The Canadian Museum of Nature has a long history of research with expertise and leadership in species discovery and work in the Arctic.
We continually produce new knowledge that is published in the scientific literature. Our scientific productivity in botany, zoology, mineralogy and palaeobiology result in 50–60 manuscripts each year; a full list is in our annual report.
We ask our research experts to have their best publication considered for the annual Brock Award, the museum’s internal prize for excellence. This healthy competition has gone on for over two decades and is named after a former leader of the museum, Reginald Walter Brock, Ph.D.
As a past Director (1907–1914), Brock was responsible for moving the early collections into the museum’s then-new building, and for recognizing and rewarding excellence in his scientific teams. One of Brock’s rituals was to award a can of tomatoes for great accomplishments in field work. We carry on this charming tradition.
The Brock Award for a scientific publication in 2013 was awarded to Natalia Rybczynski, Ph.D., for her publication Mid-Pliocene warm-period deposits in the High Arctic yield insight into camel evolution (produced with colleagues J. Gosse, R. Harington, R. Wogelius, A. Hidy and M. Buckley).
In this paper, the team reports their discovery of 3.5 million-year-old fossil material from the Strathcona Fiord area of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, in the High Arctic.
Rybczynski knew they had found a piece of the right tibia (lower leg) of a large mammal, but it took the help of new technology (called collagen fingerprinting) to be sure that they had found the remains of a relative to modern-day camels.
The findings add significantly to our data on the evolution of camels and help us understand the origin of anatomical specializations seen in modern camels. The work of Rybczynski and her team also adds to our knowledge of this ever-changing region of our country.