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7 Influential Women With Dangerous or Important  Outdoor Jobs

Gone are the days of “women’s work” and women just holding caretaking roles. Now more than ever, women are fighting for their seats at tables of all kinds, looking to pave their own way and build their own futures.

It is important to shine a light on women who are working in different fields, especially those traditionally held by their male counterparts. Here is a list of seven women who have (or had) dangerous outdoor jobs.

Dickey Chapelle, Photojournalist

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Image by Wisconsin Historical Society

In a 2020 article by CNN, Dickey Chapelle was named a female pioneer in the field of photojournalism. Chapelle’s work primarily covered a number of wars, including World War II, in which she was embedded with the Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima.

Chapelle was a Wisconsin native. After studying at MIT, Chapelle became one of the first female war correspondents in the United States. It was while she was on assignment in World War II as a nurse that she was able to photograph Iwo Jima. Chapelle later learned to parachute and was granted approval from the Pentagon to jump with American troops in Vietnam to cover guerrilla warfare. 

Dickey Chapelle worked for publications like National Geographic and Reader’s Digest. Chapelle also interviewed Fidel Castro during her short career. Chapelle tragically died on the frontlines in Vietnam. She was the first female journalist to be killed on the frontlines of a war. 

Dr. Jane Goodall, Researcher and Conservationist

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Image by Steve Granitz/Contributor

Most people know at least a little bit about Jane Goodall and the work she did with chimpanzees. During the summer of 1970, at just 26 years old, Jane Goodall traveled to Tanzania to research chimpanzees, a species that was relatively unknown at the time.

Goodall spent some time in the forests with wild chimps, then left the field to work elsewhere tirelessly to aid in the stabilization of the species. Throughout her research, Goodall realized that the main threats to the chimpanzees were habitat loss and illegal trafficking of the species. In 1977, Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute to continue her work in conservation. 

Goodall had no formal education in observation and working with chimpanzees, but she was able to pick up on a number of behavioral traits that others could not. Though she is no longer trekking deep into the forest, Jane Goodall is continuing her work, giving lectures about conservation, as well as writing about her experiences.

Aline Masika Kisamya Kisamya, Virunga National Park Ranger

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Image by Monique Jaques/National Geographic

A 2015 National Geographic article claims that being a park ranger in Virunga National Park is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. This national park is home to one-third of the world’s endangered mountain gorilla population, and it attracts poachers for this reason. Besides the poachers, this national park located in the Democratic Republic of Congo is also frequently threatened by war and unrest.

Being a park ranger (or gardien du parc) is one of the most prestigious jobs in the eastern Congo region. Kisamya was one of four women to be selected during the rigorous application process back in 2014.

Park rangers in Virunga National Park can work up to 24-hour shifts. Though Kisamya loves getting the opportunity to see gorillas when she works, when she is leading groups, she often has to turn the group around without turning her back to the gorillas. Even for rangers, seeing wild gorillas is still shocking, exciting, and a little frightening.

Stacey Earley, Oil Rig Engineer

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Image by Rigzone

Stacey Earley has worked on an offshore oil rig for nearly 40 years. Earley got a degree in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University in 1983 before she got her first job. Four years after beginning her career, though, she was laid off. Earley used this as a reason to go back to school. She earned an MBA and later joined the company Transocean. 

Working on an oil rig is no easy feat. The job requires long hours, lots of safety training, and a medical examination. When you’re working, you live on the rig and work a variety of hours for two to three weeks at a time. 

Earley was one of the first women to work on an offshore oil rig, but the number of women in this field has increased throughout the decades since she first started.

Mollie H. Beattie, Head of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

As the first female head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mollie H. Beattie has contributed greatly to the field of conservation. From 1993 until her resignation in 1996, Beattie implemented over 100 conservation programs, including the reintroduction of gray wolves to the Rocky Mountains. 

Much of Beattie’s work surrounded conservation. Beattie was one of the first to push for the Endangered Species Act, and her work influenced politicians to come. Beattie was passionate about the conservation efforts she was able to work on under the Clinton Administration, and was quoted as saying: “Any day I can touch a wild wolf is a good day.” In the three years she worked as the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Beattie was able to add 15 new national wildlife refuges. The system now has over 500.

Beattie resigned from her role on June 6, 1996, citing a decline in her health. She died later that month due to brain cancer. She was remembered by President Clinton for the excellent work she did. In the speech Remembering Mollie H. Beattie, President Clinton had this to say about Beattie: “Mollie left an enduring legacy on to the American people. She was determined to conserve the world’s wild creatures and their habitats.” 

Dr. Arlene Blum, Alpinist and Chemist

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Image by Chirs Jordan-Block/Earthjustice

Arlene Blum, PhD is now the director of the Green Science Policy Institute, but she was also known as a famous alpinist and mountaineer. In 1978, Blum led the first all-women’s ascent of Annapurna I in Nepal. Blum has also led ascents of Denali and continues to lead Himalayan treks. 

Blum has continued to work on different projects, including researching how to reduce the number of toxic chemicals in consumer products and educate the public about what’s in the products they use. In the 1970s, she found that there was a toxic, flame-retardant chemical found in baby pajamas. In 2006, Blum and her research team found this same chemical in a variety of other children’s products.

Dr. Blum has dedicated her life to fighting for safe, nontoxic household products and gear. Though manufacturers have removed these chemicals from children’s clothing items, it is still found in climbing and snow gear, which Blum is still advocating to change.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, Thru-Hiker and Adventurer

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Image by Jennifer Pharr Davis

Jennifer Pharr Davis has hiked over 14,000 miles and is known as an adventurer, author, and speaker. In 2011, Davis set the fastest time to hike the Appalachian Trail, taking just 46 days, averaging 47 miles of travel each day. She’s also known for having backpacked over 700 miles pregnant.

Davis founded the Blue Ridge Hiking Company to make enjoying the outdoors more accessible, and she is a board member for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Her company now leads hikes in Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park, DuPont State Forest, and on the Appalachian Trail.

Davis began her backpacking career when she was 21 years old. She also hiked in all 50 states with her two-year-old daughter and hiked across North Carolina while she was nursing her newborn son.

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