Each year, the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) is proud to recognize a nonprofessional for outstanding contributions to the field of paleontology. It is with great pleasure that PRI presents its 2017 Katherine Palmer Award to Val G. Gunther.

Val was born in Beaverdam, Wisconsin, in 1950, began fossil and mineral collecting at age 6. He majored in Geology at Weber State University. He is the son of Lloyd F. Gunther (1917-2013), who began his own long and extraordinary life of fossil and mineral collecting at age 12.

There is no living, nonprofessional paleontologist who has contributed more to our understanding of Cambrian life forms than Val Gunther. His efforts span a broad range, beginning with basic exploration for productive localities, and extending to collecting and preparing material through alerting specialists of important finds and making them available for study and publication. Val has also contributed in a meaningful way to the scientific enterprise through publication of noteworthy fossil material.

Val, similar to his dad, Lloyd (and indeed all members of his family), has also been extraordinarily generous with the professional paleontological community. He continues the tremendous tradition established by his father, and documented in part in the citation of the very first Strimple Award (given annually by the Paleontological Society to an outstanding amateur paleontologist), which was presented to the Gunther family in 1983. Many public museums &msdash; including the Utah Museum of Natural History, the University of Kansas, the Yale Peabody Museum, and PRI &msdash; have benefited from the great generosity of Val and his family. Over their lifetimes the Gunthers have donated thousands of specimens to schools, museums, and institutions. Val is tireless and determined in his search for new paleontological information and specimens, and absolutely devoted to ensuring that new, important material makes its way into the hands of specialists who will describe it, and publicly disseminate information about it.

Much of Val's work has been with Utah fossils, and especially with Utah Cambrian material. A number of localities in Utah yield exceptionally preserved material (lagerstatten), comparable in preservational quality to the famous Burgess Shale of Canada. In fact, many of the Burgess Shale taxa are represented in the Utah collections. The recent book by R.A. Robison, L.E. Babcock, and V.G. Gunther (Exceptional Cambrian Fossils from Utah: A Window into the Age of Trilobites; Utah Geological Survey Miscellaneous Publication 15-1; 2015) would not have been possible without Val's numerous contributions. Many of the specimens illustrated in the book were collected or photographed by Val. Arrangements to include other specimens in the book were made by Val, who has extensive knowledge of the content of many private collections of Utah material. Perhaps, most importantly, however, this book, the first comprehensive work on the subject, was a success because it was Val, together with others of his family, who first discovered and subsequently quarried many of the Utah localities now known to yield the exceptionally preserved fossils highlighted in the work.

The Katherine Palmer Award is named for PRI’s second director, Katherine van Winkle Palmer, who held avocational paleontologists in high regard and collaborated with many during her long career. PRI has presented this award almost every year since 1993. We are especially grateful to the Mid-America Paleontological Society for providing us with a very special venue at which to present this award over much of that time.