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UAF scholarship honors famous caribou researcher

Submitted by Marie Gilbert
Phone: (907) 474-7412

06/22/04

A new endowed scholarship to honor Olaus Murie's pioneering and exhaustive ecological studies of Alaska's caribou has been established at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Olaus Murie Caribou Scholarship, established by Institute of Arctic Biology Professor Emeritus David Klein, himself a noted wildlife management expert and recipient of The Wildlife Society's Aldo Leopold Award, will provide support for UAF graduate students whose thesis projects focus on the biology of caribou, Rangifer tarandus.

The primary goal of the endowed scholarship, Klein said, is "to foster training of young caribou biologists, encourage sustained and continued focus on caribou, and to continue Murie's tradition of quality investigative research of caribou."

"In view of the importance of caribou in Alaska's ecosystems," Klein said, "their role in subsistence and sport hunting and other recreational uses, their relevance to the cultural and social health of Alaska Native communities, and their vulnerability to the effects of industrial development within their habitats, the Olaus Murie Caribou Scholarship deserves the support of biologists and others who wish to honor the work of Olaus Murie."

"The scholarship's initial endowment is $20,000 and we hope to double that amount through contributions to the scholarship fund," Klein said.

"An equally important goal of the scholarship," Klein said, "is to honor Olaus Murie and to ensure students recognize Murie's contributions to the understanding of caribou ecology and the efforts he and his wife Mardy Murie, who died October 19, 2003 at 101 years of age, made toward protecting caribou habitat from degradation through inappropriate or poorly planned industrial development."

Interest generated from the principal will be used primarily to assist graduate students to attend workshops, symposia, and conferences where they will make presentations on their thesis projects.

Caribou are perhaps Alaska's most ecologically complex wildlife species and are a key component of northern ecosystems. Caribou have long been and continue to be a mainstay of the subsistence economy of many Native communities, as well as providing the genesis of their distinctive cultures.

In the final years of his life, Olaus worked closely with Mardy to protect the pristine Brooks Range and the Sheenjek river valley. Their hard work and dedication to this uniquely wild treasure culminated in the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Shortly after Olaus' death in 1963 the Wilderness Act was passed.

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