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PRESS RELEASE - Award Renamed for Mary R. Dawson, Renowned Paleontologist

March 10, 2011

DEERFIELD, IL (MARCH 1, 2011) – In honor of one of its most acclaimed members, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology has renamed one of its most prestigious awards.  Given every year, the Mary R. Dawson Grant, formerly the Predoctoral Fellowship Grant, recognizes and supports graduate student research excellence by providing a cash grant of $3,000 USD awarded at the SVP annual meeting.

Dr. Mary Dawson is Curator Emeritus of Vertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. She is currently celebrating more than 45 years at the Museum, for 30 years of which she was curator. As Head of the section, Dawson was responsible for the fourth largest vertebrate fossil collection in North America.

Dawson’s research focus is on fossil mammals, concentrating on the evolution of rodents and rabbits. Her graduate thesis was groundbreaking: a comprehensive study of North American rabbits dating from 45 million to 1 million years ago, showing not just their relationships to predators, but subtle changes within the lineage that led to the evolution of today's jackrabbits and cottontails.

Dawson earned her BS degree from Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) in 1952 and her PhD from the University of Kansas in 1958.  Since then she has won a number of the most prestigious award in the field of vertebrate paleontology, including the Arnold Guyot Prize in 1981, awarded by the National Geographic Society in recognition of her research in the Arctic; and the A.S. Romer – G.G. Simpson Award from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.  The Romer-Simpson Award is the highest award presented by the Society, and Dawson was the first American woman to receive it.

Dr. Philip Currie, the current President of the Society says, “Mary Dawson has long been one of the most widely recognized members of the SVP, known for her fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic and Wyoming (amongst other areas), her integrated research programs, and her involvement in the world-class collections of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Given her sterling leadership qualities, it is particularly appropriate that she lends her name to a grant that will benefit our student population!”

The Mary R. Dawson Grant is intended to recognize research excellence and promote a successful career in vertebrate paleontology by supporting the recipient’s dissertation research.  The grant funds dissertation research travel, data collection and analyses while an applicant is finishing writing or conference registration or attendance.


About the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,400 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators and others interested in vertebrate paleontology. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology.

Society Web site: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology:

Meagan Comerford
Communications Liaison
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
+1-847-480-9095 x246