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About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2018 Awardees 2018 (Colbert Prize) Ben Kligman


As a child I was fascinated by nature and spent most of my time playing in the woods of southeast Pennsylvania. Early on I decided I would be a scientist when I grew up, and through my youth I bounced from obsessions with ichthyology to botany to herpetology and finally paleontology. As a teenager I sought out publications and geologic maps on the geology and paleontology of the Triassic Newark Basin and Cretaceous through Cenozoic sediments in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I spent my weekends prospecting exposures of rock for fossils and interesting geology. I was amazed by the observable changes in fossil biotas as I walked up section through stratigraphy that crossed the Triassic-Jurassic transition near Reading Pennsylvania and the K-T boundary in southern New Jersey. As a high schooler I interned at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia with collections manager Ned Gilmore assisting in curation and cataloguing of the vertebrate zoology collection, and his mentorship demonstrated to me the importance of preserving and studying natural history.

I pursued my undergraduate degree at the University of California Berkeley, majoring in Integrative Biology, and conducting research at the University of California Museum of Paleontology. During the summers as an undergraduate I interned at Petrified Forest National Park with park paleontologists Dr. Bill Parker and Dr. Adam Marsh. I began studying microvertebrate assemblages from the Late Triassic Chinle Formation strata exposed in the National Park. These assemblages provided a unique view of Late Triassic biodiversity and faunal change through time, filling a gap in our knowledge of small bodied vertebrates from the Chinle Formation. I presented on aspects of these assemblages at SVP annual meetings in 2015 and 2016. I spent 2017 and 2018 working at Petrified Forest National Park, focusing on locating and studying microvertebrate localities from interesting stratigraphic intervals in the Chinle Formation, and using these assemblages as a tool to examine diversification and extinction events in tetrapod lineages. This is now the project that I am expanding upon as a PhD student in the Stocker Lab at Virginia Tech.