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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel


Manitou Cave of Alabama

Manitou Cave on Lookout Mountain, Alabama

On a brisk spring morning, we arrived at Manitou Caves on the outskirts of Fort Payne, Alabama, where Annette Reynolds, founder and steward of the caves, welcomed our group with a radiant smile.

Intrepid Spelunkers Manitou Caves

Environmental Education Conference

Environmental Education Association of Alabama
Conference Dauphin Island, Alabama
Rivers to the Gulf, Flowing Home
February 22-24, 2018
EEAA Celebrates 30 Years!

Just as the cold and rainy spell transformed into sunny and pleasant spring weather, Boris and I left for the much anticipated 2018 EEAA Conference at Dauphin Island, Alabama. I’ve written this blog to share a taste of the varied, worthwhile, and fun experience.

How to Become a Citizen Scientist

Citizen Science Projects

When I began researching and writing my eco mystery series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, I did not fully anticipate the number of dedicated environmentalist I would meet along the way. I did not anticipate that I would encounter inspired and determined conservationists from all walks of life finding ways to protect the rich biodiversity of our state. Nor did I realize that had taken the first step toward becoming a citizen scientist.

Book Cover Piping Plover Eco Mystery


Piping Plover Conservation

Search for the Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus)

Book Cover Piping Plover Eco Mystery

The inspiration for the eighth Eco mystery in the series,
The Adventures of the Sizzling Six:The Case of the Missing Piping Plovers began with Walker Golder’s presentation to the Birmingham Audubon Society. Golder is the National Audubon Society’s director of Audubon’s Atlantic Flyway Coast Initiative. His compelling account of the search for the Piping plover’s wintering hot spot on the remote Joulter Cays launched my own journey to write The Case of the Missing Piping Plovers.


Earth Day Migratory Bird Day

Helping Birds Along the Way

On a perfect spring day, citizens celebrated the first
International Migratory Bird Day at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Earth Day festival. At the Media Mint Publishing Booth, visitors learned that birds fly thousands of miles from their wintering areas in South America and the Caribbean to their summer nesting sites in the United States and Canada. A Piping plover, for example, can travel over a 1,000 miles from the Caribbean to the breeding areas in northern United States and Canada.

Media Mint Publishing Earth Day

Environmental Eco Detectives

Students Become Eco Detectives

A dozen pairs of eyes fix me, challenging me to do something
really interesting.

Eco Mystery Tuscaloosa Magnet School s

And so I begin, "How would you like to go on an amazing adventure that will last for your entire life?"
Hands shoot up, wave in the air.
“Great! Then I'm going to show how to become an Eco Detective.”To launch the program, I present the students with eco mysteries to solve.

Saving Cod Fish from Extinction

Saving the Cod, Losing the Great Auk

On a cruise around the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador, my husband and I feasted on fresh cod: fried for fish and chips, sautéed in butter, patted into fish cakes, marinated in lime juice for ceviche, and dried and salted into fish jerky.

Me and Cod fish BD
With Cod Fisherman at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

Citizen Scientist Bioblitz with Audubon

First Annual Bioblitz at Limestone Park, Alabaster

"I shall collect plants and fossils. Yet this is not the main purpose of my journey. I shall endeavor to find out how nature's forces act upon one another, and in what manner the geographic environment exerts its influence on animals and plants. In short, I must find out about the harmony in nature." Alexander von Humboldt

Tupelo Swamp group
Group of Bioblitzers at Limestone Park (Boris Datnow)
Do you have an interest in learning more about plants and wildlife around you? Would you enjoy improving you skills as a naturalist? Would you like to contribute data that will help scientists protect and conserve nature? If you do, I highly recommend participating in a Bioblitz as a citizen scientist. The cool thing about a Bioblitz is that it brings together the expertise of scientists with the observations of citizens willing to take a snapshot of an area’s biodiversity in about 24 hours.
BioBlitz can take place in national parks or schoolyards, in urban or rural areas. The purpose of a Bioblitz is to study the population of particular species as well as an areas’ biodiversity.
Tupelo Gum Swap
Tupelo Gum Swap (Boris Datnow)
My first Bioblitz experience took place in Limestone Park, Alabaster, Alabama. The park has with a wide range of habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, and a Tupelo Gum swamp. In addition, thanks to the determined efforts of Dick Mills, and Ken Wills there is also a flourishing Prairie. To launch the bioblitz, Ken, Dick, and Professor Ken Marion arrived early to run a minnow/turtle  trap line in the tupelo swamps of Limestone Park.

