By Ashley Yeager

This screenshot shows one of the opening page of of Johnston's new iBook. Image courtesy of Dave Johnston, Duke.

This screenshot shows one of the opening pages of a chapter in Johnston’s new iBook. Image courtesy of Dave Johnston, Duke.

Duke marine biologist Dave Johnston and his students are back in business on iTunes.

They’ve just released The View From Below, a free iBook for middle school students and teachers that uses multimedia and classroom exercises to discuss overfishing, marine debris, climate change, invasive species and other issues related to marine conservation.

This is Johnston’s second digital textbook. His first was Cachalot, an iPad textbook covering the latest science of marine mammals like whales, dolphins and seals. Experts contributed the text, images and open-access papers.

The View From Below, however, is a bit different.

Undergraduate students in Johnston’s Marine Conservation Service Learning class wrote the book using Apple’s iBooks authoring tool. Johnston and Tom Schultz, Director of the Marine Conservation Molecular Facility at Duke’s Marine Lab, edited it.

“There are a lot of people exploring the use of the iBooks platform for student-generated content,¬†among¬†other development platforms,” Johnston says. “I don’t think we’ve seen many that focus on marine science yet though, and I’m pretty sure it’s the first marine conservation textbook written by students on the iTunes store.”

Johnston says the class chose to use the iBooks software because the technology is free, easy to use and provides “great templates to get things going quickly.” The software also works well because Duke’s Marine Lab has an iPad loaner program, making the tablet the platform of choice for developing and testing the textbook.

The middle school that the service learning class works with also has access to iPads for students and instructors, so the audience was there for the iPad format, Johnston adds.

His students chose to write the book as the class project to spur learning and discussion about some of the most serious problems facing Earth’s oceans.

“As the text indicates, all life on earth is ultimately supported by the ocean, so we need to take care of it,” he says.