The Elephant Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series)

by Caitlin O'Connell

Paperback, 2016







Clarion Books (2016), Edition: Reprint, 80 pages


Journey to the Namibian desert with Caitlin O'Connell, an American scientist, and witness one of nature's largest , most complex, and most intelligent mammals living today on this earth.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

80 p.; 11 x 9 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jill.Barrington
Caitlin O'Connell is the scientist studying how elephants communicate by vibrations and sounds. Her elephant study links to her childhood study of frogs, noting that they also sense vibrations. There is so much to learn about elephants in the book; an index and list of defined terms are
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The book would be great to discuss elephants, scientists, communication, and the scientific method.
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LibraryThing member jentaz
The book is about an elephant scientist, Caitlin O’Connell, who travels to Namibia to study elephants in their natural environment. She observes a group of female elephants and notices how their behavior could explain how they are able to communicate with each other over great distances.
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O’Connell has a theory that use “acoustic fat” in their feet to feel vibrations in the ground and “hear” through bone conduction. O’Connell conducts several experiments to test her theory and find significant evidence that elephants are able to communicate by differentiating vibrations from both herds of friendly elephants and enemy herds. O’Connell continues her research with the behavior of bull elephants and the social interactions and hierarchy of male herds.
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LibraryThing member BarrettOlivia
Caitlin O'Connell had set out to Namibia to study the communications between elephants. She had a fascinating theory about how elephants detect vibrations through their feet, in addition to their trunks. This book provided the journey that she went on and the experiences she had as she proved her
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theory. Many astonishing facts are provided about the elephants. For example, an elephant's foot print is similar to our fingerprint. They also identify items by their images, rather than how a dog uses scent. In addition to communicating via vocal calls, they can communicate through vibrations felt in their feet, which sends messages to their inner ear from their feet.

I found this book very captivating with the amount of detail used in describing the amazing facts and experimental features when dealing with the elephants. Also, the beautiful photos, by O'Connell herself are very breathtaking. In the story we earn how elephants are affect by another fellow elephants death, and that they are more likely to become depressed. Also, they often attempt to cover the elephant's body once it has died. I also appreciate the mention of the illegal killing of elephants to harvest their trunks for ivory, and how it has severely impacted the species numbers, leading them to become endangered. The back includes a short glossary in order to help the book to be as clear as possible, which I found helpful.
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LibraryThing member kgeorge
This book documents the life experiences of a researcher who starts out studying elephants matriarchal relationships within the group and how the elephant groups and local farmers can co-habitate peacefully to examining the communication patterns between elephant groups. The book uses many
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photographs to involve the reader in the experiences of the researcher, her day to day routines and the dangers she faces in order to complete the experiments. The author includes detailed captions for each photograph as well as further explanations in the text. The books opens with a photograph of the researcher as a young child outside with her animals, then showing her out in the field during her college years. Along with the text, the reader develops a sense of how dedicated the researcher is to animals. This book would be a wonderful addition to a junior high science classroom. The students would see how science is used in the field and how the principles they are learning about in class are applied in the real world by real scientists.
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LibraryThing member 777100987
This book could demonstrate to the students of a 10th grade biology class how a biologist does their work in the field. It could be particularly useful when doing a lesson on conservation or ecology. It would also be useful to a student who wanted to choose elephants as their animal of focus for an
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upcoming project.
The authors provide information about how Caitlin’s scientific work evolved over time. They discuss how Caitlin started her studies in animal vibration and communication tactics with an insect called a Hawaiian plant hopper. After she got her Master’s in biology she got the chance to go to Africa and study elephants. The authors provide great detail on the observed behavior and social structures of many elephants. The authors elaborated on the scientific methods by which the elephants were observed, such as where and how they got their data. They also discuss many interesting and important features of elephants, including how they are adapted to their environment. The authors include conflict between humans and elephants when they demonstrate Caitlin’s efforts to prevent the elephants from raiding the local farmer’s crops.
Over time, Caitlin hypothesizes that elephants feel vibrations in the ground with their feet and send vibrations to other elephants to communicate. They provided the reader with the detailed explanations of how she collected her evidence to support her hypothesis. The book continues to move sequentially with Caitlin’s elephant studies ending the story with ways in which to help preserve the elephants.
The authors provide a useful glossary, index, sources, and other resources. All of the information provided in this book is accurate and Caitlin's credentials provide even more evidence to consider the information provided as valid.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
Another great addition to this wonderful series.
LibraryThing member kaamstutz
As I was walking down the non-fiction aisles at my local library, I noticed this book's binding and design. I quickly realized it was a "Scientist in the Field," book and I was immediately excited about the topic. I recently read another "Scientist" book entitled "Emi and The Rhino Scientist," and
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I wanted to see how the two books compared and contrasted. I loved everything about "Emi." The author did an amazing job retelling the emotionally-charged story, and the information presented in the book could easily be transferred to many subject areas (particularly my subject area of social studies). "Emi" focused on reproductive biology and the special relationship between Emi and her female scientist. The title of this book hints at the work of another singular scientist, and I wanted to see what type of scientist the book focused on and what branch of science would be described. Also, who doesn't think elephants are cool?

Both book's titles are very vague. The reader will know what animals are going to be studied, but they don't know anything about who these scientists are and what aspects of these animals they study. I was pleased to see that this book also focuses on the work of a female scientist. Both books introduce the scientists by looking at their childhoods and displaying how their love of science and animals began at an early age. However, Caitlin O'Connell's research involves understanding if and how elephants can communicate through vibrations intercepted by their feet.