Ken Marion with turtles captures at Limestone Park
Ken Wills, Dick Mills, and Ken Marion with turtles capture at Limestone Park. (photo Boris Datnow)
It was fascinating to see, firsthand, the species they’d caught. Before the animals were released, the experts shared their knowledge about the species with the group.
After that interesting introduction, the citizen volunteers, lead by a scientist, fanned out across the park to collect samples of the trees, fishes, reptiles, birds, wildflowers, amphibians, and invertebrates in the park.
slider laying eggs
Pond Slider Turtle, Limestone Park, Alabaster (Boris Datnow)
Ken Wills ably guided my group through the boggy peninsular marsh area to a tupelo swamp. Everyone kept their eyes peeled for anything of interest to document and photograph. We were fortunate to spot a slider laying eggs.

sensitive plantpg
Sensitive brier (Mimosa microphylla) on the Peninsular Trail (Boris Datnow)
Around noon, all groups reconvened to show and tell what they had found—and to enjoy a delicious repast courtesy of Birmingham Audubon Society. As we had hoped, the different habitats yielded a good variety of insect, plant, fish and amphibian species. Ansel Payne, Audubon Teaching Naturalist, carefully preserved all the insects and bugs that were found. All data collected during the Bioblitz will be entered in the iNaturalist data base for future reference.

Our group found at least 5 new native plants and 4 new exotics, including dog bane and a species of Loosestrife (Lysimachia)
additions to the plant list which is now up to 162 species. That gave us a nice sense of accomplishment.
Thanks to Andy Coleman, Audubon Program Director, for organizing the bioblitz, and to
Birmingham Audubon Society for sponsoring it. The data collected during the Bioblitz will help to conserve the species of this area in the future.
My environmental eco mystery series (grades 4-7),
The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, inspires young people to appreciate the amazing diversity of out natural environment and to become young citizen scientist.

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Hunger Games a Violent Video Game

As the grandmother of six precious granddaughters, and the author of an eco mystery series for tweens and teens, the issue of violence in young adult and childerns fiction is important to me. Read More...

I Love Real Books ebooks

Enhanced eBooks the Insanely Great Innovation
When I hear friends comment, “I love the feel of a real book in my hand, I just don’t enjoy reading from a digital device,” I reply, “I love real books and ebooks, too.” Please don't misunderstand me, I revel in the feel of traditional printed books as much as you do. Don't you agree, however, that now it's great to have the choice between physical printed books and ebooks, depending on your needs.

Young Adult Environmental Fiction

Selected Books for Children and Teens about the Environment

Through my Sizzling Six eco mystery series I hope to inspire young people to arouse wonder and curiosity about the natural world, and then to learn how to take intelligent action to resolve environmental problems. In the not-too-distant future, the children in our neighborhoods and schools will have joined the workforce. Some will find themselves working for corporations, sitting behind desks, standing on podiums, running for office, in positions of influence, making decisions that will, for better or worse, affect the ecological health of our very planet. My mission in writing the ecological mystery series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, is to nurture the seeds of environmental responsibility, giving today’s kids an abiding appreciation for nature and an intelligent understanding of ecological principles and issues before the future arrives. 
The Adventures of The Sizzling SIx entertains readers while educating them about significant environmental issues so that they will become wise stewards of our precious Earth.

Here is a selected list of books with an environmental theme that I have enjoyed and that I believe my young readers will also enjoy:

1) Carl Hiaason
 creates child-heroes as environmental activists in his trio of young-adult novels: Hoot, about endangered owls, Flush, on the illegal dumping of raw sewage into the ocean and Scat.
2) Will Hobbs writes outdoor stories that appeal to both boys and girls. Hobbs has readers discovering wild places, sharing adventures with people from varied backgrounds, and exploring how to make important choices in their own lives.
3) Gary Paulson's survival stories.
4) Jean Craighead George still ranks with the best of eco mystery writers.
Jean Craighead George's Official Website
5) Ben M. Baglio. The Dolphin Diaries series. 
6)  Hannah West series by Linda Jones
7) Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French
8) Missing Manatee by Cynthia DeFelice

