For STEM Friday today we are going to take a look at the new children’s book Wild Discoveries: Wacky New Animals by Heather L. Montgomery. wild-discoveries

The book features thirty amazing newly-discovered creatures, ranging from hot pink millepedes to see-through frogs like the one shown on the cover. As Heather points out in the beginning of the book, these are not really “new” species, but that scientists have simply recently discovered and named them. The species are organized by region, helping to define habitats. The description of each animal is accompanied by fun facts and details about how they were found. (Unsure of what a species is? See a review of classification.)

Humans love exploration, so finding a new species is a thrill. Scientists often turn up new species by searching in hard to reach places, like the depths of the oceans. Other times they can stumble across a new species in their own back yard! Searching for new species is definitely within the realm of citizen science. In fact, this article from BBC News suggests that 60% of new species found in Europe are discovered by amateur enthusiasts. As Wild Discoveries reveals, age in no limit. Children have helped to uncover new species.

Inspired by these ideas? How would you find a new species yourself?

1. Learn about a group of animals, plants or fungi that interests you.

Choose a group that isn’t too popular. Although new mammals and birds are found occasionally (a new monkey, a sengi, and a tarsier are described in the book), your chances of finding a new species increase greatly if you choose to look for animals without backbones, for example. If you learn the common species of a group that occur in your area, you will be able to recognize something new if you stumble upon it.

2. Get out and observe nature, and record what you see.

Keeping a nature journal or blog can be a great way of recording your findings. Take photographs when you find something new. New species have been recognized from photographs on sharing sites like Flickr.

3. Volunteer at a nearby natural history museum, aquarium or similar organization.

Take opportunities to learn with an expert. One of the girls from the book got to name a new species because she volunteered at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

4. Take part in a  BioBlitz.

5. Be realistic. Realize that sometimes it is simply a matter of luck, or as Heather Montgomery writes, being “in the right place at the right time.”

Activity for youngsters:
Draw an imaginary new species or one of the species from the book.

Activity for older students:
Research a newly-discovered species. Write a report on what is known about it and how it was found. Even better, create a slide presentation or video and share it with your friends or classmates.

For inspiration, here is one of the cool newly-discovered species:  the green bomber worm.

For more information:

Arizona State University has a Top 10 list of new species each year.

**Heather L. Montgomery’s website has related materials and a free lesson plan with 40 pages of great lessons.**

Reading level: Ages 7 and up
Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (February 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545477670
ISBN-13: 978-0545477673


Book supplied by publisher for review purposes.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.