My entry into marine science was as a field assistant on a predation study where I was tasked with staking juvenile lobsters to the seafloor. It seemed to be a "no-brainer" that the little guys set out in the open sand would be the first to get eaten, but hypotheses have to be supported by evidence, right? Since then, I have felt I owe a debt to lobsters. I'll service that debt, in part, by encouraging you to learn more about them in The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson.
The Secret Lives of Lobsters is an engaging best seller that weaves the complex biology of the American lobster (Homarus americanus) with the history of the Maine lobster fishery resulting in a book that is both sweeping and specific. A journalist by training, Corson committed to learning about his subject from various viewpoints. He worked as crew on a Maine lobster boat, shadowed scientists in the lab and in the field, and attended lively public meetings. If you are not generally drawn to non-fiction, don't be put off; the reader is drawn onto the slippery deck where a line wraps around the mates leg nearly dragging him to a watery death, into the heated debates between scientist and lobstermen over the validity of new data versus generations of on-the-water experience, and under the murky water as scientists search for tiny "superlobsters" that jet through the ocean with claws held out like Superman.
The Secret Lives of Lobsters will equip the reader with knowledge that can be applied to the classroom, conferences or cocktail party conversations. It is bound to instill an appreciation for the mystery of lobster life cycles and the effort involved in sustaining a way of life and a fishery.
Corson's work is an exemplar of place-based, project-based learning. The book could be used in a study of Gulf of Maine culture, science and civics providing examples of coastal careers as well as the value of collaboration and persistence. It could be used to enhance a trip to Gulf of Maine Research Institute, WHOI or local wharfs or provide the impetus to do citizen science with The Lobster Conservancy. More important than any specific action that this book might inspire, it serves as a reminder of the importance of gathering information from diverse sources, and of creating common ground in our efforts to protect and manage coastal resources responsibly.
Ellen Link is a science teacher in Newburyport, Massachusetts, who specializes in project-based science and ocean literacy. She holds degrees in resource management, geography, marine affairs, and science education and came to teaching after working in the fields of environmental education and marine resource management. She believes that helping young people connect to nature and gain skills of agency are key to their ability to be stewards of a changing world. She is happiest when tromping around outdoors with children or with her family near, on, or bubbling beneath saltwater.