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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Environmental Fiction

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.


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

Diamondback Terrapin Eco Mystery

Conservation of the Diamondback Terrapin

This year, I celebrated Earth Day at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in a special way.

Earth Day at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens

I shared the story of my real life adventures while doing research for my eco mystery,
The Adventures of The Sizzling Six: Operation Terrapin Rescue. Read More...

Endangered Orange-Bellied Parrot

The Orange-Bellied Parrot Mystery
by Sophia R. Morris, Age 10
Vestavia Hills Elementary Central, Teacher Mrs. Fulkerson
Winning Entry in the Eco Mystery Writing Contest

parrot orange-bellied

Claire White reached for her cup of cold lemonade, her pale skin once covered in some light shadow, now glinting in the sunlight.

“This is the life isn’t it, girls,” nodding to the two girls beside her. “We can finally relax after solving that jewerly crime.” Maria Monday and Stacy Woods, the girls in lounges beside her murmured “Ya……..” Read More...

Birmingham Endangered Species Mural

As we set out to find the artists working on the watercress darter mural the sun shone down on the city of Birmingham, Alabama rinsed clean by torrential rains the day before. Cruising along 2nd Avenue South, we soon spotted the artists transforming a grey cinderblock wall in to a vibrant mural. Curious to find out more about the project, we parked the car and introduced ourselves.
Watercress Darter Mural Aritsts
Local artists Creighton Tynes and Merrily Challis at work on the mural (photo. Boris Datnow)

The Birmingham mural features the watercress darter, a small, brilliantly colored, endangered fish found only in five spring-fed creeks located in the Black Warrior River system flowing through the Birmingham metropolitan area. This endangered species was almost wiped off the planet  when a city maintenance crew removed a beaver dam, which drained the spring pool, killing thousands of watercress darters. Fortunately, conservation organizations are working to protect this unique species. Birmingham was selected by the as the site of darter mural because Alabama is a world hotspot for freshwater animal diversity, and the Center is working to protect hundreds of Alabama species from extinction.

Discover and Solve an Ecological Mystery

Project and Problem Based  Eco Mystery Unit.

How can you inspire kids—of all ages—to embark on a lifelong adventure that will motivate them to become wise stewards of nature? In my presentation to Mrs. Geri Evan's fourth grade students at Bluff Park Elementary School, I began by inviting kids to hunt for ecological mysteries in their outdoor classroom.

Monarch Butterflies Kids make connections

Butterfly Awareness Botanical Gardens

Butterfly Education and Awareness Day

Monarch Butterfly (Poster created by Ellie Usadan)
Kids Enjoyed Coloring the Poster Created by Ellie Usdan

We were delighted to join the
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, on a perfect summer day, to celebrate Butterfly Education and Awareness Day, and also to share the newest book in the eco mystery series for middle grades, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six: Monarch Mysteries (book 6 in the series).

Green Ribbon Schools Award

Alabama Green Ribbon Schools
On a day filled with sunshine, it was my pleasure and privilege to attend the celebration recognizing the three schools and a university as Alabama Green Ribbon Schools Award Winners for 2015.

Green Ribbon Shirely Farrell
Shirley Farrell, State Dept. of Education, with Liz Ellerson of E.A.T. South (Boris Datnow)

Congratulations to the winners:
Auburn University
Bluff Park Elementary School, Hoover City Schools 
Lincoln Elementary School, Talladega County Schools
Lincoln High School, Talladega County Schools

Connecting to Nature with Apps

Green Apps for Outdoor Classroom Adventures

If you are an environmental educator — teacher, nature guide, or parent— you will find this lesson plan,
Eco Detective Nature Hunt, exciting. In my Eco Mystery series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, six feisty teens solve an intriguing eco mystery in order to save an endangered species. Now students can create their own eco mysteries with the new “green” apps. These inspire kids to go outside and observe nature closely. In other words, outside time and screen time do not have to be mutually exclusive. Instead of battling to keep kids away from gadgets, why not use technology to encourage kids to explore outdoors? In this blog I outline a way to use nature-based apps that enhance kids’ experience outdoors, and then arouse their curiosity to learn more through reading and research. 


