Paperback / softback
June 15, 2012
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6.00 Inches (US)
.85 Pounds (US)
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v2.1 Reference

Peril in the Ponds

Deformed Frogs, Politics, and a Biologist's Quest

Peril in the Ponds tells the story of a government biologist's investigation into the mystery of deformed frogs, an epidemic that grew during the 1990s and continues today. It provides an inside view of a highly charged environmental issue that aroused the attention of the public and the media and sparked controversies among scientists, politicians, and government agencies.

By the 1990s, wetlands across the United States were endangered from pollution and decades of drainage to convert them into farmland and urban developments. But when deformed frogs—many with missing legs or eyes, footless stumps, or misshapen jaws—began to emerge from Minnesota wetlands, alarm bells went off. What caused such deformities? Pollution? Ultraviolet rays? Biological agents? And could the mysterious cause also pose a threat to humans?

Judy Helgen writes with passionate concern about vulnerable frogs and wetlands as she navigates through a maze of inquisitive media and a reluctant government agency. She reports on the complexity of a growing catastrophe for frogs and broadens the issue as she researches and meets with scientists from around the world. She affirms the importance of examining aquatic life to understand pollution and the need to rescue our remaining wetlands. She also shares the fears expressed by the teachers, students, and other citizens who found these creatures, sensed a problem, and looked to her for answers. Ultimately, this is a story about the biological beauty of wetlands and our need to pay attention to the environment around us.

About the Author

Judy Helgen spent many years as a state government research scientist in biological monitoring at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, after earning a PhD in zoology from the University of Minnesota. Since retiring from the MPCA, she has taught at Metropolitan State University and was lead author of the Sierra Club report Restoring Water Quality Certification in Minnesota. For more information on Helgen's work, please see her website:


"Do the observations of a curiously stubborn field biologist have any relevance to the busy lives of parents raising children—or to agricultural economics, public health policymaking, and the corporate control of science? Here's your answer. Peril in the Ponds begins with frogs and travels the world. Its author is brave, its evidence convincing, its story compelling. Judy Helgen is Winston Churchill in a pair of waders. Read what she has to say . . . and then do something."—Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment

"This is a book for anyone who cares about the environment, not just in Minnesota but every place where there are frogs and farms."—Craig Pittman, author of Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss

"Judy Helgen was at ground zero when the epidemic of malformed frogs tipped from a regional environmental issue to an international phenomenon. Her book takes us through a heady time when industry and governments were scared and emotions ran as hot as they did during the Love Canal debacle or following the publication of Silent Spring."—Michael Lannoo, author of Malformed Frogs: The Collapse of Aquatic Ecosystems

". . . the very few who have worked on the issue have not produced a definitive understanding of deformed frogs. Helgen deserves great credit for her accomplishments under the circumstances and for bringing the issue back under our scrutiny."—BioScience

"It is important for students to understand how politics can alter, shape, and unfortunately, even stop important research. However, even more importantly, Peril in the Ponds demonstrates the positive societal impacts of dedicated scientists who fight through such roadblocks. Peril in the Ponds is clearly written, accessible, and makes an important contribution to the environmental change and wetland conservation literature."—Wetlands

"Peril does a fine job of combining the thrill of a scientific whodunit (just exactly what is responsible for frog deformities in Minnesota?) with a 'this-is-my-story' monologue from a professional scientist. And it is the side story of Dr. Helgen's life, interwoven with the realities of modern science, rather than the frog deformities themselves that steal the show in this book. . . . Peril in the Ponds is a worthwhile read and can play an important role as a supplemental text for an environmental science class. It is an excellent segue into conversations regarding the scientific method and how it interdigitates with agency administration, the media, the public, and with policy decisions. It provides an avenue for discussion regarding experimental design, the true nature of science, and the role that scientific discovery plays in society. It also serves as an opening for conversations focusing on career choices and whether the benefits of a scientific career, such as that of Dr. Helgen, are worth the personal costs and professional frustrations."—PLOS Biology

9781558499461 : peril-in-the-ponds-helgen
Paperback / softback
272 Pages
$25.95 USD

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