The Snake Scientist

Overview

Dr. Robert Mason has been studying a mysterious phenomenon for over fifteen years: the reemergence of tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes — the world’s largest concentration of snakes — after a winter spent in a state of suspended animation in subterranean caverns.

This gathering each spring in the forests of Manitoba, Canada, is one of the most extraordinary events of the natural world and is the subject of study for Dr. Mason, a.k.a....

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Overview

Dr. Robert Mason has been studying a mysterious phenomenon for over fifteen years: the reemergence of tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes — the world’s largest concentration of snakes — after a winter spent in a state of suspended animation in subterranean caverns.

This gathering each spring in the forests of Manitoba, Canada, is one of the most extraordinary events of the natural world and is the subject of study for Dr. Mason, a.k.a. the Snake Scientist.

Discusses the work of Bob Mason and his efforts to study and protect snakes, particularly red-sided garter snakes.

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Editorial Reviews

Hungry Mind Review
...We learn almost everything known about snakes....And even the squeamish may learn to appreciate snakes in this scientific love story.
From The Critics
You hear them before you see them! On a quiet day, as you approach one of the dens at the Narcisse Wildlife Area in Manitoba, Canada, you can hear a rustling. It's the sound of thousands of slithering snakes. It's the world's largest concentration of snakes! Join Dr. Robert Mason and his helpers as they explore this incredible phenomenon. A fascinating read, filled with insightful photographs. Part of the "Scientists in the Field" series. 2001, Houghton Mifflin, $4.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: S. Kleven SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
Children's Literature
Perfect for young snake lovers, this book is jam-packed with information about the work of Bob Mason, a famous snake scientist who is studying the red-sided garter snake at the Narcisse Wildlife Management Area in Manitoba, Canada. This detailed resource looks at Bob's research and the steps he is taking to protect this misunderstood reptile. The author provides general background information about snakes, as well as more specifics about red-sided garter snakes, including their physical characteristics, mating and migration habits, and hibernating behaviors. Step-by-step photographs and descriptions highlight experiments conducted by Bob and his colleagues during their stay in Manitoba. In addition to well-written passages and excellent close-up photographs, this book also contains a list of unanswered questions, information about visiting the snake dens in Canada, a list of books for further reading, advice for respecting snakes and an index. This is a wonderful learning tool for aspiring herpetologists. 2001, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00 and $4.95. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Debra Briatico
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The excitement of science in action fills the pages of these two books. Montgomery focuses on one man and his research on the red-sided garter snake in Canada. The lively text communicates both the meticulous measurements required in this kind of work and the thrill of new discoveries. Large, full-color photos of the zoologist and young students at work, and lots of wriggly snakes, pull readers into the presentation. A list of "unsolved mysteries" about the snakes and instructions on visiting the snake dens will keep interest high to the very last page. Swinburne gives a historical perspective on the extermination of wolves from the Lower 48 states and details the work of biologists in their efforts to reintroduce the animals into Yellowstone National Park. Vintage illustrations (including pictures of dead wolves) and excellent full-color photos document a struggle that, unfortunately, is far from over. A map showing current and historical wolf ranges and a list for further reading that includes books, periodicals, and Web sites are helpful additions. Two outstanding titles that show scientists at work.-Ruth S. Vose, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Horn Book Magazine
Each spring, 18,000 red-sided garter snakes emerge en masse from three underground dens in Manitoba, Canada, where they have spent the winter stacked on top of one another like cordwood. As the snakes spill out of the dens, Earthwatch volunteers and students gather them up and stuff them in pillowcases bought in bulk at the Salvation Army. The captured snakes then participate in a day's behavioral experiments directed by Bob Mason, a zoologist at Oregon State University. (In 1989 Mason identified the pheromone, or scent, that draws the male to the female garter snake.) The snakes might interact in colorful "arenas" that look like upended box kites or attempt to follow a path marked with scent through a maze. Mason is trying to figure out why female snakes prefer bigger males and how the snakes find their way to the marsh twenty miles away from the dens. At times the book provides more background information than is needed, and the relation of the text and the photographs is more casual and less deeply pondered than in the 1993 A Gathering of Garter Snakes by writer-photographer Bianca Lavies. But it is a solid introduction to the ethos of experimental science as seen by a genial scientist with a research topic whose kid appeal is hard to beat.
Hungry Mind Review
...[W]e learn almost everything known about snakes....And even the squeamish may learn to appreciate snakes in this scientific love story.
From the Publisher
"The lively text communicates both the meticulous measurements required in this kind of work and the thrill of new discoveries." SLJ, starred School Library Journal, Starred

"A stellar example of how good such books can be."—Booklist, starred Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

Each spring, 18,000 red-sided garter snakes emerge en masse from three underground dens in Manitoba, Canada, where they have spent the winter stacked on top of one another like cordwood. As the snakes spill out of the dens, Earthwatch volunteers and students gather them up and stuff them in pillowcases bought in bulk at the Salvation Army. The captured snakes then participate in a day's behavioral experiments directed by Bob Mason, a zoologist at Oregon State University. (In 1989 Mason identified the pheromone, or scent, that draws the male to the female garter snake.) The snakes might interact in colorful "arenas" that look like upended box kites or attempt to follow a path marked with scent through a maze. Mason is trying to figure out why female snakes prefer bigger males and how the snakes find their way to the marsh twenty miles away from the dens....A solid introduction to the ethos of experimental science as seen by a genial scientist with a research topic whose kid appeal is hard to beat.
Horn Book

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618111190
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 2/26/2001
  • Series: Scientists in the Field Series
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 497,739
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Sy Montgomery

Nic Bishop, who holds a doctorate in the biological sciences, is the photographer of many acclaimed books for children. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.Visit his website at: www.nicbishop.com

Nic Bishop and author Sy Montgomery won the Sibert Medal in 2011 for their collaborative work on Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot , another Scientist in the Field title.

Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, newspaper columnist, scriptwriter, and radio commentator who writes award-winning books for children as well as adults. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire. Visit her website at symontgomery.com.

Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop won the Sibert Medal in 2011 for their collaborative work on Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot , another Scientist in the Field title.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview with Montgomery, she revealed a few fun anecdotes:

"My companion pig, Christopher Hogwood, age 12, lost 60 pounds on his new diet and now weighs in at a trim 690 pounds."

"My first known act of Eco-Conscience: I was sent home from kindergarten for biting a little boy who had pulled the legs off a daddy longlegs. I would do it again today."

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    1. Hometown:
      Hancock, New Hampshire
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 7, 1958
    2. Place of Birth:
      Frankfurt, Germany
    1. Education:
      Syracuse University: B.A., Newhouse School of Public Communications, 1979; B.A., College of Arts and Sciences, 1979

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