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Do what you love
Montana author Sneed B. Collard III spoke on his underwater adventures to pupils at Rendezvous Elementary Friday followed by a writer's workshop in afternoon classes. Above, third-graders Carah Hall and Chloe Polk carried books for Terri Bauder's class. Photos by Wayne Nicholls

Do what you love

Mar 7, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Author kindles imaginations of Rendezvous Elementary students

Students at Rendezvous Elementary School took a trip to the bottom of the sea last week with visiting author Sneed B. Collard III.

He was teaching them a lesson about research, which often entails a trip to the library. But Collard said a lot of people do research by making observations about the world around them.

'An amazing planet'

"You guys are so lucky --- in Wyoming, you have so many cool things around you all the time," Collard said, encouraging the students to take advantage of their surroundings. "We live on an amazing planet. ...

"Next time you get a research project from your teacher, remind yourself this is one more chance to learn about the world."

He told them about one scientist he met who studies animals deep in the ocean. To reach her subjects, she has to dive thousands of feet below the surface of the water. Collard said she invited him to join her on one of her excursions.

"As you go deeper and deeper, the light is filtered out of the water," he said of his experience. "By the time we were 1,000 feet deep it was almost pitch black."

Internal light source

Many animals at that depth are bioluminescent, he said.

"Those are animals that can make their own light," Collard explained. "We were seeing and catching animals like this."

Using a projector, he displayed a picture of a viperfish, eliciting gasps from the assembled students. The animal has long, sharp teeth that hardly fit inside of its mouth, and light emanates from the end of an elongated fin on its back.

"Another fish that does a similar kind of thing is this one here," Collard said, bringing up an image of a lanternfish, or anglerfish, that also produces light.

Next he showed the students a ctenophore, a jellyfish-like creature that he called one of the most "common and beautiful" on Earth.

He referred to another bioluminescent animal as a "wall of death" that can grow 100 feet long.

"Hanging from it are thousands of poisonous tentacles," Collard said.

He asked the students to think about the reasons light production would be beneficial at the bottom of the ocean. Light can attract food, he said, or a mate. It can also be used as a defense mechanism -- Collard said deep sea shrimp will throw out clouds of light to blind attackers.

Do what you love

When he was a child, Collard said he was fascinated by animals, and sea life in particular. He earned a degree in marine biology before becoming a writer, and now almost all of his books revolve around stories of the animal kingdom. He told the Rendezvous crowd to nurture their own passions early on, as their interests may inform their adult lives.

"Pay attention to what you love now," he said. "What you love now may help you decide what you want to do in the future."

The Rendezvous Parent Group purchased one of Collard's books for each student, with each copy signed by the author.

In the afternoon, he hosted a writing workshop for Rendezvous fifth-graders.

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