Royal Ontario Museum Announces the Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology

TORONTO, May 10, 2018 – The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is proud to announce the establishment of the Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology—the first endowed position of its kind in Canada. This prestigious and important new role will be held by the ROM’s Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron, Senior Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology.  

“We are very grateful to Richard Ivey for this leadership gift that will help unlock the full potential of the ROM’s fossil collections,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director & CEO. “This endowed curatorship will enable the ROM to further develop an ambitious range of engaging programs for the public, conduct original research, and provide unparalleled educational opportunities in one of our important areas of expertise.”

In addition to its well-known fossil vertebrate collections, including dinosaurs and mammals, the ROM holds nearly half a million specimens of non-vertebrate fossils  (invertebrates, plants, microbes, and trace fossils) representing an astonishing evolutionary record that stretches from the first sparks of life three billion years ago to near modern times. This collection includes superb and scientifically important specimens from Ontario and across Canada, most significantly from the renowned Burgess Shale, a half-billion-year-old fossil site in British Columbia. With close to 250,000 specimens collected since 1975 by the ROM, this collection, which is held in trust for Parks Canada, is by far the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron specializes in the origin and early evolution of animals during the “Cambrian explosion,” the period in evolutionary history when diverse groups of animals appeared in the fossil record for the first time. He leads a dynamic research program on the Burgess Shale, and regularly organizes field expeditions to the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks of British Columbia. In 2012, Dr. Caron and his team discovered an extraordinary new Burgess Shale site near Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park, which has so far yielded tens of thousands of specimens and dozens of species new to science. Dr. Caron has published over 50 scientific papers since joining the ROM in 2006, including several in the prestigious journals Science and Nature. Many of his ground-breaking studies and discoveries of new organisms have been widely covered in the media, including by CBC, the New York Times and the BBC. Dr. Caron has also featured in a number of TV documentaries, including First Life with Sir David Attenborough. As a result of his various accomplishments, Dr. Caron won the Pikaia Award for outstanding contributions to Canadian research from the Palaeontology Division of the Geological Association of Canada.

Dr. Caron is actively overseeing the development of the ROM’s future Dawn of Life permanent gallery, a project that has also received generous support from the Ivey Family and other leadership donors. This new gallery will highlight the story of life from its beginnings to the evolution of the first dinosaurs and mammals and will complement the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs and the Reed Gallery of the Age of Mammals on the second floor of the ROM.

“I’m very pleased to support Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron and the ROM’s critical ongoing work in the field of Invertebrate Palaeontology,” said Richard Ivey. “I see this endowment as an essential contribution to one of the Museum’s most important areas of collection and focus; one that offers a comprehensive understanding of our planet’s natural history and the evolution of life since our shared beginnings.”

The endowment program at the ROM presents donors with an outstanding opportunity to permanently enable thought-provoking exhibitions, revolutionary research and engaging public programs by supporting the Museum’s curatorial expertise. The Richard M. Ivey Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology is one of nine endowed curatorships at the Museum, and the second to receive matching funds by the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust.

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Founded in 1914, the Royal Ontario Museum showcases art, culture and nature from around the world and across the ages. Among the top 10 cultural institutions in North America, Canada’s largest and most comprehensive museum is home to a world-class collection of 13 million art objects and natural history specimens, featured in 40 gallery and exhibition spaces. As the country’s preeminent field research institute and an international leader in new and original findings, the ROM plays a vital role in advancing our understanding of the artistic, cultural and natural world. Combining its original heritage architecture with the contemporary Daniel Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the ROM serves as a national landmark, and a dynamic cultural destination in the heart of Toronto for all to enjoy.