9) Bonnie Doerr
Claire Datnow. The Adventures of the Sizzling Six, eco mystery series.
Did you know that there is a National Outdoor Book Award—for adults and young people? To see a listing of 2011 winners visit:
Other Interesting Links:

Teach Students to Recycle

Excerpt from the third book in the Eco Mystery series, The Adventures of the Sizzling Six: The Living Treasure
Do you have some nifty ways that you recycle, reduce, and reuse household waste? If so, we would love to hear from you (just: e-mail

7 Billionth Baby Born on Planet Earth

On Oct 31, 2011 the 7 billionth baby was born on our planet Earth. More that ever we need to conserve Earth’s natural resources. Read More...

School Ecology Clubs Leading the Way!

It was our privilege to meet with the teachers and students at a local Middle School Ecology Club to present the newest book in our YA Eco Mystery Series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six: The Living Treasure. Read More...

How to Use QR Codes in Books

Fifth grade students at a local school got a sneak preview of our innovation, Enhanced Print Books. They responded with great enthusiasm to our questions and demonstrati Read More...

Witnessing an Aquatic Species Being Saved From Extinction!

It was absolutely thrilling to be standing on the banks of Bear Creek in Colbert County, to witness, with our own eyes, a new population of mussels (Lampsilis virescens), being saved from extinction. This is good news for an Alabama and our planet! Read More...

Rare Species Saved from Extinction

Saving One of the Rarest species in the United States
Boris and I are absolutely thrilled about an upcoming trip to shoot video footage of biologists reintroducing the endangered Lampmussel (Lampsilis virescens) into Bear Creek, a tributary of the Tennessee River, to save the species from extinction. We plan to use these videos in our Enhanced Print Book, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six: The Living Treasure, young adult eco mystery series. Over 1,000 cultured mussels, raised at the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center, will be released on October 6, 2011 and we will be there to record it. “We’re excited to be part of saving what is truly one of the rarest species in the United States,” said Dr. Paul Johnson, Program Supervisor.  Stay posted for more about our adventure and a sneak preview of the  actual videos in about ten days!

Enviornmental Fiction Encourage Teens To Read More

QR CODE ENHANCED BOOKS/QR RAVE BOOKS (QR Reading And Video Enterainment-trademark pending)
If statistics are to be believed, Mobile phones are becoming so ubiquitous that only 9% of American teens would be willing to go without their cell phones for 24 hours and the average child spends an hour and a half texting each day. So can we boost teen reading with mobile devices? We certainly think they can!
We’ve harnessed the power of mobile devices to integrate our printed books with video clips to “magically” transport the readers from the words on the printed page to let readers see and hear what the characters in the story are seeing and hearing. HOW?? Just watch the two-minute video on HOME page.
And please help to distribute these books FREE to schools, libraries and organizations of your choice. In addition you will receive great rewards. HOW?

QR Codes Bring Enhanced Print Books to Life 

Innovation is Alive and Well in America! 

Cahaba Lily Mystery

Cahaba Lily Mystery
The Cahaba Lily Festival, hosted by the town of West Blocton for the past 22 years, celebrates the rare lily protected by federal law within the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge. Read More...

YA Eco Mysteries Earth Day

Come join the fun events in celebration of Earth Day at the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo and Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama.

Top 5 Eco Mysteries

The environmental movement may not yet have changed the world, but it has created a niche for kids, tweens and young adult Eco Mysteries. Here are my favorite eco mystery writers: Read More...

Hiking Photographing

Greenway Walking Trail, Dunnavant Valley, Shelby Count, Alabama

Natural Resources Inspire Kids

This blog provides you with a variety of resources to inspire young people to appreciate nature and become wise stewards of our natural environment, including:
* Local and state organizations that offer entertaining and educational activities and field trips
* Books, fiction and non fiction, that educate and inspire kids to improve their natural environment
* Links that connect educators and young people to organizations promoting nature conservation

Kids Hike Through The Woods

I thoroughly enjoyed leading a gaggle of eager kids on a nature hike through the woods at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, on a sunny fall morning. Read More...