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February 21, 2008

Burke Museum Hires First Curator of Paleobotany

Seattle– The Burke Museum and the University of Washington welcome Dr. Caroline A.E. Stromberg as the first Burke Curator of Paleobotany and assistant professor in the UW Department of Biology, a new position, starting December 2007.

Stromberg is a distinguished contributor to the field of paleobotany and paleoecology, having completed post-doctoral fellowships with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. and the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. Stromberg will be the first professional curator to manage the Burke Museum’s paleobotany collections.First developed by Wes Wehr, the collection of fossilized plants is the second-largest assortment of fossil flowers, plants, and woods on the West Coast.

This hire is made possible by the Estella B. Leopold professorship and curator of paleobotany endowment, which promotes the study of biological and geological sciences at the museum.

"I hope to catalogue the collection, image it, and put it online as a searchable database accessible to researchers and the public alike," says Stromberg. Her long-term goal is to expand the collection through fieldwork involving students and volunteers, bringing to the Burke comprehensive coverage of the plant fossil record of the Pacific Northwest and outlying regions. Dr. Stromberg is also interested in uses of the collections beyond scientific research: "Ultimately, I plan to create museum exhibits and online educational materials for K-12 students that use fossil plants to explore the links between climate, vegetation change, and faunal evolution through Earth history."

Earning her Ph.D. from the Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley in 2003, Stromberg has conducted research into the evolution of grasses, grasslands, and grass-eating animals since the Late Cretaceous. She has been actively publishing research since 2002.

Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology Dr. Liz Nesbitt says, "We are thrilled to have her join us in the Geology division." Stromberg will have her first opportunity to share the behind-the-scenes paleobotany collection with the public at this year's Dinosaur Day family event on March 1, 2008.

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