Maria Gianferrari joins us today to discuss the best and most interesting parts of researching for science topics in her books.
Field research and direct observation is the most fun by far! I don’t get to do it all that often, but when I was researching Coyote Moon, I would often take walks in the woods, searching for evidence of a coyote’s presence, liked bedding sites, or scat. (Photo credit: Maria Gianferrari).
I didn’t do direct field research for Terrific Tongues, but the next best thing is watching animal videos on Nat Geo or elsewhere. I watched multiple time lapse science videos. One of my favorites was this chameleon tongue from National Geographic—it juts out of the chameleon’s mouth at a rate of zero to 60 MPH in 1/100 of a second!! Insects beware!
I also loved watching hawkmoths drink flower nectar with their amazingly long tongues. Terrific Tongues features a Darwin’s Hawkmoth, native to Madagascar and pollinator of the comet orchid. (Photo credit: California Academy of Sciences)
Here’s Jia Liu’s whimsical illustration of the Darwin’s Hawkmoth:
And check out this incredible video from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology of another hawkmoth so you can get a sense of its tongue:
The bird nerd in me is also a huge fan of webcams for wildlife observation and research, and my favorite site is Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds.” You can now watch mating red-tailed hawk pair, Big Red and Arthur, incubate and raise their two chicks:
My upcoming book, Hawk Rising, features a father red-tailed hawk hunting to feed his chicks.
The Cornell webcams are also currently featuring some nesting ospreys, barred owls, and albatrosses, among others. This is a great way for budding scientists to directly observe bird behavior—what nesting materials do they use? What kinds of food or prey do they eat? Who incubates the eggs?
There are so many fun ways to do research!
Thank you for having me here, Jennifer!
About Maria Gianferrari:
Maria would love an air conditioner-like tongue to combat Virginia’s hot and humid summers, or a tongue like a straw for sipping cold ice tea! But she’ll make do with kisses from her rescue mutt, Becca. Terrific Tongues is Maria’s first book with Boyds Mills Press. She is also the author of the Penny & Jelly books, Coyote Moon, Officer Katz & Houndini and Hello Goodbye Dog. Maria lives in Virginia with her scientist husband, artist daughter, and writing companion, Becca.