E. Alison Kay, the longest-serving editor of Pacific Science, was remembered yesterday at a service in the chapel of Punahou School, her alma mater. Two of her books published by UH Press are still in print: Shells of Hawaii (1991, with Olive Schoenberg-Dole) and A Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands: Selected Readings II (1994).
E. Alison Kay (1928–2008) was a malacologist, environmentalist, and professor at the University of Hawaiʻi. She was born in Eleele and grew up on the island of Kauai in the Territory of Hawaii, graduated from Punahou School in 1946, and obtained her first B.A. from Mills College in 1950. She then went on to earn another B.A. in 1952 and an M.A. in 1956 from Cambridge University as a Fulbright scholar before returning to the University of Hawaiʻi, where she completed her dissertation in 1957.
Her research focused on marine mollusks in the Indo-Pacific region, and she regularly offered a graduate course in taxonomy and systematics, and another in biogeography, emphasizing in particular the ecology and distribution of island mollusks. Her dissertation was on cowrie shells and Cypraea alisonae was named for her.
However, she believed strongly in general education, was assigned to the Dept. of General Science until 1982 (when she moved to Zoology), and was one of the most engaging lecturers in the large survey courses taught at the Varsity Theater off-campus. In later years, she taught a popular course in the natural history of the Hawaiian Islands, for which she edited a textbook in 1994. She also served at various times as dean of graduate students, as department head, and as a member of the Faculty Senate. She was the longest-serving editor in chief of the journal Pacific Science, overseeing almost every issue between 1972 and 2000.
Active in many environmental projects, she helped found the Save Diamond Head Association, conducted research on the effects of the atomic bomb in the Marshall Islands, and did pioneering research on micromollusks for biomonitoring. Her research on the ecology of opihi (limpets) helped shape state regulations limiting opihi collection.