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Alf Museum’s Director of Visitor Engagement and Education Receives National Honor

Gabriel-Philip Santos, the Alf Museum’s director of visitor engagement and education, has been honored for his exceptional service to the field of paleontology with the 2022 John and Mary Lou Pojeta Award.

Santos accepted the award, conferred by The Paleontological Society, at the Geological Society of America Connects 2022 gathering held October 9-12 in Denver.

This national-level award was created in 2014 to recognize “exceptional professional or public service, by individuals or groups … above and beyond that of existing formal roles or responsibilities.”

Santos, along with frequent collaborator Brittney Stoneburg, collections manager of the Western Science Center, was recognized for bringing paleontology into new venues through efforts such as Fossil Friday Chats and Cosplay for Science.

“These innovative programs have reached thousands throughout Southern California, nationally and globally and continue to put the Alf Museum on the map,” Alf Museum Director Dr. Andy Farke said. “The recognition from The Paleontological Society, one of the major organizations for our profession, shows the respect that Gabe has earned within our scientific and educational communities.”

Santos, who has been with the Alf Museum since 2015, was promoted to his current post earlier this year. He previously served as both outreach coordinator and collections manager. Santos holds a Master of Science in geological sciences from Cal State Fullerton.

“This was an incredible honor,” Santos said. “When I first started in paleontology I didn’t know if I belonged in this field because I couldn’t see anyone like me in it. It was hard work forging my path, but now to be recognized by the community, I know that I made my place here and I hope I can show others like me they belong here, too.”

In 2021, Santos was named a 2021 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions for his work as an informal science educator, including using cosplay and pop-up museums to engage diverse communities.