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Nature Past & Present


Patricia Princehouse has always been passionate about the natural world and especially the stories that animals past and present can tell if we listen carefully. Dogs, horses, and paleontology are close to her heart.

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Her most recent work involves an exciting new paleontological site, Topernawi, in West Turkana, Kenya. Topernawi dates back over 29 million years, when our lineage, the hominoids, branched off from monkeys. It also has areas dating to the Miocene. She is privileged to be affiliated to the National Museums of Kenya, and affiliated faculty of Turkana University College, where she works with many extremely talented Kenyan students of color. Her team is already making exciting finds, with much more to come, so stay tuned!

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As Associate Director of the Institute for the Science of Origins at Case Western Reserve University, and Director of the Program in Evolutionary Biology and the university's new Origins Sciences major, Patricia's interests range widely across biology, paleontology, anthropology, and the history, philosophy, and social relations of science. A native of Ohio, her Ph.D. is from Harvard, where she worked with Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. She earned her masters from Yale, working with Mark Birchette, Andrew Hill, and Liz Vrba. As an undergraduate, she studied Animal Science at the University of Delaware, Anthropology at Wright State with Bob Riordan and Ann Bellisari, and graduated from Kent State, where she worked with Steve Ward and Owen Lovejoy.

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It's nice when enthusiasms are complimentary. An avid dog sports competitor and advocate for preserving heirloom breeds, Patricia's avocational and professional interests have joined together in a GWAS project she has undertaken with her colleagues at Case Western Reserve University to investigate candidate genes that may play a role in health issues affecting dogs.

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Within her dog hobby, Patricia specializes in breeding Great Pyrenees and Pyrenean Shepherds. In addition to placing dogs with farmers and ranchers as true working dogs, her dog breeding program has produced a multitude of show and performance sports champions in myriad dog sports, including the 2011 World Agility Champion (mid-size), and National and Invitational Champions.

   She was recognized in 2018 as performance dog breeder of the year, and in 2019 as herding dog breeder of the year. 

        Patricia has been actively engaged in dog rescue since 1978, and even gone under cover to bust puppy mills. She has strong views on the moral necessity for breeders and owners to take responsibility for the dogs they produce and care for.

She travels to the homeland of her breeds, the Pyrenees Mountains, frequently and guides science tourism groups to see the archeology and pre-historic cave art of the Pyrenees, and observe the dogs working in their natural and cultural habitat. She mentors numerous juniors -the future of the sport!

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Patricia has been a photography enthusiast
since childhood. Favorite subjects are animals, plants,
landscapes, and architecture.

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Patricia leads science tours to many cool places
in conjunction with the Institute for the Science of Origins
at Case Western Reserve University
-from luxury safaris in the Serengheti, to pre-historic painted caves in France, to wild przewalski horses and the Gobi in Mongolia, to CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the Galapagos, and beyond.

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As a child, Patricia spent every available minute at the Dayton Museum of Natural History, and participated in every possible opportunity to do field work of any kind, including entomology, river ecology, archeology, paleontology and much more. In college she worked with Bob Riordan on Ohio archeology sites, including an Adena mound. In grad school she worked with Phil Gingerich in the Big Horn Basin, WY, and with Isaiah Nengo at Songhor, Kenya, and later with Nengo at Napudet. In 2017, Patricia co-led an expedition to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia with famed dinosaur expert Michael Ryan and ace field paleontologist Lee Hall, and CWRU Evolutionary Biology and Origins Science majors. In 2019 she was privileged to be granted rights to explore and excavate at Topernawi, West Turkana, Kenya. Having her own site has been exhilarating and rewarding -not only for the scientific discoveries, but for the amazing people she has had the pleasure to work with.

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The Topernawi Research Project crew on a day off at Lake Turkana! In the field we are currently exploring sediments ranging in age from about 25.5-29 million years old. We are finding hundreds of fossils from a large diversity of different kinds of animals and plants. This important fauna bridges a longstanding gap in the fossil record of paleoanthropology.

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Children around the world love paleontology! From the first season at Topernawi, our field research has attracted local kids. Their persistent interest inspired us to help them start the "Junior Paleo Club" and begin educating the kids about the science and how to do field work properly. Several are serious about science and as there are no schools in the area, a dozen boys and girls are now enrolled in a STEM-oriented boarding school, with generous support from the family and friends of TRP scientists and the Cleveland STEM Foundation. When covid sent the boarding kids home, a Topernawi Kids (TopKids) school was formed with the help of the TTOP CBO and a Turkana grad student credentialed and experienced in K-12 education. The boarding kids are now back at school but TopKids Academy is continuing to serve the community as a preschool with a full-time teacher and hot lunch for the kids. Generous people interested in helping sponsor a child or the school are urged to contact us via the form below.

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Patricia credits her training in anthropology at multiple institutions in preparing her

to relate to people of many different backgrounds and customs.

Her training in educational philosophies inspired her to create

informal educational opportunities that have been embraced by local people.

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Patricia has worked in the history and philosophy of science generally, and in particular on the history of macroevolutionary theory since Darwin.

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Patricia has at times been politically engaged -primarily in safeguarding the integrity of science and science education, particularly against incursions by anti-evolutionism -for which she received the National Center for Science Education's Friend of Darwin Award. She is now increasingly active as a voice against the reprehensible false assertions about evolutionary history and biological determinism emanating from the white supremacy movement.

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“All life is a concession to the improbable”

George Gaylord Simpson

(after Douglas)

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