Book Review | The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

sunlight-pilgrims-cover Set in the near future, The Sunlight Pilgrims shares the story of a young man who has just lost his mother and grandmother and is about to face the worst winter ever. Dylan takes the ashes of his dead relatives and heads from London to a caravan his mother has left him in Scotland, near where his gram’s family lived. As the temperature quickly plummets, he befriends his trailer park neighbors, a lovely independent woman and her transsexual teenage daughter, Stella. Told with focus alternating between Stella and Dylan, it is an interesting coming of age tale as well as a story of family discovery and a battle against the elements.

This book was better than expected. The story jumped right in and was clearly written with a chronological plot. Foul language is included, but didn’t feel forced. The coming of age story of the transsexual character was done very tastefully and would serve as a good introduction to leery readers. Short chapters were appreciated and allowed the book to easily be picked up and put down. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.


Ice Cover on Madison Lakes

Lake Mendota’s surface area at approximately 9,730 acres is about three times the size of Lake Mendota’s at about 3,272 acres, but Mendota’s deepest point of 83 feet is not much deeper than Monona’s at 74 feet. Another commonality these two lakes share is a pattern involving the seasonal formation and melting of surface ice. Records dating back to 1855 have helped scientists to identify the slow decline in the number of days that the ice cover is present on these two Madison lakes. In those 150 years, the lakes haven’t lost just a few days of ice cover, but about a month’s worth. This has several ecological repercussions.

Surface ice is responsible for regulating the lake’s temperature, dissolving oxygen levels, reducing evaporation, helping to maintain the lake’s surface area, and providing a holding place for snow, which in turn blocks the sun’s rays from the unseen waters, among many other things. Aquatic ecosystems are very complex and even minute changes can leave lasting effects. Ice cover decline is just one of the ways climate change can be seen around us.

Read the full story by for more details. For further reading on climate change, view the library’s recommended reading lists here. To read more about Madison lakes, see this reading list.

Photo: Three students on frozen Lake Mendota by Amy De Simone

Pew Center Climate Change Report

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change works through the collaboration of business leaders, policy makers, scientists, and other experts in order to approach the complex and often controversial issue of climate change. This is based on sound science, straight talk, and the belief that working together they can simultaneously protect the climate while sustaining economic growth. They are known for analyzing climate issues, working to inform policy makers, educating key audiences, and engaging the business community in the search for solutions.

A few months ago, the Pew Center released “Climate Change Adaptation: What Federal Agencies are Doing.” This report focuses on the efforts and programs of federal agencies addressing climate change. It is aimed at facilitating “communication and collaboration across federal agencies as well as with numerous non-federal stakeholders focused on domestic adaptation policy” (Pew).

For further reading on climate change issues, visit the Water Library’s recommended reading lists, split into categories including Economies and Society, Policy, Great Lakes, and Water.

Pew Logo from Pew website.

New Wisconsin Climate Change Resource

Recently, a new multimedia resource, Climate Wisconsin, was put together by the Educational Communications Board (ECB). This interactive website features stories about the rapidly changing climate. The collection of multimedia includes ten videos and two interactive resources along with background essays and teaching tips. Educators can also access the Teachers’ Domain where stories can be streamed or downloaded. The goal of this project is make these materials available in a variety of formats in order to support teaching and learning about climate change in Wisconsin.

Much of the content on the site, including background essays and teaching tips, was developed in collaboration with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Center for Biology Education at UW-Madison. Additional research contributions were made by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI).

Screenshot of Birkebeiner video from Climate Wisconsin.

“Climate Change Adaptation Tools for Addressing Water Issues”

EPA’s Watershed Academy has sponsored over 50 free webcast seminars with the intent of educating people on water-related issues. The webinars are free and open to anyone, all you need to do is sign up. For those people who are unable to attend the webinar, a streaming audio version of the training is made available on the EPA’s website.

This week’s webinar on Thursday, December 2nd, from 12-2pm CST, will be “Climate Change Adaptation Tools for Addressing Water Issues.” It will discuss some of EPA’s plans for community adaption to climate change, a program to assess climate change vulnerabilities, and case studies addressing climate change impacts. To read a more detailed summary of the webinar, visit the Watershed Academy Seminar page.

To sign up for this week’s webinar, click here. For reading lists of climate change materials related to water, divided by subject, visit our library’s page. A reading list with climate change materials for children can be found on our site as well.

Photo from EPA Watershed Academy website.

Bacteria DNA Discovered through Mud Core Study

Last summer, the public swimming area was closed for a month at Lake Wingra on account of cyanobacteria. These bacteria are not only smelly, but some can produce toxins that attack the liver or nervous system. Some researchers even say that these bacteria can be linked to liver cancer. One problem in studying this has been that few lakes have adequate historical records of cyanobacteria over time.

Cyanobacteria has not just been an issue in the recent past for Lake Wingra and other area Lakes. UW-Madison researchers have now discovered that this bacteria is actually traceable back over 50 years. A modified kind of mud testing of the lake-bottom has shown Cyanobacteria DNA presence has risen over time as the climate has become warmer. This will be a way for many other lakes to be investigated as well.

See the full story released by UW News. For further reading on climate change, see our topical readings lists.

Lake Wingra photo Courtesy of UW Limnology Department.

Sea Grant Update

The New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium (NJSGC) is having an art exhibition in order to help reduce the gap in funding. The art and photography of five area artists will be displayed with a reception on October 24th. The focus of the exhibit will be a well known coastal landmark, Highlands Bridge. Pieces will be sold and auctioned with 25% of proceeds benefiting the NJSGC/NJSG Education and Scholarship program. Read the release on this creative new initiative.

Alaska Sea Grant published “Field Guide to Seaweeds of Alaska” by Mandy R. Lindeberg and Sandra C. Lindstrom last month. Featuring color photos, and printed on water-resistant paper, this is the first book to contain more than 100 common seaweeds, seagrasses, and marine lichens of Alaska. Lindeberg is a biologist with the NOAA in Juneau, and Lindstrom is a professor at UBC.

Ohio Sea Grant is sponsoring a seminar on the impact of Lake Erie’s aquatic invasive species on October 27th. Dave Kelch, associate professor and Sea Grant extension specialist, will explain how the lake’s aquatic environment has changed on account of the most influential invasive species in Lake Erie. See the release for more information about the seminar. Last month Ohio Sea Grant also hosted a webinar, Climate Change and Public Health Impacts in the Great Lakes Region, which addressed health issues involved with climate change in the Great Lakes, ways for the health department to address climate change, and questions about the issue.

Image of Hook Lighthouse” by Lola Adolf courtesy of