Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray is a leader among environmental educators, having inspired thousands of children to ‘learn by doing’ through her decades of enthusiastic teaching and love of nature. Dr. Dockeray worked as the Curator of Natural History at the Grand Rapids Public Museum; authored the book Let’s Go Exploring: Suggestions for Field Trips and Associated Studies in Environmental-Conservation Education; wrote and produced a film entitled These Things Are Ours; founded Blandford Nature Center and was a powerful force in the creation of the Blandford Environmental Education Program. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her contributions throughout her long career and continues to be a leading figure in West Michigan environmental work.
In 1990, in honor of Mary Jane’s work and support of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, the group established the Mary Jane Dockeray Award. Every year since the inaugural award, the Land Conservancy has presented it to an individual or organization that has demonstrated outstanding dedication and commitment to the quality of nature interpretation or conservation in West Michigan. This year, the 2017 award and honor has been bestowed on West Michigan Conservation Network (WMCN) member, Ginny Wanty.
Ginny has shown a passion for the outdoors and environmental protection from her earliest years. “Mary Jane Dockeray started me on my conservation and environmental education career path during high school,” says Ginny. “Our paths have intersected many times throughout the years.” Upon graduation, Ginny moved to Colorado to pursue her undergraduate and master’s degrees. She worked with children and teens in the public-school system for more than 17 years as an environmental educator and school administrator before returning to West Michigan. Ginny then stepped into the role of Coordinator of the Michigan State University Extension Master Naturalist Program, leading, shaping and expanding the program for twelve years. Through her tireless work she has officially ‘launched’ more than 600 educated and committed individuals into roles in environmental stewardship throughout West Michigan, the midwest and the United States. The Master Naturalist program participants that reported volunteer hours towards certification submitted 10,000 hours of volunteer efforts benefitting Michigan natural areas. Ginny has brought her wealth of knowledge and commitment to other local and regional organizations, as well. She was Liaison of the West Michigan Cluster of the Stewardship Network for six years, and with its successor organization, the West Michigan Conservation Network, as a member of the Steering Committee and lead of the Structure and Function Committee.
Responding to the recognition by the Land Conservancy, Ginny said, “I was thrilled beyond belief to receive the Mary Jane Dockeray Award from The Land Conservancy of West Michigan. To be recognized for what as I’ve done in conservation and environment education as a MSU Extension Master Naturalist Coordinator and in my leadership role in the West Michigan Conservation Network is very humbling. Now more than ever, we need to continue to work together to keep nature nearby!”