Two Michigan paleontologists were recognized this year for their outstanding contributions to the field of paleontology. Matt Friedman, Director of the U-M Museum of Paleontology (UMMP), received the Paleontological Society’s Charles Schuchert Award and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s Robert Lynn Carroll Award. Joe Koniecki, longstanding member of the Friends of the UMMP, is the recipient of the Paleontological Society’s Harrell L. Strimple Award.

The awards made to Friedman by the two major US professional societies in paleontology recognize outstanding research as an early to mid-career paleontologist. They represent an honor of distinction made by colleagues and researchers in the discipline.

“It is humbling that they considered my contributions worthy of these awards,” said Friedman. “I am honored to share this distinction with past awardees whose work has been so inspirational in my own efforts.”

Friedman describes himself as a vertebrate paleontologist who uses fossils to understand the evolution of the biological diversity we see around us today. His expertise lies in the fossil record of fishes, a vast but comparatively understudied part of the history of backboned animals. Clues from this rich archive help establish the kinds of changes that have taken place over hundreds of millions of years and led to modern aquatic ecosystems.

 “Director Friedman has made many contributions to understanding the evolution of early vertebrates,” said Bruce McFadden, Chair of the Schuchert Award Committee and former president of the Paleontological Society. “He was selected from a highly competitive pool of nominees to receive the Charles Schuchert Award.”

In response to this recognition, Friedman said, “Although the awards name me, they honor what I have been able to accomplish through the generosity of my colleagues over the past few decades. This includes my supervisors and mentors at the University of Rochester, University of Cambridge, and University of Chicago; my colleagues and students at the University of Oxford and here at Michigan; and the extended paleontological community that has provided so much support over the years.”

Joe Koniecki was nominated for the Harrell L. Strimple Award in recognition of his substantial contributions as a non-professional. Koniecki is an expert fossil collector, preparator, and exhibitor.

“Joe is most deserving of this prestigious award as he cares deeply that fossil specimens are researched, displayed, and preserved for future generations,” said Jennifer Bauer, nominator and Research Museum Collection Manager at UMMP. “Joe has donated over 300 specimens to the Museum, including 40 type specimens. Nearly 50 of the specimens donated by Joe are on display at the U-M Museum of Natural History. Joe is a generous person, not just with donating [from his private collection] but also with his time and expertise. He is a valued member of the community.”

This is not the first time these honors have been made to paleontologists with connections Michigan. Past recipients of the Schuchert Award include former UMMP Curator James Doyle (1980), UMMP Curator Emeritus Philip Gingerich (1981), UMMP Curator Daniel Fisher (1984), former UMMP Curator Jennifer Kitchell (1985), U-M alumnus Carlton Brett (1990), U-M alumnus Prof. Paul Koch (1998), former UMMP Curator Michael Foote (2000), U-M alumnus Peter Wagner (2004), and former Michigan Fellow Shanan Peters (2014). Anjali Goswami, inaugural recipient of the Carroll Award in 2021, is also a U-M alumna. John and Michael Topor, longtime members of the Friends of the UMMP, received the Strimple Award in 2011.