2013 Winner: Young Adult Science Book

The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species, by Terrie M. Williams. Penguin Press, 2013.


Williams’ interesting, well-told story of a single Hawaiian monk seal pup illustrates how scientific research increases knowledge while helping draw attention to the fate of a declining species. Her story is a good mix of “hands-on" science and how human and animal culture play roles in the natural cycle of life. She also poses for readers the question of the value and appropriateness of government intervention in helping preserve species for scientific research. Because the book focuses around a few key personalities, it provides students with an up-close look at scientists. Additionally, the presence of a female scientist opens up the possibility that girls reading The Odyssey of KP2 will be more likely to pursue science when they see it in the context of this story, especially since the narrative conveys not only Williams’ work, but also how she developed into a scientist, and her passion for her work—all good things for young people to see.

About the Author

Terrie M. Williams is the director of the Marine Mammal Physiology Project at the University of California at Santa Cruz and has been studying large mammals for more than 30 years. She obtained her Ph.D. in environmental and exercise physiology from Rutgers University (1981) and completed her post-doctoral studies at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Research Department of the San Diego Zoological Society. A co-founder of the Center for Ocean Health at Long Marine Lab, she has studied dolphins, whales, and seals in the wild and at aquariums, most recently focusing on the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Her research expeditions have taken her around the world to study the survival strategies of Weddell seals in Antarctica, Steller sea lions, sea otters, and killer whales in Alaska, as well as cheetahs, lions, and elephants in Africa. With her team, she is working with aquariums, zoological parks, research scientists, and wild animals across the globe to ensure healthy environments for both people and wildlife.

Terrie Williams reads from The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species.

Terrie Williams speaks about The Odyssey of KP2 as part of the AAAS Video Book Talks.