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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Feb 8, 2022

In July of 2018, Orca whale J35, also known as “Tahlequah,” gave birth to a calf off the coast of British Columbia. When the calf died shortly after birth, the world grieved alongside J35 as she carried the calf for 17 days across 1,000 miles before finally releasing it and rejoining her pod. Grief that transcends species is an extraordinary thing; it sparked a revival awareness of the critical need to preserve orcas, the chinook salmon they feed on, and their habitat — together, core elements of Pacific Northwest identity.

In her book, Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home, environmental journalist Lynda Mapes discussed one of the most urban whales in the world and why our efforts to protect them matter now, more than ever. The Southern Resident whales are a community of orcas that live in the Pacific waters spanning from Southeastern Alaska to central California. They are the only killer whale population listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act; as of September 2021, only 73 Southern Resident Whales remain and they are threatened by habitat degradation, lack of chinook salmon (their primary food source), relentless growth, and climate change. Walking through Orca, which is co-published with The Seattle Times and features photographs by photographer Steve Ringman as well as from other partner organizations, Mapes explores the natural history of the orca and their unique challenges for survival.

For more content about the orca, tune in to an interview with Lynda Mapes and Town Hall’s Fall 2021 Podcast Artist-in-Residence, Samantha Allen.

Lynda V. Mapes is a journalist, author, and close observer of the natural world, and covers natural history, environmental topics, and issues related to Pacific Northwest indigenous cultures for The Seattle Times. She is the recipient of a 2014-2015 Charles Bullard Fellowship in Forest Research and is the author of Witness Tree.

Buy the Book: Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home (Hardcover) from Elliott Bay Books

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