Laurel Larsen talks ‘One Night in The Everglades’

Network News Spring 2012, Vol. 25 No. 2
The 3rd book in the growing LTER Schoolyard Book Series is translated into Spanish

“Spending a night in the Everglades is an unforgettable experience,” says Laurel Larsen, author of One Night in the Everglades, the latest book in the growing LTER Schoolyard Book Series.. “For one, there are mosquitoes like you wouldn’t believe.” Mosquitoes aside, though, Larsen says there is something amazing about being there, “in a space somewhere between endless water and sky, as the day turns crepuscular, then yields to darkness, and then daylight creeps around again. Herons fly above with nothing more than a deep rustle of wings as the sky turns orange in the west, then purple. That time of evening is so quiet and yet full of life; you want to take it in. Come nightfall, frogs and bellowing alligators erase the silence. Pinpricks of light emerge in the sky, and again in the water, and the scene on the ‘floc’ cam begins to get interesting as zooplankton and crayfish start to act up.”

It was this sense of wonder and rootedness in place that Larsen wanted to convey to children in writing One Night in the Everglades, the 3rd installment in the Schoolyard Book Series. “Wonder and sense of place in the natural world, developed in my childhood in Titusville, FL, ultimately motivated me to study environmental science,” she reveals. “I wanted to help South Florida children find inspiration in the Everglades and to motivate them to protect that ‘back yard’, even as they understand that we need to find a way to ensure adequate water for agriculture and urban communities. Also, I wanted to give them a window into a day in the life of a field scientist, a career to which they might otherwise not receive much exposure.”

Although Larsen was ultimately the author, the development of One Night in the Everlades was truly a team effort. It began in 2007 at a dinner during the ASLO Aquatic Sciences Meeting, while Larsen was still a graduate student at the University of Colorado. Rudolf Jaffé, the Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) LTER scientist who coordinated the book development effort and Diane McKnight, the Principal Investigator at McMurdo Dry Valleys (MCM) LTER and one of Laurel’s mentors at Colorado, were discussing the desirability ofdeveloping a children’s book for FCE. At the time they were looking for an author, illustrator, and funding for the book. As luck would have it, Larsen, who was with them at the table, had plenty of interesting stories from her field work and was willing to accept the challenge.

Upon obtaining funding from the Hubbard Brook Foundation, the Southeast Environmental Research Center endowment at Florida International University, and dipping into FCE’s supplementary schoolyard funding, the team recruited the highly talented Joyce Turley, an award winning artist, to illustrate the book.  The result is a beautifully illustrated, lively book that children and adults alike will find interesting and informative.

Besides its excellent educational content and beautiful illustrations, One Night in the Everglades is the first book in the Schoolyard Book Series to be translated into Spanish, as Una Noche en los Everglades; with A. Ribbi and R. Jaffé translators.