, kids learn about bat conservation efforts and the tiny mammals’ astounding abilities, including echolocation and insect control. (A single little brown bat can consume up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour.)
Near the end of the book, Carson lists some simple ways children can help individual bats and the species as a whole. By concluding on this note, she makes the book as much about bats and kids as it is about bat experts. A conservationist, she suggests implicitly, is anyone who cares enough to get involved. Let’s hope a new generation of biologists heeds her call.
Dorothy A. Dahm