The world is full of surprises both weird and wonderful. I have included some fun facts from a few I have written about below. A list of my kidlit-focused interviews and presentations can be found at the end.
“Maria’s Little Birds,” Root & Star, March 2019:
In 1660, when Maria Sibylla Merian was 13 years old, she began to study “little birds” after seeing squirming silkworms disappear into balls of silk and reappear as moths. This painting of their life cycle is the first entry in her Book of Studies.
“Water Fleas, Transform!” Muse Magazine, May/June 2017 :
Water fleas have two large antennae they use to swim; the antennae jerk them through the water like jumping fleas. Daphnia magna footage by Dieter Ebert, share url: https://youtu.be/CAkaunELusc
Daphnia longicephala are a type of water flea that defend themselves against backswimmer bugs by developing balloon-like crests (like the one pictured on the right). It’s difficult for the bugs to reach around and hold on to a crested water flea, making it hard for these body-fluid suckers to pierce its thin shell. Photo credit Linda Weiss from Inside JEB Kathryn Knight 2015 J Exp Biol 218: 2816 download figure link
“Use It or Lose It,” Odyssey Magazine, March 2015:
Warning. As you read this parts of your brain are disappearing. On the plus side, other parts of your brain, like the ones you are using to read this, are getting stronger. Illustration by Andrew Mason CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Whenever you experience something, neurons start sending messages to each other. Different experiences activate connections between different neurons, creating networks. And it is these networks that are responsible for what we sense, think, feel, and do. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology http://giphy.com/gifs/mit-research-nx0MDnbVyyTgk
“Beware of Pirates,” AppleSeeds Magazine, November/December 2014:
St. Augustine, Florida has many pirates lurking in its past. One of these was Andrew Ranson whose execution went wrong. The rope used to strangle him from behind snapped on the final twist and he lived. Was it a miracle it snapped? It depends on who you ask. Either way, after almost 20 years it is believed that he earned his freedom and left. The last English pirate in St. Augustine was gone. Picture credit: Herman Moll [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Another notorious St. Augustine pirate was Robert Searles who with his crew captured a Spanish supply ship, snuck into the colony, ransacked the town, and vowed to return. It was this threat that convinced Spain to build the Castillo de San Marcos. Picture by Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
“The Real First Thanksgiving?,” AppleSeeds Magazine, November/December 2014:
The menu for the 1565 Thanksgiving meal was likely hard sea biscuits and “cocido,” a dish made of garbanzo beans, salted pork, and garlic. Picture Credit: Detalle Cocido Madrileño CC BY 2.0 jlastras http//www.flickr.com/photos/jlastras/3077335981/sizes/o/
In 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the settlers and soldiers who traveled with him to Northern Florida celebrated a Thanksgiving ceremony and shared a meal with the Timucua tribe. That’s more than 50 years before the English settlers arrived in Plymouth! Picture by José Camarón y Boronat (1730-1803), published by Francisco de Paula Marti in 1791
“Amazing and Unusual Birds,” Nature Friend, February 2014:
Sword-billed hummingbirds are the only bird in the world to have a bill longer than their body. Their bill is so long they have to keep it pointed up so they don’t lose their balance and fall over. Can you image having a nose longer than you are tall? Photo by Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org), Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0
Clark’s nutcrackers have an amazing memory. They hide about 30,000 pine nuts in thousands of different places each year and are able to find most of them months later. Photo by Gunnsteinn Jonsson, Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-3.0
“Hair that Feels,” Ask Magazine, March 2013:
The hairs on a manatee’s face are as sensitive as your fingertips. Manatees also have thicker bristle-like hairs on their upper and lower lips that they use to wrap around vegetation and sweep it into and out of their mouths. Photo by Aarin-Conrad Allen
Manatees can sense water movement with the hair on their face and body. Researchers think their hair may act as antennae that help manatees “see” the world around them and navigate through murky water. Photo by Laura K. Zimmermann
“Finding Ways to Save Them,” purchased by AppleSeeds Magazine, April 2015:
To track rhinos, a GPS transmitter is sometimes placed in a hole drilled into their horn. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt them any more than clipping your fingernails hurts you. Some of these trackers also send alarm signals when the rhinos show high activity, like they do when they’re trying to escape poachers. When these alarms are received, patrols can use the GPS coordinates to find the animals quickly. Picture by Eduardo Sortica (“Fotografia própria”) CC by 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s hard to protect a species if you don’t know where to find them. Loggerhead turtles, for example, spend 99% of their time at sea and much about their underwater life is still a mystery. However, satellite tracking is helping to change that. To track loggerheads, a transmitter is attached to their shell. The transmitter uploads data to satellites when the turtle surfaces, which can then be downloaded and sent to wildlife researchers. Picture by USFWS public domain (CC0)
“What’s That Smell,” purchased by Highlights for Children, August 2013:
Crested auklets are funny-looking seabirds that smell like freshly peeled tangerines. Dr. Julie Hagelin is working hard to figure out why. Photo by Julie C. Hagelin
Crested auklets rubbing their heads and necks together–this is where the tangerine smell appears to be the strongest. Photo by Julie C. Hagelin
Interviews and Presentations
Zimmermann, L. K. (2018, June).
Fantastic agents and where to find them. Presented at the Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference, Winchester, VA.
Zimmermann, L. K. (2018, March).
Maria Sibylla Merian: Insects, butterflies, and metamorphosis oh my! Saturday with a Scientist, Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum.
Zimmermann, L. K. (2015, June).
It started in the classroom: My path to publication in nonfiction children’s magazines. Presented at the Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference, Winchester, VA.
Sozzi, E. (2014, November).
From the writer’s desk: Laura K. Zimmermann [blog interview]. Retrieved from http://www.eugeniasozzi.com/blog/from-the-writers-desk-laura-k-zimmermann