Scientists in the Wild: Galápagos

Scientists in the Wild: Galápagos
Helen Scales and Rômolo D’Hipólito
Flying Eye Books

Along with a team of seven scientists from around the world who have a variety of special interests and expertise, readers are invited aboard the research ship, Sula, the aim being to study the flora and fauna of the Galápagos Islands, especially those unique to the archipelago.

Their tasks will include counting penguins: high numbers indicate that the population is healthy, What they find on this first stop is that nearly half the penguins they see are juveniles; this is good for it means the adults are breeding well.

The next job, after measuring a tiger shark is to attach a satellite tag to the creature and then track its movements. On the same island is a cove: a good stopping point for some underwater filming of the sea lions with a focus on what fish they’re eating.
The islands are home to a large variety of iguana species, one of which is very rare and the team stop off on one to count the endangered Pink land iguanas. Much, much tinier are the microscopic phyto- and zooplankton that play a crucial part in feeding the marine life around the islands.

The richness of the subaquatic flora and fauna attracts huge animals to the Galápagos to feed including sperm whales and one of the team wants to try and discover what it is these whales are communicating to one another.

It’s impossible to mention all the team investigates in a short review but readers find out about such topics as climatic conditions, a successful breeding programme of almost extinct Espania tortoises; there are spreads about Darwin and how the islands inspired his On the Origin of Species; the underwater volcanoes and their ‘mysterious’ ecosystems; and the final spread presents on going work in the Galápagos islands.

Helen Scales, herself a marine biologist, writes in an engaging manner, holding the reader’s interest throughout. I was excited to find the spread on Blue-footed boobies having loved Rob Biddulph’s picture book that starred the bird.

Stylish, detailed illustrations by Rômolo D’Hipólito play an equal part in conveying the science and keeping readers absorbed.

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