Scientists from different disciplines, career stages, and parts of the world work toward saving the Tasmanian devil, an Australian carnivore threatened with extinction due to the devil facial tumor disease.
When Patent began working on her investigation of the story of this rapidly advancing, apparently communicable cancer, scientists feared it was soon going to wipe out the species except in captivity. But progress in several fields, the work of both caretakers of captive populations and those who reintroduce some to the wild, and the adaptations and evolution of the animals themselves give hope for a different outcome. The author’s long experience writing for young readers is evident. She organizes this complex account in ways that make it clear and provides background that middle school readers will need: introducing this secretive and often maligned mammal; explaining the disease and its effects on the animals’ genes; describing rescue efforts in the field; and showing lab work toward developing an effective vaccine. She interviews and accompanies four featured white scientists, male and female, as well as others involved in this work, and ends each chapter with a short summary note headed “What I learned.” Photographs show the Tasmanian landscape, other wildlife, researchers at work, spacious areas for captive devils, and the animals themselves, which are dog-sized, furry, and reasonably appealing when their mouths are closed and their threatening teeth are hidden.
A message of hope from Scientists in the Field.(acknowledgments, glossary, further information, sources, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15)