I know some pretty amazing people. One of them is a woman who I attended college with (GO GATORS!) named Heather Blackall, who never ceases to amaze me with her determination to try new things. Her first book, a children’s book entitled Orion’s Order, releases today. Check out our interview:
Amanda: Tell us a little about yourself and ODCA.
Heather Blackall: I am the president and founder of Ocean’s Daughter Conservation Alliance (ODCA). We officially launched on September 13, 2013. We are headquartered in Trinity, Florida. Ocean’s Daughter Conservation Alliance is dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving marine life through science-based research endeavors and empowering the general public with ocean literacy awareness campaigns. Our mission is to formulate practical conservation solutions that benefit both humanity and wildlife through an innovative blend of education and science.
Our program essentially possesses three major facets (research, education, and conservation). Our goal is to conduct two major research studies per year. For 2014, our research focus areas include a Caribbean shark perception study, and an Antarctica campaign. We believe the best research will result in conservation action.
A large part of what we do throughout the year involves community outreach in public schools, community centers, and daycare centers. We have developed curricula for Pre-K through high school classrooms focusing on ocean related topics. We embrace the notion that some of the most lasting conservation efforts come from connecting people with animals in a meaningful manner. As a result, we have constructed a mobile marine lab complete with a touch tank for up-close encounters with sea life. Kids can find themselves immersed in a mini ocean of sea stars, anemone, sea cucumbers, urchins, horseshoe crabs, oysters, sand dollars, snails, etc. We also possess stunning visual displays, manipulatives, and marine mammal skull replicas for enhanced educational opportunities. We adopt an extremely safe but hands-on approach. We often bring along our crew of live exotic animal ambassadors to assist in promoting ocean literacy and conservation topics.
ARL: What inspired you to write a Children’s book?
HB: I absolutely love literature. Writing a children’s book is an idea that I have considered for the last couple of years. My daughter was a huge inspiration for this project and the timing was finally perfect. I wanted to create a book that would serve as an early introduction to many literary devices while encouraging scientific reasoning. My goal was to author a highly educational book that was simultaneously laced with whimsy. The book is ultimately a call to conservation action and will serve as a fundraiser for ODCA.
HB: The name Orion is highly symbolic. Our main character was named after the prominent constellation. This particular pattern was selected because it is highly recognizable, and also depicts a mighty hunter. A major theme of the book is Orion serving as a guiding light directing children towards sustainable behaviors and introducing the importance of conservation. My goal was to create a character that children could easily identify, like that of the actual constellation. In addition, killer whales are known for being furious hunters of the sea.
HB: As a certified teacher in many subject areas, I believe in the importance of elevating children’s cognitive skills. In order to accomplish this, it is vital to engage a child’s curiosity as well as challenge the boundaries of their established abilities. I wanted a name that would spark inquiry and be out of the ordinary. Orion’s home is compared to that of an ice palace. His ultimate mission is to educate others on the unique environment that is Antarctica. Ultimately, the reader is given directives and invited to join forces with Orion. Therefore, the title serves to reiterate both the charge bestowed upon Orion, and the call to action he presents to the reader.
ARL: What is the main message you want your readers to take away from
reading your story?
HB: The main message that I want readers to take away from this story is the value of the natural world. We reside in a society that promotes materialistic worship, and places so much emphasis on money. Humanity is destroying species at a rapid rate. Endangered means there is still time to make a difference, but extinction is forever. I want readers to shift focus and come to understand that our oceans hold more treasure than anything humans could design. When ecosystems are devastated, there will be no redemption. We cannot buy them back or fabricate a synthetic version. Despite the harsh climate, and remote location of Antarctica, it does strongly impact our daily lives. This story is a call for conservation action and a means for promoting education!
HB: I have been blessed with an amazing seven year old little girl by the name of Faith. She is my angel. For fun, I love to spend time at the beach. I enjoy all sorts of water sports including standup paddle boarding, boating, scuba diving, etc. I also love photography and just exploring the outdoors.
HB: As a newer organization, we would appreciate assistance with raising awareness. Frequenting our website, and following the facebook page are tremendous means of support. Invite all of your friends to like the page! In November, we are launching an Antarctica expedition. We will be conducting behavioral studies on pack ice killer whales.
Our research seeks to identify social learning theories of prey handling and group hunting strategies. We are also exploring the ecological significance of prey selectivity as well as the degree of interdependency among species. We plan to create photo identification catalogs of pack ice killer whales that can be used to conduct long term population health surveys. We will also be filming for an education documentary to take to schools across the state of Florida. A lot of the data and images captured during the expedition will be utilized to create an Antarctica curriculum for public school educators. This book is being used as a fundraiser for the project. All proceeds from book sales will go towards funding the expedition. Each time a copy is purchased, you are directly supporting conservation education, and research!
You can pick up your copy of Orion’s Order at ODCA’s website. If you have any questions for Heather, she can be reached at [email protected]. And you can find her on Facebook as well!