Paleontology procures the prize

The 2018 Linda K. Amos award was presented to Carolyn (Carrie) Levitt-Bussian collections manager of paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Utah. The award was presented on March 2, 2018, by Kathryn Bond Stockton, associate vice president for Equity and Diversity and Lauren Clark, professor in the College of Nursing, who represented the Linda K. Amos Award Subcommittee of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

“I’m very, very honored and never expected to receive an award like this for the work I do in paleontology,” said Levitt-Bussian. “To me, I’m just doing my job. I don’t feel like I’m going above and beyond, I’m just doing the job I love. I like to spend time taking people on behind-the-scenes tours, and teaching during job shadows and internships. It’s an amazing honor to receive this for continuing to improve the educational and working environment for women.”

Levitt-Bussian, in addition to being the collections manager of paleontology at the NHMU, is a full-time mentor. She offers college students a hands-on internship where participants get real lab and curation experiences handling fossils. In fact, three of her student interns actually decided to change their majors and pursue a science degree after their experiences. She also offers job shadowing to young people and mentors the museum’s many volunteers.

“I have seen Carrie approached by young girls who are beyond excited to meet a real, live, woman paleontologist,” said nominator Catherine Webb. “Carrie not only advocates for the women immediately around her, but she recognizes her place and responsibility as a role model.”

“Paleontology has been and still is a male dominated field and it’s not common  to find a female in the lab and field. The perception is that women can’t lift as much or wield a jack hammer and use a rock saw with precision. I love working in the field and changing perceptions especially with the interesting challenges that come along with field work. I love to show young women that paleontology is fun, interesting and they can find a future in this field,” said Levitt-Bussian.

As a child, Levitt-Bussian was strongly influenced by a visit to The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The site paleontologist, Dr. Larry Agenbroad, took the time to answer all of her young questions about fossils and mammoths and told her to contact him if she had any more. She did, and he replied. A few years later, after many letters back and forth, due to her clear passion for this field, she was invited by Agenbroad on her first dig.

“At the age of 12, I immediately knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Because someone took the time share their passion for paleontology with me and invest in my education by continually answering my many questions, I found my passion for paleontology,” said Levitt-Bussian.  “I try to pay it forward whenever I teach a new group of kids visiting the museum.”

Levitt-Bussian has also been turned into a cartoon character for the museum’s interactive, educational program “Research Quest.” Cartoon Carrie walks students through the critical thinking process to find clues, create a hypothesis and verify their findings in order to prove it right or wrong.

Since her appointment in 2013, Levitt-Bussian has expertly cared for the museum’s vast paleontology collection, empowering the crew of volunteers along the way. She teaches them about the many aspects of collections so they can teach others during the museum’s annual public events such as the ‘Behind the Scenes’ and ‘DinoFest weekend.

If you know of someone who should be considered for the Linda K. Amos award, click here for full nomination details.