Protecting the environment one child at a time

Can one book change the course of land and sea conservation for generations to come?

Dr. Joe Gaydos believes so.

He and Audrey DeLella Benedict are the authors of “Explore the Salish Sea: A Nature Guide For Kids,” which will be released on April 17 from Sasquatch Books.

“We have some really audacious goals for this book,” said Gaydos. “We want all kids from Olympia to here to have copies of it.”

Benedict, a writer and biologist, and Gaydos, science director for the SeaDoc Society, collaborated in 2015 with “The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest,” and it was so popular that they ventured into creating a kids’ version that explores the marine ecosystem from Puget Sound up to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Georgia Strait of British Columbia. It is filled with 100 lush, colorful photos of creatures found in the Pacific Northwest’s inland seas that were chosen from 1500 submissions by amateur and professional photographers. The book’s text is centered about place-based conservation and its three tenets: know, connect, protect.

“We wanted to do something that was focused on young people to give them a sense of place,” said Gaydos. “The idea is that fifth and sixth graders are learning about these science topics in school already. This fills the core science requirements for that age.”

Gaydos particularly wants to target schools with children from low-income families by connecting with instructors who can use the book as an instruction companion.

“Having a healthy ecosystem is also tried to human health like with air quality and eating fish and shellfish. And poor communities suffer the most,” said he said. “Everyone has a stake in this game. We want to get the book out there for everybody. We can eventually have a cadre of kids who grow up and have an invested interest in this area.”

The book can be preordered at Darvill’s Bookstore or visit, where you can buy a copy for yourself as well a child who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Teacher Laura Tidwell at the Orcas Island School District is already using the book, and SeaDoc has applied for an Orcas Island Community Foundation grant to purchase 3,000 books for the fifth-grade science camp at Orkila this summer.

Markus Naugle, regional director of SeaDoc, which conducts and sponsors scientific research in the Salish Sea, believes children can be important motivators to change their parents’ behaviors.

“Kids and young adults have an important opportunity to care for and take steps to preserve our natural world,” he said. “To use the quote, ‘We didn’t inherit this planet from our parents, it’s on loan from our kids.’”

Naugle, who recently moved back to Orcas after being gone for 10 years, says he’s seen startling changes in the natural landscape of the San Juans, particularly with a decrease in bird populations.

“We recently went diving off Vancouver Island and Hornby Island (in Canada) where there is a huge diversity of species compared to the San Juans,” he said. “I wish I could have seen Orcas Island 100 years ago. Where will it be in another 100 years? Everybody’s quality of life is affected. Living in this ecosystem is a blessing … and the adults aren’t doing a great job of taking care of this place.”

Gaydos hopes “Explore the Salish Sea” will appeal to more than just students.

“It’s short and fun and accessible. I think parents and grandparents are going to learn a lot when they read it to their kids,” he said. “It was a real treat for me to channel my inner fifth grader and what’s fun for them to read.”

Justin Cox, who recently moved to Orcas to be Seadoc’s communications manager, used the book to educate himself about the area.

“The book has met me on my level,” he said. “And by educating your kids you create a new kind of adult down the line.”