On a First-Name Basis With Nature

December 11, 2015
CBS alumna Cole Williams talks about the inspiration for her new biology-themed book for children. 

Cole Williams

“Writing about science was always something I wanted to do. It’s why I went into research in the first place; I thought it would help me become a more well-versed science writer.”

Cole Williams (B.S. Biology ’09) just published her first book, Eukarya: A Child’s Guide to Knowing Names of Nature. She shares her inspiration for writing the children’s book about the foundation of taxonomy and the domain Eukarya.

Q. What inspired you to write a book for children on this topic?

I was inspired to share basic biology with children. The world has a vast array of diversity that is largely ignored due, in part, to the popularity of mammals. Also, people are often put off biology because of some complicated language. But if you can get past that, what’s beneath is really fascinating and beautiful. Writing about the domain Eukarya with poetry was my attempt to bridge this gap for early readers and show that there are many ways to describe a multi-cellular animal, from slime to fungus to Spanish-shawled Nudibranchs. My hope is that parents will read and learn with their children with Eukarya, and be inspired to look one of the animals up or even buy a microscope and throw some dirt on a slide!

Q. What were some of your own favorite experiences as a biology undergraduate? 

Animal Diversity Lab! I really enjoyed this weekly lab focusing on naming and memorizing the taxonomy of all the organisms. Finding common themes in form and function as well as diverging and evolved traits was a great hands-on way to learn biology concepts. I also had the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands with Sehoya Cotner, Randy Moore and Melissa Palmer my junior year. That experience changed my education and perspectives in science entirely.

Q. Were there early experiences of wonder or curiosity that set you on a path to study science?

From a young age I was immersed in self-teaching and learning about ecology. I was interested in the greenhouse effect and endangered animals, and tried to change the daily routines of our family to be conscious of our footprint. Arbor Day was a favorite in grade school and any field trips to nature preserves. Later, in high school, I got involved in ecology club, setting the stage for my undergraduate focus on biology.