About Earth Sciences Collections

Earth Science Collections

The Department of Earth Sciences collections consist of 6 main groups and 2 smaller groups.

The Vertebrate Paleontology collection includes over a million specimens from the western United States, and around the world. Major sub-collections include fossils from the Eocene of Wyoming; the Pleistocene of Colorado; the Jurassic of Colorado; the Upper Cretaceous of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, and Montana; and the Cretaceous of Madagascar. The Bison material from the original Folsom site of New Mexico is part of the vertebrate paleontology collection. Drs. Krause (fossil mammals), Lyson (fish and reptiles), and Sertich (archosaurs) curate the vertebrate collection.

The Paleobotany collection includes about 73,000 specimens from the western US, including a large collection from the latest Cretaceous and earliest Tertiary of North Dakota, Green River Eocene flora, Eocene flora from Republic, Washington, and the Campanian Kaiparowits Formation. Dr. Miller curates this collection. Click here to search the paleobotany collection.

The Invertebrate Paleontology collection includes around 20,000 specimens, with emphasis on Cretaceous seaway molluscs, Eocene arthropods from Florissant, Green River, and Creede, and Paleozoic trilobites of the midcontinent and Rockies.  Dr. Hagadorn curates this collection.

The Mineral collection includes about 20,000 specimens. Besides a synoptic collection of mineral species, this collection includes many specimens from Colorado mines and iconic pieces such as the Campion gold collection from near Breckenridge, Colorado, the Alma King rhodochrosite, and the Diane’s Pocket aquamarine and smoky quartz plate from Mt. Antero.  The Museum also has a substantial Micromount mineral collection representing species from all over the world. The collection of 20,000 specimens is anchored by donations by the late Paul Seel and Shorty Withers. Dr. Hagadorn curates these collections.

The Meteorite collection includes about 650 specimens from 251 impact events, including many sighted falls from Colorado, specimens from Mars, and over 150 Canyon Diablo specimens from Barringer/Meteor Crater in Arizona. Dr. Hagadorn curates this collection.

We have two smaller collections, one of Rock specimens curated by Dr. Hagadorn, and another of Palynology specimens curated by Dr. Miller.

Identification of Objects

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ID Requests

Do you have an item that you'd like identified?  We don't identify objects but many avocational or hobbyist organizations are happy to examine specimens in person or via email.  For rocks, gems, and minerals you can find a nearby club at RMFMS; for meteorites you might contact COMETS, and for fossils you might contact WIPS.  There are also excellent online resources for identifying gems, minerals, rocks, and fossils.  For meteorites, perhaps visit WUSTL, UNM, or MM.

We are unable to inspect items on a drop-in basis, to accept items dropped off at the museum, or to appraise specimens. If your item is from a modern organism, please see the Zoology Department's page for instructions for their identification procedure.  If your object is human made or modified by humans, please see the Anthropology Department's page.

Research Visits to Collections

Permission to visit the collections is granted by the Curator in charge of that collection. If you cannot reach the appropriate curator, contact the Collections Manager. See the following guidelines for further details.

-          Paleobotany, Palynology - Dr. Miller

-          Fossil Archosaurs (Dinosaurs & Birds, Crocodyliforms, Pterosaurs) - Dr. Sertich

-          Fossil Lower Vertebrates (Turtles, Squamates, Marine Reptiles, Fish) - Dr. Lyson

-          Fossil Mammals – Dr. Krause

-          Fossil Invertebrates, Rocks, Minerals, Meteorties - Dr. Hagadorn

Guidelines for Visiting Researchers

These guidelines are designed to help make your research experience a bit easier. Please feel free to ask any of the Earth Sciences staff if you have further questions!

Your host will provide you with a tour of the collections areas you will be working in and show you where the specimens you need are located. (Remind them to point out the location of the nearest restrooms!) If you need one, your host will also give you a user name and password for accessing the wireless internet. Your host is responsible for providing you physical access to the collections.

Please let your host know what you need in terms of materials such as a work space, copy stand, microscope, etc. If in need of assistance, check with your host, or if unavailable contact the collections manager.



The collections spaces are open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday. Please do not expect to stay late or come in on weekends unless you have made prior arrangements with your host.


Specimen Care and Handling:

Gloves are not necessary for most of the specimens. Your host will let you know of any specific handling concerns. Please move the specimens as little as possible to reduce the risk of damage. Ask for help when moving heavy, awkward, or fragile specimens.


Food and Drink:

Food and drinks are not allowed in any of the collections areas.



We allow photography on all of the earth sciences collections. You can request existing photographs from the Image Archivist. If you are going to use a photograph of a DMNS specimen (even if you took it) in a commercial publication, you must get permission from the Museum Image Archivist Rene M O'Connell.



  • All loans must be approved by a curator.
  • Type specimens are not loaned out except in unusual circumstances.
  • Specimens from active research collections will not be loaned except in unusual circumstances.
  • If you are a student, the loan must be to your advisor.
  • The maximum term for a loan is one year, with possible renewal.
  • If the appropriate curator is not available to approve a loan, we will ship the specimens to you at a later date after obtaining approval.

Fossil Preparation Lab

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The Schlessman Family Earth Sciences Laboratory is next to and is part of the Prehistoric Journey fossil exhibit on the third floor.  This fossil preparation lab is viewable through a large set of windows from the Prehistoric Journey exhibit and is open whenever the Museum is open.  In this facility one can see volunteers and staff preparing fossil material collected by Museum researchers for research, education, and outreach.  To volunteer in the lab, one must be at least 17 years old and have been trained by our staff preparators.  Check for current volunteer openings at dmns.org/join/volunteering.


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