Kim Perez Valice


About Kim

Kim is an animal lover and concerned citizen of our environment. Her interest in writing was sparked when she began reading nonfiction as a kid. Kim’s love of reading about animals and nature led her to gather as many books as she could to learn more. She believes understanding science and nature starts with education, so it’s her mission to offer interesting books for curious minds, as other authors once did for her. She’s written several articles for Highlights for Children, Leader Dog for The Blind, and Dragonfly Spirit. Kim’s forthcoming book The Orca Scientists is about the endangered Southern Resident orca whales. This narrative nonfiction work is part of the “Scientist in the Field” series from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. It presents fascinating facts, outstanding photos, and an inside look into the world of those who study the Southern Resident whales and their surroundings.

Why is There a Need to Care?

The Southern Resident whales are endangered and considered to be the most at-risk marine mammals in the world. Their preferred prey, Chinook salmon, which makes up 80 percent of a Southern Residents diet, has shown a dramatic dip in numbers over the years. Simply put, if Chinook could reach their historical spawning grounds there would be more fish. Unfortunately, scientists have discovered that without enough food, the Southern Resident population is going hungry and not thriving.

Replenishing the Chinook salmon supply comes with its own set of challenges. Dam removal along the lower Snake River would make the fish migration route as accessible as it had been. Currently, the upper Snake River Chinook salmon population is down more than 75 percent compared to when the dams were up and running. Many of the dams are no longer needed and can be replaced by alternative sources that would ultimately restore the Chinook habitat.

It’s important that citizens stay informed on how to help rebuild the Chinook salmon population. Salmon restoration is imperative to the lives and livelihood of the Southern Residents, humans, and the ecosystem as a whole.

Further Information:
You can learn more about how dams, fisheries, and the effect they have on the salmon population by visiting EFFECTS ON WILD SALMON. You can also learn about Southern Resident groups who are working hard to save the Southern Residents and the Chinook salmon from extinction.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Upcoming page link:

The Orca Scientists

Taking Shape

In June, Kim made a trip to the state of Washington to gather information and meet with scientists for The Orca Scientists. Photographer and naturalist Andy Comins came to assist with photography while in the field. Over the course of two weeks, Kim and Andy experienced a day in the life of an orca scientist while on board a boat observing whales up close and personal. To begin the writing phase, Kim interviewed the scientists as they worked to uncover the mysteries of what affects the whales most. Kim recorded the conversations and observations while alongside the scientists. She also carried a notebook. Every night for several weeks, she reviewed the tapes and took notes.

In addition, Kim also attended events and discussions that educated and promoted the well-being of the Southern Residents whales. As she reviewed and gathered new information both in the field and at the conferences, she was able to map out chapters and slowly the book started to take shape. Shortly after, Andy visited the laboratories and photographed the scientists in action.

Resources: Discussion Guides, Educator Resources, Summaries of School Visits

NOAA Research Vessel


How many Southern Resident KW’s are there?

There are three pods of southern resident killer whales that appear year- round in the waters of the San Juan Islands and a Southern Gulf Islands, lower Puget Sound (near Seattle), and Georgia Strait. The J pod is currently made up of 23 members, the K pod is the smallest pod, consisting of 18 members, and the L pod is the largest of all three pods and currently has 35 members.

Do SRKWs travel in family groups?

Killer whales are actually the largest members of the dolphin family, and like many of their highly intelligent relatives, they live in tight-knit families. Southern Resident communities are matriarchal, meaning the family is centered on the mother. In particular, most Southern Resident sons swim by their mother’s side for life while daughters swim close by their offspring, mother, and brothers.

Why are killer whales (orcas) black and white?

Orcas are well known for their distinct and striking black and white coloring. Scientists believe this pattern serves as a form of camouflage from their prey since it makes the whales less visible from both above and below. Not to mention, to a salmon or fish, an orca’s coloration makes the body look smaller with the break up of black, and which gives them a perfect opportunity to sneak up on their next meal.

Why are killer whales called killers?

Fisherman once termed the orca ‘whale killers’ because while they were fishing they watched the whales hunting and killing whales. Eventually, the “whale killers” name changed to killer whale. It is now known that among killer whale groups, each pod has distinct differences among them, including what they eat, how they communicate, and the individuals they travel with. With all that scientists have learned about the whales over the years, one thing remains true: killer whales are apex predators, putting them at the top of the food chain.

Buy the Book

The Orca Scientists is available for purchase here and from booksellers everywhere.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Or purchase from one of these fine booksellers:

Educator Resources

Discussion Guide

For upcoming news and events be sure to check out the Scientists in the Field website related to books like The Orca Scientists and other books in the series.

Request a visit

Use the form below to request a visit to your school or library

Make a Difference


Seafood Watch

Write to Congressman

Center for Whale Research

Orca Network

*Christine Rolfes from Bainbridge Island who we know is an orca chanpion. Jeff Morris, Debra Lekanoff and Liz Lovelett are the senators and reps from San Juan Islands district. It may also be helpful for them to hear that people from out of state are following this and care.

NOAA Research Vessel

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