Environmental Project Based Learning

How to Launch Environmental Project Based Learning

1. LAUNCH PARTY. To arouse the students’ curiosity, plan the event to be novel and dramatic. Design a presentation that encourages students to generate questions that plunge them into an intriguing ecological mystery that they must solve in order to help save an endangered species. You could invite an author of eco mysteries or non-fiction books with environmental themes. For example, for my school presentation I dress up as Mrs. Margarita Mariposa, a character in The Adventures of The Sizzling Six: Monarch Mysteries (Book Six). I wear a striking mask with flowers and butterflies, and send
paper monarch butterflies into the air. 

Mexico in Birmingham

Annual Alabama Coastal Birdfest 

Tenth Annual John Borom Alabama Coastal BirdFest 
On a balmy autumn day we departed Birmingham for the Alabama Coastal Birdfest with high expectations and not an inkling about the storm lurking off the Gulf Coast. At a reception that evening we enjoyed meeting fellow birders and relaxing on the back deck overlooking an expansive view of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Read More...

Saving Diamondback Terrapin Turtles

Eco Mystery of the Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

On a surprisingly cool morning in August, far from the lab on the UAB campus in the heart of downtown Birmingham, where they were hatched, we gently release diamondback terrapin turtles into the open marshes around Cedar Point near Dauphin Island. As if sensing that this watery, wild place is their ancestral home, the terrapins begin to explore their new habitat. Swimming between tall marsh grasses, they reach a mud island where they can begin to acclimate to life in the wild. Read More...

Environmental Education Eco Mysteries

Become an Eco Detective

Teachers and Environmental Educators can use my eco mystery series to teach environmental education, ecology and writing across the curriculum. Just download my teacher Handout, BECOME AN ECO DETECTIVE. To get started visit these links:

Teacher Handouts

Audubon Mountain Workshop

36th Annual Audubon Mountain Workshop

As we speed north from Birmingham how delightful it was to watch the spring flowing, like a sparkling green wave, into the mountains and up to Camp Alpine where we would be joining fellow nature conservationist for the Audubon Mountain Workshop.

Earth Day at the Botanical Gardens

Earth Day and Green Living

Despite the weather forecast for thunder, lightning and rain, enthusiastic visitors flocked to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for the annual Earth Day event. What a pleasure to meet so many curious kids, and interesting folks. From the number of exhibitors it seems that Community Gardens have taken off in Birmingham! Read More...

Inspiring Kids To Read

What a pleasure to be a part of Better Basics, Birmingham Reads held each spring, when hundreds of volunteers visit Kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms in Birmingham City Schools to read to students.


Environmental Education Association of Alabama

Oh, what a pleasure and a privilege to participate in the Environmental Education Association of Alabama’s Conference at Little River Canyon Center, and Little River Canyon National Preserve this weekend! Meeting with field biologists and teachers dedicated to conservation and to educating the public to become wise stewards of our precious natural resources was indeed a joy. Read More...

Writing Eco Mysteries 3

Aug. 11, 2012: Ebenezer Tupelo Swamp Ecological Preserve.
Our journey continues here as we step off into the unknown of a writing project and see it through to its destination . . .
Questions? Comments? contact:
Ghosts may be haunting the story I’m stitching together for Return of The Red-cockaded Clan.This eerie thought pops into my head as soon as I hear that we are headed for Ebenezer Tupelo Swamp. You see I cannot help associating Ebenezer with Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas. And in our previous adventures (see Blog 2), we stumbled upon a ghost town, which led to a story about bridge with a haunted history on the road to Sweetwater Mansion.

Writing Eco Mysteries

July 22: A trip to the Talladega National Forest

To write Return of  Red-Cockaded Clan, I need to get the feel of the woodpecker’s natural habitat. With this in mind, I set off on a trip to their nesting site in the Talladega National Forest, accompanied by my husband Boris and Greg Harber from the Birmingham Audubon Society. We arrive there late in the afternoon, after a rain shower. The beauty of the place struck me immediately, and I know that I will write about it in my story . . .


Enhanced eBooks Expand Reading

HOW WILL READERS BENEFIT? Enhanced books enrich and expand the wonder and pleasure of the reading experience with fascinating and insightful videos:


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.

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...