For six weeks each summer, scientists in helicopters chase, dart, capture and tag polar bears on the southern Beaufort Sea near Barrow, Alaska, as part of a long-term study of their behavior.
With photographs and real-time description of two such captures, Lourie (Arctic Thaw, 2007) details the searching, tracking, tranquilizing and hands-on measuring and marking that are part of this exciting field work. Some photographs serve as page backgrounds; others are insets with extensive captions. The busy design interferes with the immediacy of the author’s account, interrupting it with sidebars and pictures of other trips. Before meeting the two scientists and pilot whose adventures lie at the center of this tangle, readers are introduced to other players: the mechanic who follows the field work in real time on his computer in Barrow and the former and current heads of the project. Between the chapters are four conversations with Dr. Steven Amstrup, former lead scientist, including two about global climate change. The book concludes with a page of polar-bear facts. Readers may give up trying to follow the narrative argument and concentrate on Lourie’s stunning pictures of this remarkable creature and its beautiful, icy world.
With more emphasis on the science work than the scientists, this entry in the usually excellent Scientists in the Field series disappoints. (glossary, suggested books and websites, sources, index). (Nonfiction. 10-14)