The Most Prestigious Can of Tomatoes You’ll Ever See: The Canadian Museum of Nature’s R.W. Brock Award

Each year members of our research and collections staff publish dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles, manuscripts and books. These high-calibre publications contribute new knowledge to the fields of botany, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology. This internationally recognized research is one of our core activities at the museum, so we feel it’s important to recognize and encourage such good work. Therefore, every year for over 20 years, we have awarded the R.W. Brock Award to the Canadian Museum of Nature staff member who produces the best scholarly publication.

Reginald Walter Brock.

R.W. Brock, Ph.D., the namesake of the Brock Award, was described as possessing “tremendous energy and driving force” and a “splendid physique”, all qualities that can be ascribed to Dr. Wu, this year’s honouree. Image: © Canadian Museum of Nature

This award commemorates a quality embodied by its namesake, Dr. Reginald Walter Brock: tireless dedication to the museum’s core mission of advancing scientific knowledge. In addition to a certificate, a small amount of research funding, and the respect of their peers, Brock Award winners also receive a can of tomatoes.

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Tomatoes? I’d rather a can of peas!” (Or peaches, or corn, or water chestnuts, anything really). Well, tomatoes have been a tradition around here for over 100 years, harkening back to the museum’s origins within the Geological Survey of Canada, during the days of Dr. Brock himself in the early 1900s. When his team performed exceptionally well in the field, Dr. Brock would award them a can of tomatoes for their hard work, a precious gift at that time. To this day, every Brock Award recipient receives a can of the finest tomatoes for their trouble. I wonder if the winners have any good tomato recipes?

Xiao-chun Wu holds a framed certificate and Tamaki Sato holds a can of tomatoes, in front of a panel-mounted dinosaur skeleton.

Dr. Xiao-chun Wu (on right), a palaeontologist at the museum and this year’s Brock Award recipient, and his co-author Dr. Tamaki Sato, an associate researcher at the museum, proudly display their winnings in our fossil collection. Image: Paul Sokoloff © Canadian Museum of Nature

Our latest tomato-winning Brock Award recipient is Dr. Xiao-chun Wu for his work on the paper “A new Eosauropterygian (Diapsida, Sauropterygia) from the Triassic of China”, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Co-authored with scientists from Taiwan and Japan, Dr. Wu and his colleagues describe both a new genus and a new species of sauropterygian—an immense reptile similar in form to a plesiosaur (think the long-necked swimming marine reptiles you remember from your youth), that flourished over 200 million years ago. This species, Qianxisaurus chajiangensis, is particularly important because it adds information to international work on Sauropterygia, and could help answer questions about how diverse lineages of these large marine reptiles evolved in what are now China and Europe.

An illustration of Qianxisaurus chajiangensis, swimming.

Qianxisaurus chajiangensis, as illustrated by prolific palaeontology illustrator Nobu Tamura. Image: Nobu Tamura © Nobu Tamura

Dr. Wu joined the museum after a postdoc at the University of Calgary, and for the last 15 years has split his time between China and Canada researching the prehistoric marine reptiles that plied our ancient seas. When he’s not hard at work on manuscripts in his office, out scouring through the fossils in our collections, Dr. Wu can be found successfully defending his title as the reigning Ping-Pong champion here at the museum.

We are proud to announce Dr. Wu as the current winner of the Brock Award, and would like to extend our appreciation to his co-authors for their hard work on this valuable publication.

Now, with next year’s Brock Award still undecided, I’ve got to get back to research ;).

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