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Alf Award

Alf Award Honors Paleontologist and Educator


Dr. Thomas J. DeVries

The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology recognized Dr. Thomas J. DeVries with the Alf Award for Excellence in Paleontological Research and Education at the annual Peccary Society dinner on October 21. The award honors a paleontologist who demonstrates exceptional achievement both in original scientific research, as well as in education and outreach at the primary and secondary school (K-12) levels.

Dr. DeVries is a retired high school instructor who served a 22 year career at Vashon Island High School in Washington. In addition to his classroom service teaching earth science, paleontology, and other topics, Dr. DeVries is a noted expert in fossil mollusks and marine geology. He conducts fieldwork with a focus in Peru, contributing to major projects addressing marine upwelling, mollusk evolution, and the deep history of El Niño. DeVries is also an Adjunct Research Associate at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington.

As noted by a colleague, DeVries “[is] able to integrate what he learned from modern advances in paleontology with his K-12 instructional activities.” This bridge between research and education drew the attention of the Alf Award committee, which includes members of the Alf Museum’s board of trustees, museum staff, faculty and head of The Webb Schools. As expressed by Alf Museum director Don Lofgren, “Dr DeVries is a great choice for the Alf Award because he is both an accomplished paleontologist and excellent secondary school science instructor, attributes that match well with the museum’s founder, Dr. Raymond M. Alf.”

“Being an active researcher-teacher buys instant credibility. Whether by means of a casual aside or an organized classroom activity, an active researcher-teacher can open doors for students to the ‘real world’ of science and scientists – and draw those scientists bodily into the classroom,” said DeVries.

Dr. Thomas DeVries has made outstanding contributions to science and education through his career in and out of the classroom, and the Alf Museum is pleased to honor him with the Raymond M. Alf Award for Excellence in Paleontological Research and Education.

The award consists of an honorarium, an award plaque, and all travel costs for the recipient to attend the Alf Museum’s Peccary Dinner on Friday, October 21, to receive the award.

Paleontologist and Educator Honored by Alf Museum

One of the most important facets of the Alf Museum is its integration into The Webb Schools, and the extensive opportunities that students have to work with real paleontologists. This is a powerful educational model, and one that deserves to be used more widely. Yet, it is difficult to implement because professional paleontologists are often hesitant to engage in these kinds of efforts with K-12 students for a variety of reasons: lack of time, lack of recognition of its importance by universities, or a shortage of funding, among others. In order to encourage and recognize endeavors outside of Webb, the trustees at the Alf Museum have implemented the Raymond M. Alf Award for Excellence in Paleontological Research and Education. It honors a paleontologist who pursues outstanding original scientific research as well as outstanding education and outreach at the primary and secondary school (K-12) levels in the spirit of Ray Alf. Continue reading