Teaching & Learning

The Power of Knowledge: Teaching the Next Generation

Author Aimee Tallian of Wildland Resources/Ecology Center in Quinney College of Natural Resources, holds her book "Sophie the Sea Otter" designed for the young reader to be a first step towards understanding more complicated ecological concepts.

Aimee Tallian believes that by teaching young children how the natural world works, one can create a generation that understands and appreciates the environment. She believes it so much so, that she spent three years working on a children’s book, which she plans to turn into a series named Our World of Wildlife. For more information go to: www.ourworldofwildlife.com.

She undertook the project while simultaneously completing her doctorate in wildlife ecology at Utah State Univeristy, and it was a labor of love by Tallian. Her first book, Sophie the Sea Otter, was just published. It is a children’s story with a cadence, “High in the north and far out to sea, Sophie lived a life wild and free.” Sophie’s story starts with her family and friends living happily in a kelp forest in the ocean. When Sophie and her friends are driven out of their home, however, it has disastrous results for the kelp forests that provide food and shelter for so many other species. The illustrations and story line are geared toward the young reader and are designed to be a first step towards understanding more complicated ecological concepts.

“Our planet is an intricately balanced ecosystem, and the sea otter/kelp forest system exemplifies how predators help structure their environment,” says Tallian. “Ecologists call this a ‘trophic cascade’.” The book includes an educational For the Parent section, where adults can learn more about the extirpation of sea otters and how their subsequent restoration has helped bring back kelp forests and increase biodiversity.

The Our World of Wildlife series shares environmental and ecological concepts in a fun, approachable and educational way.

“I first came up with the idea at a conference for the Ecological Society of America,” says Tallian. “Someone was speaking on stage about the importance of communicating science to the general public, particularly, engaging children at an early age. The idea for an educational book series just kind of popped into my head.”

Tallian has ideas for several more books. Up next in the series, Gordie the Grizzly Bear will tell the story of a young grizzly bear who must learn how to find food in the wild, rather than rely on the human food he is used to.

“This book will touch on the recovery and life history of grizzly bears in the western United States,” says Tallian.

Funding for the book was provided in part by an ArtSysSTEM grant through the Ecology Center at Utah State University. The illustrations were done by Peter Jones of Belgrade, Montana.

Sophie the Sea Otter is available online at www.ourworldofwildlife.com, and at major retail outlets.

Related Links
Quinney College of Natural Resources 
The Ecology Center at Utah State University 

Contact: Aimee Tallian, aimee.tallian@usu.edu
Writer: Traci Hillyard, 435-797-2452, traci.hillyard@usu.edu

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