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December 20, 2017

The Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation hosted the 31st annual VMNH Foundation Thomas Jefferson Awards ceremony February 15, 2018 at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

The VMNH Foundation Thomas Jefferson Awards ceremony is a statewide event that honors individuals and corporations for outstanding contributions to natural science, natural science education, and conservation.

The Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science was presented to Dr. Robert J. Bodnar, C.C. Garvin Professor of Geochemistry and university distinguished professor in the department of geosciences at Virginia Tech. This award is presented to an individual who has consistently made outstanding contributions to natural history.

Dr. Bodnar is world renowned for his expertise on the origin and evolution of ore deposits. His work on fluid chemistry has provided the basis for much of the modern understanding of the hydrothermal (hot, water-rich) systems central to many ore deposits, including most of the world’s copper and other base metals. He has pioneered numerous new techniques for studying in situ fluids and melts associated with ores and with rocks ranging from granites to meteorites.

The Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education was presented to Dr. Denny Casey, retired director of education and public programs of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. This award is presented to a Virginia educator who has made significant contributions to natural history or natural science education at any academic level.

As director of education and public programs for the museum for over 15 years, Casey grew the museum's educational initiatives throughout Virginia to allow the museum to become one of the state's key players in STEM education programming. Strongly devoted to his career, Casey championed education for social justice and had a heavy interest in promoting social constructivism, the history and nature of science and technology, and earth systems science education. In addition to his role at the museum, Casey has served a variety of educational leadership roles throughout Virginia and the surrounding region, including serving as president of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers and serving as district director of the National Science Teachers Association.

The Thomas Jefferson Award for Conservation was presented to Michael J. Pinder, Aquatic Biologist/State Non-Game Fish Representative at the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. This award is presented to an individual or organization for significant conservation efforts in Virginia.

Pinder is being recognized for his decades-long commitment to conservation of numerous at-risk aquatic non-game species, including both state and federally listed fishes and freshwater mussels. His extensive work conserving the resources of Virginia led to his involvement in the development of the Aquatics Wildlife Conservation Center in Smyth County, Virginia, one of his career's most important accomplishments. His leadership of this effort has resulted in the center being one of the top freshwater mussel propagation facilities in the country.

The William Barton Rogers Corporate Award was presented to The Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, Jr. Charitable Foundation Trust in recognition of significant support for exhibits, education and research programs. This award is given to an organization that has shown significant support for the natural sciences in Virginia through support of the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

Over the course of multiple years, the Trust's support has played a key role in allowing the museum to offer exceptional experiences to its visitors, including the unveiling of the Ice Age exhibit in 2015 and providing scholarships to Virginia school students to attend museum educational programs as part of the museum's Educational Festivals Initiative.

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