The Murie Ranch

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Murie History


Olaus Murie, born in 1889, in Moorhead, Minnesota, became an important force in early wildlife ecology and conservation.  After studying zoology at Pacific University in Oregon, Murie began work as a conservation officer for the Oregon State Game and Fish Department.  This led him to an opportunity to travel with the Carnegie Museum, collecting wildlife specimens in Hudson Bay.  He went on to work for the United States Biological Survey conducting pioneering wildlife studies in Alaska, in Wyoming, and around the country for over thirty years.  In 1927, Olaus came to Jackson Hole to direct field studies of the threatened elk herds.  Murie’s books, such as The Elk of North America and Alaska-Yukon Caribou,  are standard texts even today.  His systems-based approach to game management was controversial in the USBS, but Murie persevered in his efforts for conservation of wildlife habitat.  In 1945, Murie was named Director of the Wilderness Society.  His efforts eventually helped to bring about creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and passage of the Wilderness Act.  In 1959, Olaus was awarded the prestigious Audubon Medal for his dedication to scientific excellence and conservation.  Upon his death in 1963, he was praised as “the one person who best personified wilderness in our culture”.


Adolph Murie was born in 1899 in Moorhead, Minnesota, ten years after his brother Olaus.  In 1922, he joined Olaus in the Brooks Range of Alaska to study caribou; the experience inspired his life’s work.  He spent the better part of thirty-two years working for the National Park Service, undertaking pioneering studies that were published in three books: The Wolves of Mount McKinley, The Ecology of the Coyote in the Yellowstone, and The Grizzlies of Mount McKinley.  He received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Park Service and the prestigious John Burroughs Medal.  Like his brother, Adolph’s approach to wildlife management ran contrary to current opinion and took into account whole ecosystems, rather than focusing on single organisms.  In 1945, his family settled in Jackson Hole where he continued his naturalist activities until his death in 1974.  He believed that “life is richest where the greatest diversity exists in the natural order.”


Margaret Elizabeth Thomas was born in Seattle in 1902, but spent her childhood in Fairbanks, Alaska.  In 1924, she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Alaska.  Her marriage to Olaus Murie in 1924, began a lifetime of travel, scientific research and involvement in conservation activities.  Mardy and Olaus had three children, Martin, Joanne and Don.  Mardy is the author of several books including:  Two in the Far North and Wapiti Wilderness.  She played a key role in the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the greatest land preservation act in U. S. history.  Mardy served on the Council of the Wilderness Society, received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Alaska, the prestigious Audubon Medal and is an Honorary Park Ranger.  She was on the founding board of the Teton Science School.  Her most recent award, in 1998, was the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom which President Bill Clinton bestowed on her for her life time service to conservation.  Mardy lived on the Murie Ranch in Grand Teton National Park until she died in 2003.


Louise Gillette was born in 1912 in Fairbanks, Alaska and lived there for the first twelve years of her life.  In 1924, her family moved to Washington state.  She attended Reed College and the University of Michigan.  In 1932, she married Adolph Murie, the half-brother of Olaus.  They had two children, Jan and Gail.  Louise traveled with Ade as he pursued his naturalist work, spending twenty-five summers and a few winters in Mount McKinley National Park.  Several years after Ade’s death, Louise married a close family friend, Dr. Don MacLeod, a well known Jackson physician and lived with him until his death in 1983.  Louise continues her conservation and community work, active with Teton Science School, on the boards of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and The Murie Center. Louise died in 2012.

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