Travels and Research
 Because I love to travel and I love nature, I’ve tried to do writing projects about our national parks and other countries.  After my first book Giant Lizards was published, I was asked to write five books on the national parks.  I decided to choose some of the national parks I visited as a child and some I’ve always wanted to visit.  My husband, a professional photographer, traveled with me.  Many of his photos have been published in my books.  If you would like to see his website, go to

The national parks I visited and wrote about are Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Redwoods, Everglades, and Carlsbad Caverns.  Before visiting a park, I contacted the park and told them: who I was, why I was visiting, and when I would arrive.  I was able to set appointments for interviews with many experts such as biologists, speleologist (a person who studies caves), and historians.  In Carlsbad Caverns and Everglades a ranger was assigned to us for the day.  In Carlsbad we were able to visit rooms in the caves which were closed.  In Everglades we were taken slogging (walking through the grasslands to a cypress dome).

   I was then asked to write books about countries.  Before leaving on our trip to visit the country, I contacted the embassy and told them about my project.  I requested to set up interviews with government officials to get more information while visiting.  In Cambodia I met with several ministers for two hours.  I was given an invaluable book about the country from one of the ministers.  In Botswana I met with the educational director of the national museum.  He also invited another knowledgeable person to attend the meeting.  When I wrote about Galapagos Islands, I contacted the Charles Darwin Research Station.  I was assigned to a very helpful person at the station to answer all my questions.

Sometimes my books do not involve travel, but I still get to talk with experts.  When I wrote my Animal Giants book, I contacted an expert biologist on sea life.  I asked him many questions about blue whales, sperm whales, great white sharks, and giant squid to name a few.  I contacted experts at many zoos around the country to ask about polar bears, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and others listed in my book. 

 To come up with the questions in Animal Giants, I asked fourth graders what they would like to know.  This is where some of my favorite questions came from such as: "How big is an African elephant’s poop?" and "Could a hippopotamus eat a kid?"

Some may say research is boring, but I find it exciting.  It’s thrilling to talk to experts and learn wonderful details about animals and places.  It’s also very exciting to tell children about all the amazing places and animals in the world.
 Research Tips for Students:
 You don't have to be a professional writer to have fun doing research.  If you want to find out more about something, here are some ideas:

1.  Before you visit a museum, zoo, a state park, or national park, read about it.

2.  While you are reading about it, write down any questions you may have that are not included in the written material.

3.  When you are visiting the place, ask to speak to a curator (a person in charge of a museum), volunteer, or ranger.

4.  Ask your questions.  If they do not have the answer, ask them who would and get their contact information.

5.  If you are not able to visit, contact the place via email.  There is usually one listed on their website.

 saralouisekras "at" gmail . com  
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