Each year at this time, the Paleontological Research Institution is proud to recognize in a formal way non-professionals for their contributions to paleontology. We are especially grateful to MAPS for providing us with this very special opportunity.

The Paleontological Research Institution is a natural history museum located in Ithaca, New York. We house one of the nation’s largest fossil collections, publish the oldest paleontological journal in the Western Hemisphere, and provide educational programs to thousands of people, in the northeastern U.S. and beyond. In 2003, we opened the Museum of the Earth, a major new natural history exhibit facility. Like all natural history museums, we depend on the support and involvement of volunteers and other members of the general public. We especially value our interaction with non-professional paleontologists. The Institution, in fact, was established by Gilbert Harris in 1932 as a place where paleontologists with no other affiliation could come to work and study, and it was largely operated by non-professionals for much of its history. Each year, we recognize an individual who is not a professional paleontologist for the excellence of their contributions to the field. This award is named for PRI’s second Director, Katherine Palmer, who was an avid supporter of amateur paleontology. We are particularly pleased this year to present the award to two individuals who have accomplished great things apart and together in this respect.

Wayne Myers grew up in south central upstate New York and he received a degree in Animal Science at Cornell. For the past 32 years, he has worked for Jim Ray Mobile Homes in Newfield, New York, near Ithaca in service, setups, and water supply systems. Wayne has always had an interest in rocks, mainly for construction, using them mainly in landscaping and walls around his home. In the spring of 2002, while plowing his back yard for a new landscaping project, Wayne found a large piece of siltstone with several large fossil glass sponges (Uphantania chemungensis). The Devonian glass sponges of central New York are famous around the world for their size and beautiful preservation, but they have become very scarce since the nineteenth century. Wayne donated the piece to PRI where it was an important addition to our large collection of Devonian sponges. Later that year, he and Paul Krohn uncovered a much larger slab — probably the one from which this first piece came. This rock is a spectacular pavement measuring more than four by four feet, containing scores of magnificent circular glass sponges. It is one of the most impressive finds of this form ever discovered. Wayne and Paul then worked to build an impressive exhibit for the slab in Wayne’s yard, complete with custom glass-covered display case and interpretive labels. The day the exhibit opened to the public on May 24, 2003, more than 500 people came to see it even though it was pouring rain.

Wayne’s property has recently been added to the Garden Directory sponsored by the National Garden Conservancy. Wayne has had an interest in gardening since he was a child, growing and selling pumpkins and other vegetables at a roadside stand to help pay his way through college. The grounds also contain a large number of perennial plantings and the restoration of an old mill, which existed on the property until the 1930s. The mill is set up as a museum, complete with real mill equipment, which was donated by Wayne’s boss. People are welcome to visit his property, the fossil, and the mill museum. Wayne has lived on the property since 1959, when his parents purchased the homestead.

Paul Krohn grew up in western New York State, near Buffalo. He studied geology at the University of Buffalo, but then left school to work in manufacturing for many years. During this time, he began to build a substantial personal fossil collection, focused mostly on the spectacular Devonian fossils of western and central New York. In 1997, Paul picked up and moved to Ithaca to begin volunteering at PRI. Eventually, we found funds to pay him, and for the next four and a half years, Paul was an integral part of the PRI staff, serving first as Collections Assistant, then as acting Collections Manager, and finally as Collections Manager. He oversaw numerous important improvements in the collections, and added thousands of specimens through continued fieldwork in the Devonian of New York, as well as a newfound favorite hunting area, Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs. Paul left PRI In 2002 to return to to manufacturing, but he continues to collect, to donate specimens to PRI, and was a crucial partner to Wayne in bringing the giant glass sponge slab to the public in this unique way.

It is with great pleasure that the Paleontological Research Institution presents its 2004 Katherine Palmer Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to the science by non-professionals to Wayne Meyers and Paul Krohn.