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About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2019 Awardees 2019 (Dawson Grant) Luke Weaver

I was born and raised in Broomfield, Colorado and went to Colorado State University where I graduated in 2015. When I started college I, like many people, had no idea what I wanted to major in, let alone commit to for the rest of my life. My primary interests were jam bands, Colorado sports, and playing guitar. Although I still love all of those things, I first became interested in paleontology when I took Intro to Human Evolution, taught by Kimberly Nichols. Her passion for the subject matter and her skill in making an anatomy-heavy lecture fun and exciting piqued my interest right away. In that class, she was advertising for the first ever CSU Paleontology Field School, a four-week summer program where students could learn how to collect 55-million-year-old primate fossils in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming. I ended up being accepted into this field program and that summer forever changed the trajectory of my life. Kim taught the field course with her husband, Tom Bown, and through the course of that summer they taught us the ins and outs of mammal fossil collecting and identification, sedimentology and stratigraphy, and mammal functional morphology. Tromping around the badlands of Wyoming hunting for fossils hooked me immediately. The excitement of discovering a tooth or a jaw that had never been seen by human eyes and being able to understand ancient environments through studying the ancient soils of the Willwood Formation was thrilling! But what really made me fall in love with vertebrate paleontology was the people. Kim and Tom had an endless supply of exciting field and lab stories that kept all of us students at the edge of our seats. They introduced us to other researchers in the field and instilled in us the importance of forming relationships in science. After that summer, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in paleontology.

I am incredibly fortunate to have had a number of very supportive mentors in my life, all of which have shaped me into the person I am today. Without Kim and Tom, I would have never have discovered what has now come to be my passion in life. I hope to one day go on to be a professor myself, so that I can try to instill that same passion in the next generation of scientists.