The Mermaid Scientist of CA, Teaching Children about the Ocean

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Mermaid Scientist teaches kids marine biology.

What’s Mermaid Scientist All About?

Mermaid Scientist tells marine biology stories to kids under the entertaining guise of learning to be a mermaid. All mermaids need to know about the ocean because as a mermaid you live in the ocean. Mermaids make a fun way to learn about marine biology. It’s what you might call “edu-tainement.” It’s also an unintimidating way to get girls interested in science.

A lot of parents are looking for quality books for their kids that actually teach them something. The ‘pretty pretty pink princess’ genre gets old really fast. Especially when you have to watch or read the same thing over and over again. Mermaids are wonderfully girlie AND you get to learn something about the ocean at the same time.

The Mermaid Scientist, Marine Biologist Claudia Makeyev

So you’re an actual marine biologist?

Yes, I am. I studied at UCSB and did a masters on the Bio-economic modeling of Marine Protected Areas versus Individual Habitat Quotas at URI. I like the whole sustainable fisheries movement. It’s satisfying when you can find winning numbers that work for both the fish and the fisherman. I also do research, fieldwork, and environmental protection writing for a smattering of non profits, the state, the National Marine Fisheries Service/NOAA and the U.S. Navy. You know, the standard Mermaid Scientist type work.

You write children’s books for future marine biologists? Any specific age group?

The “mer-mazing” thing about the Central Coast Mermaid Coloring Book is that it’s for mermaids of all ages.  In general, the books appeal to girls between the ages of 7-13. The Central Coast Mermaid Coloring Book has three sea creatures commonly found off the coast of California; the Two Spot Octopus, California Sheephead and a Mermaid Purse Maker (aka a Swell Shark).

The Rockfish Kids Book can be enjoyed by 3rd, 4thand 5thgraders depending on the class level. It’s a marine biology book that teaches kiddos all about the exciting and fabulous lives of Bocaccio and Yelloweye Rockfish.

The Mermaid Mandala Coloring book has ink drawings of various sea creatures and ocean patterns that relax you as you color. That one is for older mermaids.

Any recent super secret Navy missions you want to share?

Well, I am kinda proud of co-authoring a report to Congress on the Sea Otter Military Readiness Area on San Nicolas Island. It’s part of the Library of Congress now and that just makes me feel cool.

Is that like the South Park episode where sea otters take over the world?

Great episode. It was a little bit like that… but not at all. The Sea Otter Military Readiness Area is this beautiful project that combines efforts of the best sea otter scientists in the world, multiple government agencies and the public at large. Sea otters are adorable and important pieces in the California ecosystem. A lot of people worked very hard so sea otters could survive and thrive in California, especially on San Nicolas Island. Being a part of that was an awesome experience in every sense of the word.  Now I’m tackling the challenging world of mermaid themed kids books.

Did you illustrate the books yourself?

Yes I did. The Rockfish Kids book is all original watercolor paintings. Visual art is an inspiring tool to teach science. I’ve taught STEM at the K-9 and college level and it’s easy to vacuum up all the exciting emotions. Colors and mermaids help the facts and concepts stick in the brain a little better.

Back in the Philippines I founded a nonprofit to teach coral reef ecology to local island kids (The Mermaid Islands Corporation). The most effective lessons were the ones that we incorporated art, pictures and storytelling into the curriculum. Adding mermaids made it more accessible to the girlie girls of the class. For whatever reason, little girls often feel like science is a masculine endeavor. Science can be for everyone. That is really where all the mermaid scientist rhetoric began.

I also put some of the illustrations from my NMFS Rockfish Kids Book on a beach towel and t-shirt. This towel has a mermaid on it AND it’s educational; it lists the names of all the fish so you get to enjoy the beach and learn something. Your basic win/win for the little kiddo in your life.

California marine species

This one has a great white shark on it because most little mermaids like to tell me how cool great white sharks are. You can’t really argue about that, why would you? Great white sharks are cool and the shirts make great birthday presents for friends and family. If you see one of these on the street, there is a high probability that the person is part of my immediate family or invited me to a birthday party.

Great White Shark

So the proceeds go to making more educational tools for children?

The Rockfish kids book will actually be free, compliments of the National Marine Fisheries Service. I made an accompanying classroom poster and Teacher Guide with classroom handouts too. Teachers get support on how to use it in their lesson plans. It satisfies some Next Generation Science Standards, is 508 compliant, will be downloadable on the NMFS Rockfish Recovery website and teachers will be able to request hard copies for their classrooms. Check for upcoming release dates, I’ll let you know when and where you can get it.

What kind of things should our children know about the ocean?

Everything. The more you know about the ocean, the more you appreciate it.

I’d like to share the enthusiasm that comes with studying marine science aka mermaid science. Most girls are attracted to marine biology and I want to nurture that initial interest, share how much fun it can be to study science and inspire a whole new crop of marine biologists.

What does it take to become a mermaid scientist?

It takes a love of marine biology and a lot of imagination. There is a mermaid test at the end of every book. Learning as much as you can about all the sea creatures in the ocean makes you a stronger mermaid scientist. And probably a certain “know it all” quality that is conducive to enthusiastic sharing of fun facts about the ocean.

What’s coming up for you?

On April 28th, I will be at the Santa Cruz Book Fair to celebrate the 100thanniversary of Children’s Book Week. Eight authors are getting together to sign and sell their books to benefit “Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries.” There will be a range of books from children’s to young adult fiction, snacks, raffles, book readings and my coloring books.

I’ll also be selling my coloring books at the Morro Bay Kite Festival on Saturday April 27th. There are going to be enormous octopus kites making their debut appearance in the US at Morro Bay state beach.

On the art side of things, I am creating two new series for a Santa Cruz Art Show in 2020. I got into Kenneth Noland a ways back and have a circle series that plays off a lot of ocean seascape colors and emotions.

I am also painting on a new “fishy” series. I created canvases out of all the ripped up notes and highlighted works cited articles from my master’s research and other work. I’m painting fish and other sea creatures over them now. I love turning all those proofs into colorful art. It is also a cathartic way to recycle the stacks of old research papers that have been languishing pointlessly in my storage unit for waaaaaay too long. I’ll post the progress on the Mermaid Scientist Instagram feed. It could turn out to be totally genius or a complete disaster, we shall see….


Instagram: @mermaidscientist

Facebook: @mermaidscientist

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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