Kodiak local teaches salmon conservation through art

Leila Pyle. (Photo by Kayla Desroches / KMXT)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A young Kodiak local is passionate about combining art with environmental education. The Kodiak Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center will feature some of her fish-centric works at First Friday this week.


For her senior thesis at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, studio art major Leila Pyle taught salmon ecology to a fourth grade classroom.

She says that involved six weeks of science lessons and four weeks of art.

“We were reflecting on what we learned and also taking into account how salmon are going extinct in the Pacific Northwest basically and kinda reflecting on that and trying to make art to send to people actually to kind of raise awareness about this issue.”

Pyle says in her six week curriculum, she covered the salmon ecosystem and the cycle of predator and prey, but she wanted to delve into conservation issues too.

“I felt like we needed to do art to reflect about that and actually I found that that was a way to help kids process some of this really intense environmental information that they need to know, but you can’t just hand them as facts, because no one knows what to do with that kind of thing.”

Pyle, who grew up in Kodiak, says when she moves to Portland she found salmon to be a common dominator. She says Alaska and the Pacific Northwest can teach one another.

“So, for Portland or the Columbia river area, looking at Alaska and the way that we’ve not dammed all of our rivers and still have larger salmon runs and seeing what we need to do to kind of reverse some of the damages down there and also up here learning lessons in Alaska to not deplete our salmon runs the way that the Pacific Northwest has.”

As part of her thesis, Pyle put together a series of etchings.

“All of my images together went into a book which is four stories all together and the four stories tell four different perspectives on salmon and climate change in the Pacific Northwest and what the issue is and what people are doing about it.”

Pyle says she plans to pursue environmental conservation through education, although what that will look like at this point, she’s not sure.

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