John Flynn elected as AAAS Fellow

December 23, 2009

Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals and Professor and Dean of the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History, John Flynn, has been awarded the distinction of Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). On December 17, it was announced that Dr. Flynn was elected by his peers for "distinguished contributions in vertebrate paleontology, especially carnivore evolution and faunal succession in South America, and for development of the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the Museum."

"This honor emphasizes the value of Museum-based research and encyclopedic collections," says Dr. Flynn. "My research is highly inter-disciplinary, integrating field and laboratory work, spanning many facets of geology and biology. Through the discovery and analysis of fossil mammals, my work tries to resolve interesting geologic questions like the history of the Andes and the relationship between faunal shifts through time and tectonic and environmental changes. I also think that it is essential to integrate studies of living and fossil forms to better resolve evolutionary relationships and to build a more stable and complete framework for investigating intriguing problems like the patterns and processes of body and brain size changes during the evolution of carnivores."

Dr. Flynn's research focuses on the evolution of mammals and Mesozoic vertebrates, geological dating, plate tectonics, and biogeography. He has spent his career searching for important new fossil localities in Chile, Perú, Colombia, Madagascar, Angola, India, and the Rocky Mountains. This field research, now passing 50 expeditions, has been supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, NASA, and other organizations. Dr. Flynn also is a member of the faculties at Columbia University, at City University of New York, and with New York Consortium on Evolutionary Primatology. In 2001 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship for a year of research, writing, and expeditions in South America.

Since coming to the Museum, Dr. Flynn has helped to expand and enhance its world-leading fossil mammal collections. He also has been deeply involved in integrating research with Museum exhibition and educational programs, including curating the major current exhibition, Extreme Mammals: The Biggest, Smallest, and Most Amazing Mammals of All Time which engages the public in cutting-edge science. Dr. Flynn also was integral to the launching of the Richard Gilder Graduate School, making the Museum the first such institution in North America with the ability to grant degrees. The graduate school's doctoral program in comparative biology at the Museum was fully accredited by New York State last month.

"The Museum's specimen-centered, comparative approach permeates the graduate program that we created," says Dr. Flynn. "As the first dean, it was appealing to be able to contribute to developing the graduate school in a way that was not pre-determined, but rather can incorporate the best in existing methods as well as innovative approaches." In addition, Dr. Flynn notes that "Our new Ph.D. program complements the Museum's outstanding K-12 and teacher training programs and further strengthens our longstanding graduate education partnerships with the City University of New York, Columbia, Cornell, and New York University."
AAAS Fellows

This year 531 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Saturday, 20 February from 8 to 10 a.m. at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego. This year's AAAS Fellows will be announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on 18 December 2009.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association's 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee's institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Each steering group then reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list. The Council is the policymaking body of the Association, chaired by the AAAS president, and consisting of the members of the board of directors, the retiring section chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.

American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world's preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. Since its founding in 1869, the Museum has advanced its global mission to explore and interpret human cultures, the natural world, and the universe through a wide-reaching program of scientific research, education, and exhibitions. The Museum accomplishes this ambitious goal through its extensive facilities and resources. The institution houses 45 permanent exhibition halls, state-of-the-art research laboratories, one of the largest natural history libraries in the Western Hemisphere, and a permanent collection of more than 30 million specimens and cultural artifacts. With a scientific staff of more than 200, the Museum supports research divisions in Anthropology, Paleontology, Invertebrate and Vertebrate Zoology, and the Physical Sciences. In 2006, with the launch of the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the Museum, it became the first American museum with the authority to grant the Ph.D. degree. The Museum shares its treasures and discoveries with approximately four million on-site visitors from around the world each year. AMNH-produced exhibitions and Space Shows can currently be seen in venues on five continents, reaching an audience of millions. In addition, the Museum's Web site,, extends its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more beyond the Museum's walls.

American Museum of Natural History

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