SALINA — A park ranger who was shot to death while on duty at Mount Rainier was a friendly, dedicated student who was passionate about protecting the country’s natural resources, according to professors who taught her while she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at K-State and Fort Hays State.
Margaret Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two, was shot to death Sunday while trying to stop a car that had run a checkpoint requiring drivers to put chains on their vehicles. The suspected gunman, Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, was later found dead in the park.
Anderson earned a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife management from Kansas State University in 1999 and a master’s in biology from Fort Hays State University in 2003.
Karen Hickman, who taught biology at Fort Hays when Anderson studied there, described her as a dedicated, driven student, The Salina Journal reported Wednesday.
Anderson wrote her master’s thesis on invasive species, investigating the bull thistle problem at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and linking the weed’s profusion to road building, said Hickman, who is now an assistant professor in natural resources ecology and management at Oklahoma State University.
‘‘I went back and read the acknowledgments in her thesis,’’ Hickman said. ‘‘She talked about how much she learned through the process. She knew this is what she wanted to do, to protect the U.S. natural resources. She was so devoted to that.’’
Hickman said Anderson enrolled at Fort Hays State anticipating a job with the U.S. Department of the Interior.
‘‘When she came to me, this was her goal. She wanted to work with the National Park Service.’’
Don Kaufman, a Kansas State professor of mammalian ecology, was Anderson’s undergraduate adviser.
‘‘She was a personable young woman,’’ Kaufman said. ‘‘She was one of those students who was a delight to have in class. She obviously was motivated and a good student.’’
John Blair, a distinguished professor of biology at Kansas State, said Anderson stood out in a class of 100 students.
‘‘You hate to see somebody so young and productive in a career they’re really passionate about cut down so early in life,’’ he said.