Posts Tagged extinct animals

STEM Tuesday– Extinction– Writing Tips & Resources


Extinct. Over. Done with. Gone.

There won’t be a whole lot of writing tips and resources in this STEM Tuesday post. I apologize in advance. It is mostly about a bleak outlook brightened by the hope we can use STEM to solve some of our extinction threats.

I recently read a depressing snippet from BirdLife International about the decline in bird species worldwide. 49% of bird species are in decline worldwide. In their last report, released in 2018, that decline was 40% so we’ve gone backward in just four years. It’s a problem everywhere, including a 29% decline in North America and 19% in Europe since 1970, and attributed to losing grasslands and forests to farm use. BirdLife International’s extinction bird species count was reported at 187 species lost since 1500 with the majority of those living on islands.

Being a huge fan of birds, this news hit hard.

Many scientists believe we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction event, the Holocene Extinction. Since 1900, the extinction rates have been over a thousand times greater than the background extinction rate and the rates have spiked over the last few decades. 

Authors of the study: Jacopo Dal Corso, Massimo Bernardi, Yadong Sun, Haijun Song, Leyla J. Seyfullah, Nereo Preto, Piero Gianolla, Alastair Ruffell, Evelyn Kustatscher, Guido Roghi, Agostino Merico, Sönke Hohn, Alexander R. Schmidt, Andrea Marzoli, Robert J. Newton, Paul B. Wignall, Michael J. Benton, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

In their 2019 global diversity assessment report, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES) estimated that 1 million of the 8 million species on the planet are threatened. 1 of every 8 species is in trouble!

World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Germany suggested in 2021 that over the next decade, 1 million species could be lost as part of the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs. 

The culprit?

Human activity.

So if human activity is the culprit, it should be easy to change, right?


It’s hard to get people to even realize the problem let alone make changes to their lifestyle. Change is hard. 

Change is also slow. 

Climate change and subsequent extinction events are slow and often measured on a geological time scale. It’s hard for many people to wrap their heads around something they can’t see happening here and now. Even recovery from a catastrophic extinction event takes a whole lot of time. Estimates from a 2019 University of Texas study clock the time of major extinction event recovery at 10 million years due to what they called an “evolutionary speed limit”. 

Change is slow.

With extinction, it takes time to destroy and it takes time to rebuild. The best path is to avoid going past the point of no return on the cascade toward an extinction event altogether. Some of those one million species traveling down the extinction road don’t have time. They are already in dire straits. They need action.

If you study this month’s STEM Tuesday extinction book list, you will see several cases where a species returned from the brink of extinction with the help of human intervention and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There’s hope for the future of endangered species flowing through those stories. 

But more needs to be done. Steps must be taken to slow down the descent into full-blown Holocene extinction. The next 50 years are vital toward turning the tide and saving as many of those million species on shaky ground as possible. 

Let’s do this, people!

Every positive change is a win in the long run.

The endangered black-bellied tern. Kandukuru Nagarjun from Bangalore, India, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons



Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal-opportunity sports enthusiast, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training-related topics at and writer stuff at  www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64 and on Instagram at @mikehays64.


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s version of the O.O.L.F.(Out of Left Field) Files explores some of the positive and negative news on extinction.

The Extinction of birds

Reproducing coral in the lab for reef restoration

Evolution imposes ‘speed limit’ on recovery after mass extinctions

PBS’s The Green Planet

The Cornell Ornithology Lab


STEM Tuesday– Extinction– In the Classroom

Extinction is a tough theme. I struggled with my emotions a bit as I read through books from this month’s list. All the books I read balanced the threat of extinction with hope for staving it off. This included providing actions individuals can take to make a difference to species threatened with extinction. More on that below. First, here are the books I read. All were exceptionally well done and worth the read.

Tree reaching into the sky.

