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2016 Winner: Young Adult Science Book

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction, by Beth Shapiro. Princeton University Press, 2015.

In How to Clone a Mammoth, Beth Shapiro tackles the topic of de-extinction, offering a complete and honest overview of experimentation in this new area of science. Writing in easy-to-read language, even when discussing the actual techniques of modifying the genome, she enables a lay person to understand what would go on behind the scenes in real labs—not as it’s pictured in movies such as Jurassic Park.

Shapiro, an evolutionary molecular biologist, presents scientific thinking at its best: thoughtful, clear, and covering many different aspects of a problem.  What seems like an easy question, “Why not bring back an elephant or the carrier pigeon?” becomes a complicated (but never confusing) study of the many angles that surround a supposition. The book poses many fascinating questions that will fuel discussion—and may encourage teen readers to pursue study in such cutting-edge areas of science.

About the Author

Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist who specializes in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. A pioneer in the young field called “ancient DNA,” Beth travels extensively in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Siberia, and Canada collecting bones and other remains of long-dead creatures including mammoths, giant bears, and extinct camels and horses. Using DNA sequences extracted from these remains, she hopes to better understand how the distribution and abundance of species changed in response to major climate changes in the past, and why some species go extinct while others persist.

Beth is an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and director of evolutionary genomics at the UCSC Genomics Institute. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Nature and Science, and she was a 2009 recipient of the MacArthur Award. She lives in Santa Cruz.