by Karen Romano Young
Occasionally sea turtles get into trouble. Even in the nest they’re at risk: ants can dig through their shells and eat what’s inside, wild animals — or dogs — or people — might dig up their eggs for food. Once hatched, chances are low of reaching the ocean, thanks to confusion from lights or predation by gulls or crabs. And so much can happen at sea: entanglement, disease, disorientation that can lead to heading into cold waters.
How on earth can we stand to share this potential for tragedy with kids? By giving them hope. Not only can sea turtles withstand much of the trouble that finds them, but people are working internationally to smooth sea turtles’ paths — and kids can help.
I get a heart-swelling feeling when a book I’ve written about animals and the work people are doing to help them makes its way into kids’ hands. I’m enormously proud that MISSION: SEA TURTLE RESCUE won the Green Earth Award. Not only did the award lead me into classrooms to talk to students and teachers about sea turtles, but it led me to find more ways to tell such stories.
I’ve gone on to write books about other animals (WHALE QUEST, 2017 and SHARK SEEKERS, 2018, both from Twenty First Century Books). Like MISSION: SEA TURTLE RESCUE, these books show kids not only what the lives of scientists and conservationists are like, but demonstrates how regular citizens — including kids — can get involved.
The Green Earth Award also inspired me to look for other ways to share ideas about stewardship of the environment with more people. My next project will take me to Antarctica, to study microbial communities with a group of scientists from Maine’s Bigelow Laboratory. These microbes produce a chemical gas that’s involved in cloud formation. Not only are they important to the Antarctic environment, as the base of the food chain, but as the Antarctic climate changes them, clouds — and global weather — could change, too.
Maybe you can see the difference between this project and the ones I did before. More to the point, maybe you can’t see, because the microbes and the gas formation are pretty much invisible. How do you make a story out of THAT?
My answer is through science comics. I began drawing and writing stories in a visual format while aboard the icebreaker Healy in 2010, when I accompanied a group of scientists who were studying ice levels in the Arctic. The story of walrus stranded and starving on beaches because the ice floes near their food source had melted shocked me — but I couldn’t use only words to tell such a tale. Comics helped — and when the comic found big audiences on the web, I decided to try more.
Now I’ve started AntarcticLog as a way to introduce the expedition I’ll be part of in March – May 2018. It’s early, but the hunger for climate change stories has already helped it find readers.
I hope the Nature Generation audience will look for my new work, both in books and in comics. You can follow #AntarcticLog on Twitter or look for @AntarcticLog on Instagram. My website has a slideshow updated with new comics each week: www.karenromanoyoung.com/antarctic-log.
Thanks to the Nature Generation for your support and inspiration. And thanks to everyone who works to understand, care for, and bring hope to our changing, beautiful Earth.
Karen Romano Young won the 2016 Green Earth Book Award for Children’s Non-Fiction for Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue. She is a science expert and speaks to schools all over the country. She has written numerous fiction and nonfiction books for children, including Doodlebug, Hundred Percent, the Science Fair Winners series and Try This!: 50 Fun Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You. Karen worked at Scholastic News, and wrote for Cricket, National Geographic World, and the Guinness Book of World Records. She was involved in the extreme research journey the University of Delaware takes to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and spent a month at sea on the R/V Atlantis and dove to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine called Alvin.