Survival at 40oC Above

29 January 2013

Author Debbie S. Miller spent time with the Desert Ecology Research Group in the Simpson Desert for her new children's book - Survival at 40oC Above.

A new children's book exploring the ecology of the Australian desert
A new children's book exploring the ecology of the Australian desert

The desert is hot, really hot, and dry. So how do the animals of the desert survive and thrive in these harsh conditions? Survival at 40oC Above is a new non-fiction children's book that explores the adaptations which allows desert dwelling animals to live in some of the most extreme weather conditions on earth.

Debbie S. Miller, the book's author, spent three weeks in the Simpson Desert with researchers from the School of Biological Sciences in April 2010. "I was a volunteer with the research team, so I helped trap and release animals, weigh and measure them, and I was able to photograph animals that people rarely see, due to their nocturnal ways," said Debbie. "Learning about the different marsupials and reptiles through the eyes of scientists and researchers was a fascinating opportunity."

Debbie says that the main purpose of the book is to introduce young readers to the different ecosystems and creatures of our world. "If children better understand the natural world around them, my hope is that they will appreciate all living things on earth and ultimately try to protect the wild places, like the Simpson Desert, that we cherish."

The members of the Desert Ecology Research Group certainly cherish the desert - they have been conducting field work in the Simpson for over 20 years! And Debbie is the latest to fall in love with the place. "The stunning, velvet-softred sand of the Simpson Desert was unforgettable," she enthused. "It was a great adventure traveling with the Dickman lab crew, to learn the local lingo,fly over the dunes in Land Rovers, hear their stories, learn about all of their studies in the field, and share those incredible desert sunsets."

Survival at 40oC Above (published as Survival at 120 Above in non-metric countries) is the sister-book to Survival at 40 Below- an exploration of animal adaptations to the extreme conditions of Debbie's home state, Alaska. "Being in the desert was an amazing experience for an Alaskan who is familiar with the Arctic, and animals such as polar bears and caribou. This was such a different world." And how did she manage to survive at 40oC above? "We had a few very hot days and that was a bit of an adjustment. Thank goodness that we found some shade on those days and we had lots of water."

To learn (or help your children learn) how the mulgara, dunnart, thorny devil, red kangaroo, sand goanna, spinifex hopping mouse and many more animals survive in the desert, be sure to pick up Survival at 40oC Above- available in Australia from 1 February 2013.