Science Meets Adventure with The Call of the Osprey

“If you want to learn about contamination of rivers, just ask the osprey.”  Author Dorothy Hinshaw Patent and photographer William Muñoz show the efforts of scientists who are doing just that with a long-term study of the osprey outside Butte, Montana, in one of the largest Superfund sites in the country. The scientists are working to understand the effects of pollution on the environment through their research on these remarkable animals: fish-catching birds with gigantic nests and a family that functions with teamwork and cooperation.

Today the osprey is studied to monitor the effects of mercury on living things. The osprey hunts in a very small area around its large nest and so scientists can pinpoint where mercury is coming from. In Missoula, Montana, the scientists have been following ospreys for six years, collecting data on the amount of contaminants found on their feathers and in their blood. The rivers and streams in Western Montana are still suffering effects from inappropriate mining activities performed more than a hundred years ago. This man-made pollution is still dangerous to people and to wildlife.

Educators are welcome to download our free The Call of the Osprey discussion and activity guide as well as visit our Scientists in the Field website at for more information and resources.

The Scientists in the Field series shows people immersed in the unpredictable and dynamic natural world, making science more accessible, relevant, and exciting to young readers. Far from the research laboratory, these books show firsthand adventures in the great outdoors—adventures with a purpose. From climbing into a snake den with thousands of slithering snakes to tracking wolves, swimming with hammerhead sharks, and collecting bugs, readers experience the thrill of discovering the unknown.

The Scientists in the Field series has been deemed consistently excellent, imaginative, engaging, and informative. The series provides a broad range of curricular opportunities that will both teach and entertain children.

Visit to learn about all the books available in the series.