Magnificent Margaret Murie Building Dedication Ceremony @ UAF

Margaret "Mardy" Murie Building Commemorative Plaque
Click on picture for enlarged view
The sun smiled down on the Margaret Murie Building Dedication at UAF on Thursday, August 22nd. What a splendid ceremony, spectacular speakers, and beautiful building! Momentous occasion for all of us in attendance to celebrate the naming of this magnificent building after Margaret "Mardy" Murie, the first woman graduate of UAF (at that time, called the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines). The building was designed, in Murie's spirit, to encourage a love of nature, as well as to inspire collaborative and creative encounters among students, faculty, and researchers. This state-of-the-art facility is built to focus on and facilitate cooperation and teamwork. 

In her address to the crowd at the dedication ceremony, College of Natural Science and Mathematics Grad Student Sophie Gilbert reflected on collaboration, connections, and celebrated how Murie's spirit is woven into and through this new UAF Life Sciences Building. 

Read Sophie Gilbert's words below 
(printed with permission of the author)


When I told my family that I was leaving California to get my PhD in wildlife ecology in Alaska, they gave me Margaret Murie's book, "Two in the far North." Perhaps they thought it might dissuade me from my crazy plan, given some of the harrowing adventures in there, although they should have known better. Here I am, after all.

On first reading, the early adventures of Mardy, the first female graduate of UAF in 1924, seem mostly about independent discovery in the Alaskan wilderness, and it is with this vision that many of us come to pursue research and adventure in Alaska. Yet, Mardy's most enduring legacies were not achieved in the splendid isolation of the Alaskan wilderness, but rather through splendid collaborations. She excelled at bringing people together, and through decades of teamwork she helped enact landmark conservation legislation creating protected wilderness areas across the nation. 

Today, researchers and students come to Alaska from all over the world. We come to work and learn in the wild landscapes that Mardy helped conserve. I think Mardy would be thrilled to see how much research is going on today in her beloved Alaska; and I bet she would be thrilled that the UAF Department of Biology and Wildlife currently has 131 graduate students, 60 percent of whom are women. As one of those graduate students, I know how much I benefit from the vibrant, passionate faculty and students surrounding me.

Like Mardy's many triumphs, our greatest accomplishments depend on collaborations. Increasingly, science cannot be done alone. For instance, I am lucky enough to study the relationships between deer, bears, wolves and their rainforest habitat in Southeastern Alaska. But, without our team of professors, undergraduate and community volunteers, and management agency collaborators, we would never have even gotten our project off the ground. A PhD from UAF is truly a team effort.

This new building is designed and built to encourage teamwork, so essential for Mardy's accomplishments and for success in today's research world. From the shared lab spaces, where I work side by side with scientists from other research groups; to the large common areas and open offices, where professors and graduate students can gather, mingling is part of the day-to-day; and to the state of the art classroom, where teachers and students can interact closely both with each other and with cutting-edge technology.

In the coming days, we get to watch this building do what it was built for - bring people together to teach, to learn, and to make connections with each other. In fact, look around -- it's already happening. Mardy would be proud!

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