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April 01, 2005

First Fully Endowed Professorship at the Burke Museum Established

Seattle— The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, in Seattle, recently announced a new endowment supporting the Estella B. Leopold professorship and curator of paleobotany. The new endowment will take the unique approach of combining interdisciplinary studies in both the biological and geological sciences at the museum.

This is the first fully endowed professorship at the Burke Museum. The museum plans to attract faculty to the University who are experienced experts on plant organisms and their natural histories. The new endowment will increase the museum’s biodiversity collecting and sustain graduate student training in paleobotany at the University of Washington.

The new endowment was matched by the University of Washington through a matching grant program set up as part of the UW Campaign 2005. The Burke Museum is “honored to receive the endowment supporting the professorship and curatorial position and shares the Leopold’s excitement”, comments museum Director, Roxana Augusztiny. The position will support and inspire new generations of paleobotanists through the museum.

Dr. Leopold is the daughter of Aldo Leopold, an internationally respected scientist and conservationist, best known as the author of Sand County Almanac. An enduring classic about humanity’s relationship to the land, Sand County Almanac is the first work to document the environment in Sand County, Wisconsin. An active advocate of wildlife conservation, he is considered to be the founding father of wildlife ecology.

The endowed position will broaden the work on the outstanding collections assembled by former Associate Curator of Paleobotany, Wes Wehr, who passed away last spring. The new curator will be charged with creating a program of distinction in research, both graduate and undergraduate training, and collection development, as well as public outreach for the museum’s Division of Paleobotany.

Wehr began as a volunteer in the 1970s, and later became a curator at the Burke Museum. “With this endowment the Burke can continue the work that Wes Wehr and I pursued on the ancient history of the western United States and Pacific Northwest”, Dr. Leopold. She also helped to establish the Wes Wehr Endowment for Paleobotany, a fund that helps support both research and field work associated with the paleobotany collections at the Burke Museum.
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Estella Leopold earned a Ph.D. in plant sciences from Yale, and has worked at the U.S. Geological Survey, Denver. She has strong ties to the University of Washington, having spent six years as Director of the Quaternary Research Center at the University. Her UW research has focused on paleobotany, forest history, restoration ecology, fire ecology, and environmental quality. She has used both fossil pollen and seeds to reconstruct Cenozoic vegetation and climates in the western United States, Alaska, and in China.

Estella’s elder brother, Dr. Luna Leopold is the former Chief Hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey and is a renowned leading hydrologist. He spent 22 years in the Water Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey and went on to serve as a professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. Both Estella and Luna are fellows of the National Academy of Science and the American Philosophical Society, among other professional honors.

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The Burke Museum is located at the corner of NE 45th St and 17th Ave NE on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm daily, and until 8 pm on 1st Thursdays. Special exhibit fee is $8.00 adult (18–64), $6.50 senior (65+), $5 youth/students (w/ID), and FREE to children 4 and under. Admission is free to Burke members, UW students, faculty, and staff, and to the public on the first Thursday of each month. Please call 206-543-5590 or visit www.burkemuseum.org.

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