Champion, The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree
by Sally M Walker

I married a guy who loves trees, so it’s no surprise that this book caught my eye. Plants and trees often seem forgotten when discussions of endangered or extinct species arise. This book covers the importance of the American Chestnut in American history and culture and how it was almost wiped out. Then it looks at the different ways scientists are trying to save this tree from extinction.


A lone giraffe walking across a desert with blue sky and shadowy mountains in the background.

Giraffe Extinction: Using Science & Tech To Save the Gentle Giants
by Tanya Anderson

My sister loves giraffes, so of course I had to read this book. I learned so much about giraffes that I didn’t know! This book also includes great descriptions about things like the IUCN Red List and taxonomy.



Yellow bird with mouth open.

Large, fuzzy beeWhere Have All the Birds Gone? And Where Have All the Bees Gone?
by Rebecca E. Hirsch

I love birding and am a Scouts BSA Bird Study merit badge counselor. I’ve also been rewilding my yard, repopulating it with native plants. Some of my favorite visitors are the different types of bumblebees that visit our native wildflowers. Given that, this duo of books from Rebecca Hirsch were must-reads for me. They gave me a greater understanding of what’s driving bird and bumblebee species to the edge of extinction, along with things I can do to help bring them back from that edge (some of which I was already doing, like planting native plants).


Learn Some Terminology

When you learn about threatened and endangered species, you hear lots of new terms related to them. And that’s in addition to the levels used in the IUCN Red List. Now would be a great time to find out what the following terms mean and how they relate to extinction.

Terms to explore: extant, extirpated, extinct, invasive, naturalized.

(Hopefully I didn’t forget any big ones.)

Explore Your Local Area

Endangered and threatened species classification is done on many levels. Explore what species are threatened or endangered in your neck of the woods. Have each student pick one to explore further.

What is its natural habitat? Why is the species threatened? How many are still in existence in the wild? What is being done to protect the species?

Have students educate each other about what they’ve found. Then have them pool their information in the following activity.

[If you’re having trouble finding this information, start with your local parks, Fish & Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, or conservation organizations.
Some New Jersey resources are:
NJ Fish & Wildlife (Department of Environmental Protection) –;
Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey –;
the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service NJ Field Office –]

Graph It Out!

If you read about multiple species, you’ll notice repetition among the things that are driving them towards extinction. It’s not just one thing, either. Usually, there are multiple factors working together to drive species to die out.

Have each student research a different threatened or endangered species (or even one that has gone extinct). Find out what factors are/were negatively impacting the species.

Combine all the collected information into a graph or chart to show the most common factors driving species to extinction. Is it habitat loss, fragmentation, pesticide use, or something else?

What would be the best way to illustrate this? A bar graph? A pie chart? Something else?

Take Action

Once you’ve learned about lots of species needing help in your area, you’ll probably be a little depressed and/or scared. The best thing to do is to take some action that will make a difference to those threatened species. Look for ideas in the books on the booklist or in the other resources you’ve accessed.

A few ideas include:
Stop pesticide use on lawns and fields. This could include lobbying your local school board or town/county/city council.
Create a native plant garden or pocket meadow. (If you search the internet, you will find lots of resources to help.) There are lots of local Native Plant Society chapters that could help with this.
Participate in a Community Science program to help collect data on species – see the June 2022 post to help with this.

Bonus Read

I recently read a fabulous photo essay about seabeach amaranth, a plant species that made an amazing reappearance on the New Jersey coastline. Check it out here:

Woman with short hair and sunglasses, sitting on the ground cutting long brown reeds.

Janet sometimes helps out with conservation projects – here she’s helping cut reeds to stock an insect hotel.

Janet Slingerland is the author of over 20 books for young readers. In her spare time, you can often find her out in her yard, creating habitat for plants and animals. Learn more about Janet and her books at

EXTINCT! Facts & Fiction for Middle-Grade Readers

Many kids in this age group can rattle off more dinosaur names and the details about more species than most other twelve people put together. And they have learned much of this on their own, through eager reading! What could be more exciting during this pandemic, when schools are closed and normal summer activities are limited, than for young readers to find books that hold their avid interest for hours and days?

