Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!
Today we’re interviewing Rebecca Hirsch, author of WHERE HAVE ALL THE BEES GONE? Pollinators in Crisis. The book received a starred review from Booklist, saying Hirsch gives “a well-balanced and objective presentation” and that the book is “an important resource for all libraries.”
Mary Kay Carson: How’d you come to write Where Have All the Bees Gone?
Rebecca Hirsch: Around 2010 my children and I began volunteering at the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden, a big pollinator garden in my hometown in Pennsylvania. Our job was to plant and weed a small area. The Master Gardeners who ran the garden would come by and share with us an interesting flower or a plant that was really buzzing with bees. I noticed how excited they were about all the bees. Native bees were something I had not previously given much thought to. Once I started paying attention, I began to notice all the bees too, not only in the pollinator garden but also in my own backyard. Around the same time I began to see news stories about possible declines among native bees. Finally in 2017 I heard about the rusty-patched bumblebee becoming the first bee in the continental US to make the endangered species list. I took the plunge and pitched the idea to my editor of doing a book on bees, and got an enthusiastic thumbs up.
MKC: The book features such great interviews with bee scientists, experts, and others. Can you share a memorable research experience?
Rebecca: A favorite time was the day I spent with a group of high school students and their teacher at a local school. The students are slowly converting the lawns around their school into a series of pollinator gardens. Every year, a new group of students competes to design a new addition to the garden, then all the students help plant and tend the old and new parts of the garden. I visited on a day the students were outside working. These kids were sweating, getting dirty, and having fun. And they took such obvious pride in their garden. The school board has been so impressed, they keep funding new additions to the project. How can you be around something like that and not be inspired?
MKC: How would you describe the approach you took on this book—and why you chose it?
Rebecca: I wanted my readers to grasp the importance of the pollinator issue, the urgency of it, but I didn’t want the book to come across as too gloomy. I wrestled a lot with questions like, How do I make readers grasp the immensity of this issue? How do I inspire them to care? I studied techniques of persuasive writing and discovered there’s a whole toolkit of techniques that writers can use. I read other inspiring environmental books, especially Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. If you open my copy of Carson’s book you’ll see lots and lots of my notes about her writing techniques scribbled in the margins.
MKC: Do you choose to specifically write STEM books?
Rebecca: In college I majored in biochemistry and went on to earn a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin. After graduate school I spent a couple of years working as a postdoc in labs at UW and Penn State. I liked laboratory research well enough, but my favorite part of my job was doing scientific writing. I started writing science for children in 2008 when my own kids were devouring books on all sorts of topics. I was very impressed with the books they were reading, and I realized writing science books would be a way for me to use my scientific training and share my passion for science and nature with young readers.
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