JUNEAU, Alaska — A trailblazing outdoorswoman and a marine biologist, both from Juneau, will be inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame.
Mary Lou King and the late Michelle Ridgway will be initiated into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame this year as part of its 2018 class at a May 1 ceremony in Anchorage, the Juneau Empire reported .
The 88-year-old King explored ocean floors, discovered a new species of whale and championed female-led science in Alaska. Her most visible contributions to conservation and recreation are her book, “90 Plus Short Walks Around Juneau,” and the Seaweek Program.
The Seaweek Program is a field trip curriculum for elementary students based in local intertidal zones. She hoped the chance to view the intricate web of life in Juneau’s tidepools would instill a sense of respect for the natural world.
“Most of (the students) had never been to the beach at a minus tide,” King said. “They had no clue you could see sea stars and all those things. I think if you see those kinds of things and appreciate them, you’ll be way more apt to, no matter what you do when, take care of the environment in all types of ways.”
The curriculum expanded to every elementary school in Juneau.
“90 Plus Short Walks Around Juneau,” her trail guide through the city, grew out of the Seaweek effort. With the help of other local hikers, King published the first edition in 1987. Hearthside Books says that it sells more copies of “90 Walks” every year than any other book.
Ridgway, who died in January at age 54 from injuries suffered in a single-car crash in Juneau, cataloged the city’s trails, rehabilitated birds and established a field-based education program that molded the minds of Juneau students for decades.
Navigating the depths of the ocean and bureaucracy was Ridgway’s unique gift, said Kate Troll, a colleague who crossed paths with Ridgway in local and state policy arenas.
“Michelle cut a figure that was at once memorable and impactful,” Troll wrote in her nomination form, adding she was a “larger than life figure in this state.”
Ridgway published numerous scientific papers on everything from microscopic zooplankton to whales. She gained statewide notoriety for deep-sea exploration of the unexplored Zhemchug Canyon, in the Bering Sea, and for being a part of a team that discovered a new species of beaked whale.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com