More books on the ever-hot topic of dinosaurs come out every year. I’ve been writing a book about extinct American animals and have been looking at just about everything available for middle-grade readers on the subject. I recommend the following page-turners:

Stephen Brusatte is a leading young paleontologist, but also an engaging author of books for children and adults. In his Day of the Dinosaurs: Step Into a Spectacular Prehistoric World (Wide-Eyed Editions, 2016), readers witness over 100 prehistoric creatures of the land, sea and air through 2nd-person narrative. Older middle graders might also enjoy his best-selling adult book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs (William Morrow, 2019)

Kelroy Pim and Jack Horner both fell in love with dinosaurs as kids and now have become leading scientists in the field. In their book, Dinosaurs—The Grand Tour: Everything Worth Knowing About Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops (The Experiment, 2nd Ed., 2019), readers will find many of the mind-changing latest discoveries. The book also includes Jack Horner’s working field notes and suggestions for how and where readers might go to make their own prehistoric finds.

Extraordinary animals lived and went extinct millions of years before and after those great dinosaur beasts. This may be a whole new area for dino-fans to explore. Fortunately there are a number of wonderful books to help them get a sense of our vast natural history. One is Matt Sewall’s Forgotten Beasts: Amazing Creatures That Once Roamed the Earth ( Pavilion Children’s , 2019). The well-known and little-known creatures featured in this stunningly illustrated book span half a billion years, ending with the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger in the 1930s.

In their well-researched, humorous, and visually compelling book, Prehistoric Ancestors of Modern Animals: If Extinct Beasts Came to Life, (Hungry Tomato, 2017), Mathew Rake and Simon Mendez use digital photography to show what modern animals might be like if they still had the attributes of their prehistoric ancestors. See also their Prehistoric Giants, Prehistoric Sea Beasts, and Prehistoric Predators, all published in 2017.

 For comprehensive, visually appealing reference books for this age group, you can’t miss with anything published by the Smithsonian or by DK Eyewitness books. Some examples: William Lindsay, Prehistoric Life: Discover the Origins of Life on Earth from the First Bacteria to the Coming of Humans (DK Eyewitness Books, Reprint ed., 2012). Or Paul Taylor, A History of Life in 100 Fossils (Smithsonian Books, 2014).

Would readers like to dig up some fossils of their own? Thousands of prehistoric animal and plant remains lie underfoot waiting to be found all over this country (except maybe in Rhode Island where, because of glaciation, fossil hunters may only come up with a trilobite or two and some Carboniferous cockroaches).  Amateur fossil hunters, (including children!),  have made many scientifically important finds

Mathew Rake and Dan R. Lynch’s Fossils for Kids: Finding, Identifying and Collecting (Adventure Publications, 2020) covers all those topics, but also explains how to collect responsibly so that you preserve the scientific record. Albert Dickas‘s 101 American Fossil Sites You’ve Gotta See (Mountain Press Publishing, 2018) shows state-by-state where to see prehistoric animals on display, or observe expert digs in progress, or dig on your own.

Would they like to read fiction about fossils? Try Monica

Kulling’s Mary Anning’s Curiosity (Groundwood Books, 2017), a fictionalized account of the childhood of the 19th century shell-collector who revolutionized paleontology 
with her discoveries. Or read Roger Reid’s Time: A Jason Caldwell Mystery (NewSouth Books, 2011) set in a world-famous Paleozoic Footprint site in northern Alabama.

At a moment when there is much uncertainty in the present and about the future, it may be refreshing for readers to focus on the long time of Earth’s natural past. At the very least, they can have fun reading about some fascinating ages and creatures. Please pass this list of books along to any middle-graders you know. There are many more titles that I could have included, but they will find them. I wish there were a reading equivalent of “Bon appétit!”