Earth Sciences


The Museum's interest in Earth Sciences began with its inception.  The Campion gold collection, for example, was one of the Museum's founding collections.  Augmented by other donations and fossils from the Museum's field expeditions, these specimens anchor the geological and paleontological collections of the Department of Earth Sciences. Today the Department conducts a diverse array of scholarship, outreach, collections, and service, supported by its staff and large corps of volunteers.  For recent updates, please see:

2018 Year in Review
2017 Year in Review

2016 Alumni Newsletter
2016 Year in Review


  • Macginitiea wyomingensis
  • Crystalized gold
  • Allosaurus and Stegosaurus

The vertebrate paleontology collection consists mainly of Cenozoic mammals, Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, and Cretaceous seaway fish and reptiles. The paleobotany collection is dominated by Cretaceous-Eocene leaves and is the second largest collection of its kind in the nation. The invertebrate paleontology collection's main strengths are Cambrian-Ordovician trilobites, Cretaceous seaway mollusks, and Eocene insects. The mineral collection focuses on Colorado and includes the second largest micromount collection in the nation and the largest diamond collection of any museum. The rock collection includes historical and building-stone collections, as well as representative rock units from the Rockies. The meteorite collection is the nation’s first, and has historic samples from around the world with a significant fraction from Colorado.


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Our research is specimen- and field-based and mainly focused on the Rocky Mountain region. There are five active scientists in the department who focus on Mesozoic and Cenozoic fossil plants and mammals; Paleozoic and Mesozoic reptiles, dinosauromorphs, and dinosaurs; Paleozoic invertebrates; and stratigraphy and tectonic evolution of the American West. All departmental scientists maintain active field programs. Click here to access our recent peer-reviewed publications.


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The Earth Sciences Department strives to effectively engage the general public and media. Efforts include citizen science, popular talks, tours, and articles, and science documentaries. In recent years, departmental volunteers have logged tens of thousands of hours annually, engaging the public in the lab and in exhibits. Staff collectively give hundreds of popular talks, tours, trainings each year and host onsite and offsite event activities that reach a diverse array of audiences. The department’s research and collections are regularly the focus of national and international media attention, helping to raise the profile of science and collections in the public eye.


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The Earth Sciences Department provides access to the more than 1.5 million paleontological and geological specimens in the collections to external researchers, and actively involves citizen scientists in research, outreach and collections work. Staff are active as editors with professional journals and as committee members or past presidents of national organizations and local societies.

Who we are

The Department of Earth Sciences (DES) focuses on specimen and field-based research in paleontology and geology, with emphasis in the Rocky Mountain region. The department contains seven recognized collections: minerals (including gems & micromounts), rocks, meteorites, and fossil vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. These collections are the core of two permanent Museum exhibits: Prehistoric Journey and Coors Mineral Hall. There are currently 11 full and part-time staff in DES and nearly 240 volunteers working on research, in collections and labs, and in the Prehistoric Journey exhibit.

Upcoming Events

  • Flowering plants enter the canopy: Fossil woods and the Cretaceous diversification of flowering plants Nathan Jud (William Jewell College) Date: 09/06/2019 Location: VIP Room
  • Physical processes in carbonate sediments: Ooids, mud, hurricanes, and more Lizzy Trower (CU Boulder) Date: 10/28/2019 Location: VIP Room
  • Evolution of topography in the southern and Patagonian Andes Mark Brandon (Yale U.) Date: 11/07/2019 Location: VIP Room
  • The Fossil Atmospheres Project: A novel experiment to test CO2 proxies using citizen scientists Rich Barclay (Smithsonian) Date: 12/02/2019 Location: VIP Room


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