Museum Mission

The Museum of Paleontology is a research and teaching unit devoted to studying the history of life. We work both by direct analysis of the fossil record and complementary studies of living organisms.

Our goal is to elucidate and document processes of evolution and extinction that are responsible for major features of life’s history. We pursue this goal by investigating environmental settings and sequences of anatomical transformation associated with the origins of major groups of organisms; by examining the relationship between biodiversity and environmental change on a range of ecological, temporal, and geographic scales; and by deciphering records of habitat and physiological change that show how organisms responded to changes in aspects of their physical environment and interactions with other organisms.

Our educational goal is to open students’ minds to the history of life on earth and inspire the next generation of paleontologists. We accomplish this by involving students in the process of discovery, by exposing them to new specimens, methods, and ideas, and by supporting their personal development with a mix of apprenticeship, mentoring, and opportunities for field experience and initiation of their own analyses.

Paleontology is profoundly interdisciplinary and can only thrive in conjunction with strong programs in geological sciences, ecology, and evolutionary biology. In turn, it contributes to these fields its perspective on how life has interacted with the solid earth and on how life’s past affects aspects of its present.