Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem
Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem
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Annotation: Marine biologist Brent Hughes discovered a surprising connection between sea otters and sea grass at an estuary in northern California. Follow science in action as Hughes conducts the research that led to this major discovery.
Genre: Biology
Catalog Number: #129326
Format: Library Binding
No other formats available
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 56 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-512-42631-8
ISBN 13: 978-1-512-42631-1
Dewey: 599.769
LCCN: 2016020573
Dimensions: 24 x 28 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Though the cover of promises photographs of adorable, fluffy-faced otters, this volume packs a substantial amount of scientific detail as well. The main narrative follows marine biologist Brent Hughes and his study of Elkhorn Slough, which grew healthy seagrass while other inlets in similar conditions suffered. Eventually, careful research revealed that it was the presence of sea otters, the local apex predator, that allowed the slough to flourish. In four chapters, Newman details Hughes' research processes and examines the workings of ecosystems in general and how its inhabitants affect it at every level. Illustrations include not only those irresistible otter photos but also scientific diagrams and photographs of Hughes' experiments. A final chapter on conservation explains the often-damaging effect humans can have on ecosystems, while back matter includes relevant experiments, extensive secondary resources, and ways in which young people can help the environment on a daily basis. Not just an exploration of one particular discovery in marine biology, this is a comprehensive explanation of the scientific process as well.
Horn Book
What kept the seagrass in California's Elkhorn Slough so healthy, despite fertilizer runoff from nearby farms? When marine biologist Brent Hughes investigated this question, he learned the vital role sea otters play in the slough ecosystem. The book's wide, picture-book trim size accommodates the many photos and diagrams that supplement the fairly advanced, fascinating scientific information in the text. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
School Library Journal
Gr 4&11;7&12; With their big eyes; soft, furry faces; and playful behavior, sea otters are a favorite marine mammal among kids and teens. Protective measures have stabilized sea otter numbers after the mammals once came close to extinction. Only recently, through the work of marine biologist Brent Hughes, has their role in maintaining ecosystems come to light. The Elkhorn Slough, an inlet of Monterey Bay in Northern California, is a nutrient-polluted estuary fed by the fertilizers and pesticides used in nearby farming. This work chronicles the mystery of why this ecosystem is far healthier than scientists would expect. Using the tools of scientific research, Hughes has discovered that sea otters, the top predators in the food chain, help keep the sea grass algae-free through their feeding habits, which in turn allows the growth of a fish population and preserves a natural barrier to storms. The step-by-step process of ascertaining that the sea otter was responsible for the thriving ecosystem provides a strong example of the value and excitement of primary research. Clear, full-color photographs show how Hughes confirmed his theory. However, this title resembles a picture book, which may deter older readers. VERDICT A very informative selection for environmental studies.&12; Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly at Trinity-Pawling School, Pawling, NY
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
A young scientist's doctoral research reveals a surprising relationship between sea grasses and sea otters in a California bay.Valuable sea grasses in Elkhorn Slough, in Northern California, were thriving in spite of heavy nutrient pollution from nearby Salinas Valley farms. When Brent Hughes began his investigation of this mystery, he looked at things directly affecting sea-grass growth, such as weather patterns. It wasn't until he compared sea grass cover with otter population that he found a match. In discussions with other researchers, the young white biologist learned that otters like to eat big, meaty crabs, which feed on sea hares, a type of sea slug that in turn feeds on algae growth that smothers the grasses. Following usual procedures, he then designed experiments to prove his hypothesis that the thriving otter population made the sea grass flourish. This intriguing description of the problem he saw and his research process is a model of the scientific method. Interspersed with chapters describing the mystery, the development of the hypothesis, the proof, and the larger idea of "trophic cascades" (interactions among predators and prey that begin at the top of the food chain) are sections about otters and about sea-grass science in general. A map, ample photographs, and an attractive design add appeal, and there are sensible suggestions for environmental protection. A thoughtfully organized and attractively presented example of science in the field. (source notes, glossary, bibliography, suggested resources, index). (Nonfiction. 11-16)
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references (pages 52-54) and index.
Word Count: 7,906
Reading Level: 6.9
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 6.9 / points: 1.0 / quiz: 187289 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:8.5 / points:5.0 / quiz:Q70116
Lexile: 1060L
Guided Reading Level: Y
Fountas & Pinnell: Y

A Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book A Green Earth Book Award Winner This up-close look at a fascinating scientific discovery highlights the critical role predators such as sea otters play in keeping ecosystems healthy. In Elkhorn Slough, an inlet on the California coast, seagrass grows healthy and strong in the shallow water. This healthy seagrass baffled marine biologist Brent Hughes. The scientist expected this estuary to be overrun with algae, causing the seagrass to die. Why was the seagrass thriving? As Brent investigated, signs pointed to an unexpected player helping to keep the seagrass healthy: sea otters! What do these top predators have to do with an aquatic grass at the opposite end of the food chain? Brent's amazing discovery gave scientists insight into the delicate balance of ecosystems. Follow science in action as Brent conducts the research that led to this major discovery.

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