Florida Museum curators receive UF Faculty Achievement Recognition Award

May 7th, 2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two Florida Museum of Natural History researchers recently were recognized as recipients of the 2007 University of Florida Faculty Achievement Recognition Award. Curators Pamela Soltis and David Steadman were recognized, along with 50 other UF faculty, at a reception hosted by the Provost’s office in April at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art.

Soltis is a curator in the Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics at the Florida Museum where she has published 30 papers in top-ranked journals in the past five years. She has garnered more than $3.6 million from National Science Foundation grants and has served as president of two national and international societies: the Society of Systematic Biologists (2005-07) and the Botanical Society of America (2006-09). Soltis’ work addresses evolutionary origins of flowers and the evolutionary relatedness of flowering plants, plant speciation and the conservation genetics of endangered plant species in Florida. She also was one of 13 academics to be selected nationally as a visiting scholar by the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa society. Working with the society, Soltis will deliver eight lectures over the next two years. She plans to discuss the origin of flowering plants with her undergraduate and graduate audiences.

Steadman is a curator of birds at the Florida Museum where he has worked steadily to build one the world’s leading avian osteology collections (bird skeletons) and publishes five to 10 papers per year. Steadman’s current research documents how the introduction of humans to stable communities of South Pacific island species cause widespread extinctions. By understanding how the evolutionary history of these regions played out before and after the presence of humans, he believes that scientists can better interpret the patterns of species abundance and distribution observed today. Because of his meticulous fieldwork, we know vastly more about the biology of these island and the effects of overexploiting natural resources. Most recently, Steadman authored a seminal book titled “Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds,” published by the University of Chicago Press. Steadman is a leading authority on tropical Pacific avian paleontology and by using information he has gleaned from more than 20 years of fieldwork and identifying countless prehistoric specimens, he has reconstructed the birdlife of tropical Pacific islands as they existed before the arrival of humans. His findings overturn the accepted assumption that small, remote islands were unable to support rich assemblages of plants and animals.

Writer: DeLene Beeland
Media contact: Paul Ramey, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu