UO paleontology professor wins award for collecting fossils

On August 26, Paleontologist Ted Fremd received one of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s (SVP) highest awards. The Morris F. Skinner Award acknowledged Fremd’s contribution to the paleontology world by collecting fossil vertebrae.

Fremd has also had five separate fossil species named after him. A researcher with the university’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, he also works in the Department of Earth Sciences.

Fremd was the first Chief of Paleontology at the John Day Fossil Beds in Kimberly, Ore., and credits his work as a National Park Service worker as the main inspiration.

“Personally, it’s cool to be the first National Park Service person to ever win something like this,” Fremd said in an email to The Emerald. “Indeed, any staff of any federal land-stewardship agency — many of those who watch over and try to protect the landscape while studying the entombed biotas — have often been disregarded. Some of us are considered a threat by those who would like to just blow off the ecosystems we are supposed to be mindful of.”

The Morris F. Skinner Award was established in 1990 by SVP, named after one of the greatest contributors to the paleontology of vertebrates — animals with a skull or cranium and a spinal column including fish, reptiles, mammals, amphibians and birds.

Fremd bested award candidates from around the world, including Australia, China, Germany and Japan.

Winning the award hasn’t changed Fremd’s mindset on what’s important about paleontology, he said.

“It is our job as paleontologists to get out there and study the fragile traces of ancient ecosystems — more often than not publishing our results in very technical, obscure meetings and journals — and then put some of this in perspective,” Fremd said.

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Erin Carey

Erin Carey

Erin Carey is a Senior Reporter, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Comparative Literature. She loves coffee, hockey and telling visitors at the Oregon Zoo random facts about the animals.