Climate Action Shoreline: Interview with a Local Naturalist

Friday, March 10, 2023

By Diane Lobaugh

I love being involved in my neighborhood and city. There are so many good people that live and work and are growing up here. A city or community flourishes with good folks in government, but also with a lot of people, of all ages and backgrounds, that look out for their neighborhoods, schools, trees, people, streams, gardens, and wildlife.

This month I interviewed a wonderful woman who lives here in Shoreline, whose life is discovering and teaching about our natural world.

Julie Luthy photo by Diane Lobaugh

Meet Julie Luthy
. Julie has always been a naturalist and shares her love of the outdoors with people all around her. I met Julie through a mutual friend who knew about her work in our community. Julie became part of Climate Action Shoreline and helped write our brochure on daily climate actions.

“I encourage people to go outside and slow down, looking and listening carefully. Nature is dynamic and to notice the changes is a gift we give ourselves and to those we share it with.”

What lives in a tide pool?
Photo by Julie Luthy
Julie was born and raised in Wisconsin. She worked for nature centers, national parks and forests in Washington, Wisconsin, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Alaska. 

She moved to Washington State to work in Olympic National Park and attend WWU where she received a master’s degree in environmental education. She fell in love with the Northwest and has built her life here.

In Washington Julie has worked in city parks and schools. She currently works with preschoolers through 5th graders in and outside of schools. 

She loves leading students on walking field trips so they can learn about their own neighborhoods and can connect with what lives around them, their parks and streams and forests. 

Julie gives her students homework but not a due date. She says: “For the rest of your life I want you to notice plants blooming, worm castings, birds singing.”

Julie also teaches parents and teachers, encouraging us to slow down with children, and to share in their excitement of discovery. This will in turn encourage more close observation and can develop into a lifelong relationship with nature.

Local heron photo by Diane Lobaugh

Julie understands that young people need to feel a connection to the earth before we can ask them to save it. 

She says to let them love it first. And it is not necessary to know the names of everything we see. We can get outside, stop and listen, notice and start asking questions together. Who ate the seeds out of this cone? Who is that singing?

As a scientist Julie asks her students lots of questions and encourages them to notice and think. She asks her youngest students: what do worms, and potato bugs need to survive?

With 5th graders Julie explains the difference between weather and climate. And discusses global climate change, and the science behind it. 

She talks about watershed runoff, the wetlands around us and why we see changes. Julie asks her students what may be causing the changes. Her students work in groups to develop an environmentally friendly community. 

She asks them what they can do, today, to preserve the wetlands or protect the insects or not pollute the air. She also shares the climate action brochure to bring home.

Native Douglas squirrel photo by Julie Lothy
I love thinking about the many lives that Julie has touched, including mine. 

I imagine the circle of preschoolers watching Julie light up as she talks about potato bugs and how snake jaws work and how much she loves a Douglas squirrel that lives in her backyard.

Julie lives not too far from one of her schools, just through the trees. The teacher sometimes tells her students that Julie lives over there, pointing to the trees. 

Julie could read on their faces that they thought maybe she lives in the forest. I think she does… the land, the trees, the air and rain and plants and insects are her neighbors, her home.

Thank you, Julie. I am glad that we will see you in the neighborhood.

Diane Lobaugh (with Julie's help)
Past Shoreline Area News articles based on the pamphlet from Climate Action Shoreline: Start Over Every Sunday, Fossil Fuel Free Friday, Supportive Saturday, What is Climate?, Thinking about our World Community, Ending war is a climate issue. View them here


Anonymous,  March 10, 2023 at 8:33 PM  

Julie Luthy is a treasure! Her work with Shoreline students is a wonderful gift. I have learned so much from working with her. Her enthusiasm is contagious and our kids learn so much about our community and environment!

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