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The Paleontological Research Institution Honors Warren Allmon for 25 Years of Service (Oct 9, 2017)

(ITHACA, NY) 2017 marks Warren Allmon’s 25th year as the fourth Director of the Paleontological Research Institution. Since 1992, Allmon has led the institution with a far-reaching vision of renovation and expansion.

During his tenure, Allmon greatly expanded PRI’s educational outreach, made significant improvements in collections care, and rebuilt connections with Cornell. Under his leadership, PRI opened the Museum of the Earth, merged with the Cayuga Nature Center, created a nationally reaching, innovative, teacher professional development program, and developed new initiatives in climate change education.

When Allmon arrived in 1992, PRI’s outreach consisted of a tiny, outdated exhibit in one small room. From there, he built an education program that now has large and lasting impacts both locally and nationally. From a staff of three, he built PRI’s staff to more than 25.

Opened in 2003, the Museum of the Earth realized Allmon’s vision to create a community resource for a wide group of people, from preschoolers to adults. His desire to share knowledge about the history of life on Earth has allowed tens of thousands of people to be awed and inspired. In 2012, PRI merged with the Cayuga Nature Center, which expanded PRI’s opportunities to teach about Earth’s life, including environmental education programming and climate change.

As part of Allmon’s move to PRI, he brought with him an ambitious plan to improve the PRI collections. He realized that one of the largest fossil collections in the nation was in sore need of curation if it was to fulfill its full potential. Allmon’s determined plan succeeded in making the collection what it is today, a priceless resource for research and education, well-known and used by scientists around the world.

Also under Warren’s leadership, PRI has continued to publish the oldest paleontological journal in the Western Hemisphere, Bulletins of American Paleontology, begun in 1895. As Director, he has authored or co-authored 5 books published by PRI, both technical and for the general public.

“Warren stands out as a truly remarkable individual in a town full of remarkable people. Not only has his energy and vision created the Museum of the Earth, but he has brought the Cayuga Nature Center, and the Paleontological Research Institution to new, unthought-of, levels of excellence. Still to me, what is extraordinary, is how he has continued to maintain a world class research program of his own going at the same time that he has lead PRI to greatness. We are all so fortunate that he decided 25 years ago that this would be his passion,” says Nelson Hairston, chair of PRI’s science committee.

During his tenure as Director, Allmon has continued to conduct primary research focusing on macroevolution and evolutionary paleoecology, especially the environmental and ecological context of evolutionary change, particularly in Cenozoic mollusks, and especially the gastropod family Turritellidae, which are nearly ubiquitous in the marine fossil record over the past 130 million years, and also widely distributed in modern oceans. More broadly, he also continues to work on theoretical and empirical aspects of speciation — the formation of new species — especially as it relates to patterns of nutrient availability and primary productivity in the oceans.

Allmon also supervises Cornell graduate and undergraduate student research, and teaches at Cornell as the Hunter R. Rawlings III Professor of Paleontology in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. He writes and speaks frequently on the history of science, evolution and creationism, natural history museums and collections, and Earth science education. Allmon was awarded the American Geological Institute Award for Outstanding Contribution of Public Understanding of Geosciences in 2004.

PRI’s board president, Brian Bauer, states that “Warren brings vision, passion, as well as endurance to his leadership of PRI. During these times when it is so crucial to get the messages of science to the public, Warren is a charismatic and impactful voice of reason. PRI and our whole community have been fortunate to have him for 25 years, and we look forward to many more.”

Warren has served the community in other ways through his involvement in other area organizations, including the Ithaca Rotary Club. He has served on the Board of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and has been a member of the Discovery Trail board since its founding, and is currently its chair.

PRI’s growth, success, and international reputation are a result of Warren’s passion for the potential of paleontology to make valuable contributions to human understanding of the world around us. The staff and board at PRI look forward to continuing to serve our community and world through Warren’s outstanding leadership and vision.

About the Paleontological Research Institution

The Paleontological Research Institution pursues and integrates education and research, and interprets the history and systems of the Earth and its life, to increase knowledge, educate society, and encourage wise stewardship of the Earth. PRI, along with its two public venues, the Museum of the Earth and the Cayuga Nature Center, is an affiliate of Cornell University.