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2005 Honorary Membership Award Recipients


David S Berman

David S Berman
Photo courtesy of David S Berman.

I can actually recall the single event that steered me into the field of vertebrate paleontology, a chance encounter with Peter P. Vaughn in the summer of 1962 at the University of California, Los Angeles. I had just received my BA in Zoology at UCLA and was desperately trying to find my way career-wise, when his offer of a part-time job as a preparator seemed like the perfect escape from the harsh world of reality. I was hired on the spot, despite having no idea how a fossil is prepared. I quickly became totally engrossed in the Early Permian research projects handed me, as well as gaining Peter's enthusiastic approval of my developing preparation skills. A year hadn't passed before Peter, believing that he recognized in me a bent for paleontology, asked me if I had "ever considered a career in VP, and would I be interested in being his student?" My answer to the first question was no, whereas an apprehensive yes was my response to the second question. This was the auspicious beginning of my career in VP, and managing to barely survive the rigors of graduate studies, I received a MA in 1965 and then a PhD in 1969, with my thesis test being a vertebrate assemblage from the middle of the Lower Permian, terrestrial type section of Texas.

Infected with Permian fever, I was hired as a curator by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 1970, where you can still find me today. It wasn't long before I realized how fortunate I was to be at the CMNH, which has allowed me a boundless range of academic freedom to pursue not only my primary interest, all varieties of Permo-Pennsylvanian vertebrates, but also access to a collection storehouse containing untapped research projects that frequently lured me into new and unfamiliar territories, most especially that of dinosaurs. 1992 marked a fortuitous opportunity to expand my field research to a global scale in a collaborative study with Dr. Thomas Martens of the Museum der Natur Gotha, Germany, who had discovered Early Permian vertebrate skeletal remains at the Bromacker locality in central Germany, which for over a century has been well known strictly for its exquisite vertebrate trackways. With the help of many colleagues, an uninterrupted series of 13 summer field seasons at the Bromacker from 1993 to the present has elevated its stature to a level we unabashedly proclaim makes it the most important Early Permian terrestrial locality ever discovered in Europe, not only in far surpassing all others of comparable age in Europe in the quantity, quality, and diversity of specimens yielded, but also in comprising taxa that occur otherwise only in the U.S. The successes of the Bromacker project and those of my other forays into the late Paleozoic and infrequent diversions into the Mesozoic and Tertiary, invariably reflect vital collaborative support and encouragement of numerous colleagues. Those who I owe the greatest gratitude in enriching my career over the long haul have been Mary Dawson, David Eberth, Amy Henrici, Betty Hill, Jack McIntosh, the late E. C. Olson, Robert Reisz, and Stuart Sumida. But most of all, I will always be especially indebted to Peter P. Vaughn for not only his patient guidance as instructor and mentor, but also instilling in me that there is no richer experience in paleontology than the excitement and satisfaction that comes from discoveries made in the field and lab. Having never sought celebrity status, I am not only deeply flattered and honored as a recipient of the highly prestigious award of Honorary Member of the SVP, but also overwhelmed by the nomination campaign effort that must have been made by colleagues and friends for me to receive this truly unexpected distinction.