Posts Tagged extinction

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

STEM Tuesday– Extinction– Book List

They say “extinction is forever” – but is it? These books address the very real threat of extinction of the living organisms that share our planet. They also show what we can do about it, how some species have recovered, and some even ask whether we should bring back “lost” species.

Animals at the EDGE: Saving the World’s Rarest Creatures by Marilyn Baillie

Dinosaurs are not the only animals who’ve gone extinct; the last marsupial Tasmanian tiger died just 75 years ago. Meet the scientists searching for proof that eleven rare animals (the last of their kind) still exist. Discover what they’ve found and their next steps in either finding or surveying and protecting these amazing animals. The conversational tone, mini biographies, “field note” sidebars, and map make this a wonderful introduction to these animals.

Gone is Gone: Wildlife Under Threat by Isabelle Groc

After explaining extinction and tallying losses, the author examines the numerous ways scientists track and evaluate species numbers and their habitats, as well as the threats each faces. Then highlights the efforts by scientists and citizens which have rescued species (eagles, condors, and right whales) and current efforts to save many others (northern white rhinos, tortoise, and ducks). “Act For Wildlife” sections focus on ways kids, and others, have made a difference.

American Jaguar: Big Cats, Biogeography, and Human Borders by Elizabeth Webb

A jaguar in the U.S.? This book starts with the discovery of a jaguar near the Arizona border and examines the hazards of habitat fragmentation on animals and plants and the work of scientists, citizens, and governments to create corridors (protected areas or over/underpasses) to save numerous species from genetic islands and extinction. Geared for slightly older readers, it uses the history of science and scientists, legends, case studies, conservation connections, and calls to action, as well as great photographs, charts, & graphs to make it very accessible.

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

Discovering a 40% population drop (in just 30 years), scientists are racing time to study, count, and track nine subspecies of giraffes. The book details the genetics, spot identification software, specific case studies, and spotlights seven conservation efforts. It also offers citizen science suggestions and provides an awesome giraffe guide detailing each of the subspecies physiology, spot patterns, and extinction risk. The photos, charts, and graphs are both gorgeous and heart-breaking.

DeExctintion: The Science of Bringing Lost Species Back to Life by Rebecca Hirsch

Can we and should we bring back a wooly mammoth, passenger pigeon, or Tasmanian tiger?
Or maybe use the technology to prevent current threatened extinctions, such as reviving the “vanished” American chestnut trees, whooping cranes, and the black-footed ferret (once thought extinct, until a small population was discovered in 1981). An interesting look at cloning, DNA mapping and manipulation, and how frozen tissue collections have been used to create diversity in Giant pandas. Hirsch also addresses extinction in two other books: Where Have All the Birds Gone? : Nature in Crisis, in which she notes the warning signs of extinction events; and Where Have All the Bees Gone? featured in an earlier STEM Tuesday post.

Condor Comeback by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Tianne Strombeck

In 1987 the California Condor was declared officially “extinct in the wild.” Fortunately, scientists, volunteers, and everyday people worked together to return condors to the wild. Through it all, readers learn about condor society, behavior, and biology.

Save the People! Halting Human Extinction by Stacy McAnulty, art by Nicole Miles

This is a book about the potential demise of our planet: events that have occurred, are currently underway, and – hopefully – will never happen. Written with humor and sass, the author outlines a few “favorite threats” to the human species: plague, asteroids… But the biggest, most immediate threat is human-caused climate change. She lays out the problems and potential solutions and offers a To Do list at the end.

Rewilding: Giving Nature a Second Chance by Jane Drake and Ann Love

A handbook for those who want to halt extinction in its tracks. This book shows how it is possible to create core areas for wild species, corridors to connect them, and ways to support the keystone species in those habitats. Examples of rewilding include projects in urban environments as well as vast spaces.

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

American chestnut trees were once plentiful in our eastern forests, until 1904 when a fungus wiped out entire forests. But when that fungus showed up in Europe, some infected trees survived. Now scientists want to know if it’s possible to breed a blight-resistant variety, and others are exploring biotechnology options, such as inserting a fungus-fighting gene into the chestnut’s DNA.

For kids who love to choose their own adventures:

Can You Protect the Coral Reefs? : An Interactive Eco Adventure by Michael Burgan

Coral reefs face threats of extinction from increasing ocean temperatures and pollution. In this choose-your-own-adventure, readers learn about coral reefs and then choose a scientific research project to join (there are 3 of them, and you can come back to join another). There’s a lot about ocean research packed into this interactive informational book.

This month’s STEM Tuesday book list was prepared by:

Sue Heavenrich, who writes about science for children and their families on topics ranging from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her neighborhood and around her home—inspire her writing. Visit her at

Maria Marshall, a children’s author, blogger, and poet who is passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she watches birds, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at