The society is dedicated to the study, discovery and preservation of vertebrate fossils. Van Valkenburgh was recognized for her commitment and service to the organization’s welfare.
Van Valkenburgh studies the evolution of form, function and ecology in organisms, both living and extinct. She is the current Donald R. Dickey chair in vertebrate biology and the associate dean of academic programs in the life sciences at UCLA. Van Valkenburgh has worked in the ecology and evolutionary biology department since 1986.