In the chapters focusing on the general descriptions of these animals, both books give the readers an excellent introduction into the anatomy, development, and dynamics of the animals. The beautiful images in both books characterize them as photographic essays, and each image features an informational caption. At the end of each book, there are sections devoted to how readers can help these animals and learn more about them. There are also great chapter titles, an extensive index, glossary, and further readings in each, and I feel that readers would come away from each book with a working knowledge of both of these animals. Also, each book features their female scientists using the latest technologies in their fields to record and observe their experiments. It is great that students can see these admirable women working hard in their respective fields, but I feel this is where their similarities end.

Since "Emi" focuses on the reproductive biology of rhinos and the story of one rhino in particular, "Emi" had a chronological organization. In contrast, "The Elephant Scientist" has a topical organization allowing readers to understand specific elements of elephants and specific elements of O'Connell's experiment. O'Connell also had a specific reason to study these animals. She needed a way to get these animals away from farms since they were routinely destroying crops. Her experiments were driven by both human and scientific needs, and through O'Connell's previous work with insects and their vibrating mating calls, she saw some very interesting parallels between insects and elephants. These giant animals are also able to harness seismic vibrations through their highly sensitive feet to alert their herd of danger or cause for celebration. That is how elephants are able to tell if it is raining many kilometers away, and O'Connell is still in the process of researching how far elephants can transmit these messages. This book's focus is therefore very different. "The Elephant Scientist" looks at African elephants as a whole, and O'Connell's research stemmed from a need to protect African farmers. This book also differs from "Emi" because the scientist analyzed co-authored this book. This gives "The Elephant Scientist" a distinct advantage because O'Connell can give her personal accounts and thoughts on her experiments. There is no questioning the accuracy of this book because the woman behind these theories is the same woman who authored this book. The author of "Emi" had a great personal relationship with the scientist and her research, but "The Elephant Scientist" has exclusive access to the experiments conducted and the research gathered. Also, O'Connell and her husband Timothy Rodwell's amazing personal images add to the books rich detail.

With "The Elephant Scientist," I was very happy to discover that this book also features a female scientists who made amazing breakthroughs in her field. I did not get the emotional connection to the material and the animals in the way that I did with "Emi," but I would still suggest this book to anyone interested in this subject matter. This book covers biology, geophysics, geography, climate change, and African politics. It is obviously far-reaching in its scope, which I believe makes it a book worth incorporating in many classrooms. I could see myself using this book in my secondary social studies classes in a similar fashion to "Emi." These animals need our protection, and advocacy and world politics are topics I hope to incorporate in my classes.
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LibraryThing member winterbower
Great introduction to elephants and their behavior. Also, a good introduction to scientific inquiry. The photos are fantastic and the information is interesting. It is a long book for younger kids, and a lot of the information will be hard for them to understand. So, if your reading to younger kids
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expect to do a lot of explaining. If I was using this in an elementary school I would probably wait till 2nd or 3rd grade. Great for adults too.
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LibraryThing member emmalune
The Elephant Scientist – a Robert Sibert Honor Book - tells the story of Caitlin O’Connell, an American scientist who has devoted her life to the study of elephants. Weaving her personal narrative with her current research, The Elephant Scientist uses photographs by O’Connell (and Timothy
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Rodwell) to celebrate her achievements in the field. Further, this book explores the methods used by O’Connell and other scientists to research elephants, adding an important layer of scientific contextualization to O’Connell’s work and highlights the importance of methodology in the field. Stunning photography is used throughout to illustrate the various elephant behaviors O’Connell researches in the text, providing visual contextualization to show the importance of observation and how it plays an important role in the scientific method. A complete index is provided for easy access to major terms and concepts presented throughout. The Elephant Scientist is an engaging book with the power to inspire children to follow in O’Connell’s footsteps and turn their natural curiosity into a career in the sciences.
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LibraryThing member astares
This narrative is very informative and describes the actual life and process of a scientist studying elephants. This book would be very helpful for a research assignment as well as a segment of studying elephants.
LibraryThing member ewyatt
I was thrilled to find this book in my library's collection as it focuses on studying elephants in Namibia, particularly in Etosha National Park. This summer I'll be going there on safari. The book is full of amazing photographs and explores the scientific work of Caitlin O'Connell in regards to
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looking at elephant behavior and communication. Fascinating stuff, and it gets me ready to see these amazing creatures first hand!
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LibraryThing member APatricia
Caitlin O'Connell studies elephants in their natural environment. O'Connell studies elephant communication by studying the vibration sensitive cells in elephant feet and trucks. She has observed elephants freezing and scanning the terrain and communication through the ground. The vibrational
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messages help elephants to find mates, locate prey, warn others of dangers and to establish territory. In addition O'Connell studies
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LibraryThing member Adrinnon
This book is filled with information about elephants! A scientist traveled to Namibia to study African elephants, and learned amazing things about the way in which elephants communicate. The book is filled with beautiful photographs, and talks about Caitlin O'Conell journey and process used to
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study the elephants.
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LibraryThing member reader1009
children's nonfiction - elephants, life as an elephant scientist

Lovely large pictures balance out the informative text; reading this book was a breezy experience (learning was interesting and even exciting, and never felt like a chore) and I can easily see why this series is so well acclaimed. The
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brief summary of how Caitlin became an elephant researcher also made science careers seem very accessible (maybe I myself can become an elephant scientist!)
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½ (23 ratings; 4)
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