The Elephant Scientist

( 3 )


In the sprawling African scrub desert of Etosha National Park in Namibia, they call her "the mother of all elephants." Holding binoculars closely to her eyes, American scientist Caitlin O’Connell could not believe what she was seeing from these African elephants: as the mighty matriarch scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, stopped midstride, and stood as still as statues.

This observation would guide the scientist to a ...

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In the sprawling African scrub desert of Etosha National Park in Namibia, they call her "the mother of all elephants." Holding binoculars closely to her eyes, American scientist Caitlin O’Connell could not believe what she was seeing from these African elephants: as the mighty matriarch scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, stopped midstride, and stood as still as statues.

This observation would guide the scientist to a groundbreaking discovery about elephant communication: elephants actually listen with their limbs.

The Elephant Scientist was named a 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book.

A 2012 Sibert Medal Honor Book
A 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Nonfiction Honor Book

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This intriguing volume from the Scientists in the Field series will interest readers."—Booklist "The many color photographs, predominantly from the Namibian field sites, capture the majestic elder elephants, their always-appealing offspring, and the dusty, rugged landscapes in which the scientists and research assistants camp and work."—Horn Book  "This amazing presentation is a must-have for all collections."—School Library Journal, starred review


Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
With the help of many clear photographs, we join O'Connell as she studies elephants in the Namibian desert in this fascinating volume in the "Scientists in the Field" series. When she accepts a three-year job studying elephants in the Etosha National Park, her challenging task is to observe them as they migrate. We discover many facts about elephants as we follow O'Connell's interactions with the local people while learning elephant family behavior. She is particularly interested in whether elephants can sense sounds through their feet, and how they might possibly communicate seismically. Her experiments include recording and replaying elephant calls. The inherent excitement of her studies and experiments should inspire curious young scientists of the future. The seventy pages are divided into chapters, some a bit romantic like "Call of the Wild," while others are more descriptive, like "The Trail Ahead: Bull Societies." All titles are framed in decorative colored borders using African symbols. Along with facts, the book has considerable esthetic content in its photographs. Included at the end are: a plea from the Defenders of Wildlife to adopt an elephant, a glossary of pachyderm terms, sources, and places for further "explorations." Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—O'Connell traveled to Africa in 1992 to observe wild animals; the trip turned into a job offer to study elephants at Etosha National Park; the text focuses on the scientists' work, findings, and problems encountered. The authors offer an outstanding look at new discoveries about elephant communication and how this knowledge can be used to slow the animal's slump into extinction. Combined with stunning full-color photographs by the scientists, the elephants' world is brought to the forefront. Readers enter the researchers' camp to see their setup, fieldwork, and takedown in action. They will learn how elephant anatomy and hierarchy work together to aid in communication. Children will be interested in O'Connell's growing interest in science, how family and teachers encouraged her, and her efforts to protect these threatened animals. This amazing presentation is a must-have for all collections.—Nancy Call, Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Aptos, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547053448
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 7/11/2011
  • Series: Scientists in the Field Series
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 314,818
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Lexile: NC1260L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Caitlin O’Connell, Ph.D., has passionately devoted the last nineteen years of her research career to the study of elephants. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed Elephant’s Secret Sense, as well as a photography book, An Elephant’s Life. She is a faculty member in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery in the Stanford School of Medicine and teaches science writing for Stanford University and the New York Times. When she’s not studying elephants, Caitlin is running the nonprofit organization Utopia Scientific ( and coauthoring her first YA science-fantasy novel with her husband, Timothy Rodwell. Caitlin lives in San Diego with her husband and their dog, Frodo.

Donna M. Jackson is an award-winning author of nonfiction books for children and holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her works include the critically acclaimed Elephant Scientists, Bone Detectives, Bug Scientists, and Wildlife Detectives—all honored by the NSTA/CBC’s Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children award; ER Vets , an Orbis Pictus and ASPCA Henry Bergh honor book; and Extreme Scientists, named a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children, 2009.

When she’s not writing about scientists in the field, Donna enjoys reading, skiing, gardening, hiking in the mountains, and spending time with her family. She lives in Colorado. Learn more about Donna at her website:

The photographers Caitlin O’Connell, Ph.D., and Timothy Rodwell, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., are scientists and professional photographers that have blended art and science to help make science more accessible and engaging. Their photography has appeared in National Geographic, National Wildlife Magazine, Discover, Science News, Africa Geographic, and many other international magazines, scientific journals, and newspapers. More of their elephant photography will appear in their forthcoming photography book An Elephant's Life, which will feature every aspect of an elephant's life in rich detail. Caitlin is on the faculty in the Stanford School of Medicine and Timothy is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 28, 2012

    One of the volumes in the "Scientists In The Fields" b

    One of the volumes in the "Scientists In The Fields" books, "The Elephant Scientist" brings us into the African desert as we learn all the real facts about elephants. O'Connell traveled to Etosha National Park in 1992 to study these wild animals in their natural habitat and fell in love with them. This book provides detailed observations from the stand point of an American scientist. This book highlights the newly found discoveries about elephant communication. It goes further in detail about how we can prevent elephant extinction by using the knowledge gained about to communication to slow the process, and also about how to adopt and sponsor an elephant through the Utopia Scientific Organization. This informational book is beautifully accompanied by these magnificently detailed photographs, engaging the reader even further into the elephant world. This book was well deserving of the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Award. This book will interest children about science, how she has been encouraged throughout the years by teachers and family. It is a very fun informational book that I particularly loved because elephants are my favorite animals, it was fun learning all this new information and how I can get involved.

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  • Posted May 27, 2012

    This is a really fascinating book about elephants in Namibia, Af

    This is a really fascinating book about elephants in Namibia, Africa. Caitlin O'Connell, Donna M. Jackson and Timothy Rodwell did an amazing job with the information and pictures in this Sibert Award book. The Elephant Scientist contains background information on Caitlin O'Connell and her love for animals. Her research on elephants began when she encountered an abandoned elephant in 1992 in Etosha National Park. Towards the end of the book they provided information on how to adopt an elephant. Caitlin and her husband Timothy Rodwell have a program in which they sponsor through their organization called Utopia Scientific. It also includes a list of Pachyderm Terms at the end of the book that way the readers can understand the terminology that is being used throughout the book. It does come in handy if you are really interested in what you are reading. There are also some selected source notes located in the back as well. This would be a great book for teachers to introduce to their students if they are covering a section on elephants.

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  • Posted May 24, 2012


    Hope this is a good book cause i am getting it for summer camp i hope better b good i will not pay 12bucks for a bad book toodles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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