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PRI and its Museum of the Earth
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Stephen Durham, a Cornell University graduate student currently studying under PRI staff member Dr. Gregory P. Dietl is one of the recent winners of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP). This prestigious award provides three years of support to students pursuing a PhD or Master’s degree. The NSF received over 13,000 applications for this fellowship, with fewer than 10% winning awards or honorable mentions.

“My application was in the mix with thousands of applicants from across the country and across many scientific disciplines, so I feel very lucky that NSF selected my project to receive an award. It is a great honor that will influence me personally and professionally for years to come,” Stephen said.

Stephen plans on studying the effects of past climate change on the community structure and function of oyster reefs. His study of oyster fossils falls within the study of conservation paleobiology, a rapidly developing field that applies the methods and theories of paleontology to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. Basic research and applications that emerge from the study of this field will benefit society by evaluating environmental impacts of the recent past and providing guidelines for mitigation and restoration.

PRI staff mentor and supervise both graduate and undergraduate students from Cornell University and a variety of other institutions working on paleontological research. Dr. Gregory P. Dietl, PRI’s Director of Collections, and an Adjunct Faculty member at Cornell University is Stephen’s advisor. “This success speaks to the high quality and reputation of the conservation paleobiology program here at PRI and Cornell, which attracts such talented students.”

About the Paleontological Research Institution:
Founded in 1932, the Paleontological Research Institution has outstanding programs in research, collections, publications, and public education. The Institution cares for a collection of nearly three million specimens (one of the 10 largest in the U.S.), and publishes Bulletins of American Paleontology, the oldest paleontological journal in the Western Hemisphere, begun in 1895. PRI is a national leader in the development of informal (i.e., outside the classroom) Earth science education resources for educators and the general public. PRI and its two public venues for education, the Museum of the Earth and the Cayuga Nature Center, are separate from, but formally affiliated with Cornell University, and interact closely with numerous University departments in research, teaching, and public outreach.

About the National Science Foundation:
NSF is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences. NSF is tasked with keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery in a wide range of scientific areas, from astronomy to geology to zoology. So, in addition to funding research in the traditional academic areas, the agency also supports "high risk, high pay off" ideas, novel collaborations and numerous projects that may seem like science fiction today, but which the public will take for granted tomorrow. And in every case, they ensure that research is fully integrated with education so that today's revolutionary work will also be training tomorrow's top scientists and engineers.