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Spotlight on Science Writers: Sandra Markle

A select group of authors who have won or been finalists for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books have been invited to write or record an introduction to one of their books. We have suggested a few guidelines, but the format and content have been chosen by each author and will be appropriate for their book's intended audience. Science NetLinks will include related classroom resources appropriate for students and educators at the end of each Spotlight on Science Writers post. You can read all the posts in this series here.

This golden frog is having its daily spa bath to keep its skin healthy. Photo Credit: Dustin Smith. Used with permission.

Sandra Markle on The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs:

Frogs with their own hotel room? In fact, two rooms at a hotel in Panama are reserved for golden frogs. Plus there is a team of people bug hunting daily to supply room service meals because the frog guests can’t go outside—ever. That’s the true story that caught my attention. I wondered: Why? What’s going on?

What I discovered was a huge mystery. The frogs in that hotel were there to protect them from a frog killer—something unknown that had already wiped out frogs in other parts of the world. Whatever it was attacked the frog’s sensitive skin and it was deadly.

This golden frog has just been rescued and is on its way to the hotel for safe keeping. Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke. Used with permission.

In Panama, golden frogs were believed to be that country’s symbol of good luck so a huge effort was launched to find healthy golden frogs. They were put in a safe environment until someone could figure out what was killing frogs in their wild homes. Of course, the problem was far bigger than the risk of losing this one kind of frog in that one country. The world needs frogs because they eat lots of insects that would otherwise destroy food crops and spread diseases.

The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs (Millbrook Press, 2011) is the true story of science detectives searching for the frog killer. But could the killer be stopped in time to save the world’s frogs? And will golden frogs ever be able to check out of their hotel rooms and be safe? I won’t spoil the ending. You’ll have to read The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs to find out.

Sandra Markle is the author of more than 200 non-fiction books for children and has won numerous awards for this work, including the 2012 Prize for Excellence in Science Books by The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, NSTA Outstanding Science Tradebook, Green Earth Book Awards, Cybils Finalist, John Burroughs List of Nature Books for Young Readers, Junior Library Guild Selection, Orbis Pictus Recommended Book, Charlotte Zolotow Award, and more.

Her book, The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs, won the 2012 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Middle Grades category.

Going Further
  • Book/Author Resources
  • Frogs and Other Amphibians
    • This video features an interview with Brian Gratwicke (whose photo appears earlier in this post), a scientist studying the problem of the vanishing Panamanian golden frog.
    • Scientists are able to learn about what hurts frogs by understanding their biology. Dissection is one of those ways you can do this. Here are two online options to give you a sense of what that's like: Net Frog and Virtual Frog Dissection App.
    • In this late night amphibian inventory at the 2013 BioBlitz, explore Jean Lafitte Park with video host Bob Hirshon and hunt for frogs, salamanders, and whatever else is out and about.
    • In this Science Update, learn how streambeds can shape a species.
    • Download Classify It!, an app from Science NetLinks, to test your knowledge of how various organisms, including frogs and other amphibians, can be sorted and grouped.
    • Find out what you can do to help at Save the Frogs.
  • Fungus and Microbes
    • MicrobeWorld is a fantastic site for all individuals interested in microbiology and/or biological sciences in general.
    • This Science Update looks at cases of symbiosis that involve three organisms.
    • In this video, AAAS's Bob Hirshon talks with a team from the University of Arizona who are hunting for fungi that spend their entire lives inside plants.
    • In this Science Update, learn about the unintended consequences of military invasions on a region's natural environment.
    • Mycologist Debbie Viess leads an inventory of the mushrooms in Muir Woods as part of BioBlitz 2014 in Golden Gate National Parks.
  • Citizen Science
    • Watch this video to get a sense of what it means to be a citizen scientist.
    • If you are willing to be trained to differentiate between different amphibian calls, FrogWatch USA is a citizen science program that reports data on the calls of local frogs and toads during evenings from February through August.
    • Project Noah is a global study that encourages nature lovers to document the wildlife they encounter.
    • Participate in Wildlife Watch and share the wildlife and plants you observe where you live!
    • The Journey North App lets you help track migrations and seasons.

Related Educator Resources
  • In our companion lesson to this book, students develop an understanding of scientific research and environmental conservation by examining the work of scientists involved in studying and trying to save the Panamanian golden frogs.
  • Sandra's blog offers lots of interesting information about writing nonfiction for kids.
  • Find out about Sandra's author visits/calls.
  • The Frog Scientist 1: The Mystery of Disappearing Frogs lesson introduces students to Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a biologist who is using a combination of scientific fieldwork and lab experimentation to understand how a commonly used pesticide is damaging both frogs and their habitats.
  • The Frog Scientist 2: Schoolyard Investigation allows students to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in the first lesson to developing a hypothesis, conducting their own scientific inquiry, and reporting their results just as working scientists do.
  • In this lesson, students engage in meaningful observation of the natural world that involves them in citizen science and adds to scientific understanding.
  • This lesson teaches students about local watersheds by investigating community watershed projects.
  • If your students are more interested in the Bd fungus than in the golden frog, use this lesson to help them build on existing knowledge of microbes, focusing on the relationship between microorganisms and foodborne illness.