Montana's rich fossil record is a testament to its remarkable prehistoric past, and for over three decades, the Paleontology Team at Museum of the Rockies (MOR) has been at the forefront of exploring the state's ancient history.
With a globally recognized collection of fossil vertebrates from Montana and the surrounding regions, MOR continues to delve into the mysteries of the past and uncover fascinating insights about the diverse creatures that once inhabited western North America.
MOR houses an extensive and awe-inspiring collection of hundreds of thousands of individual fossils, representing a wide range of species including ancient clams, fishes, amphibians, lizards, mammals, and one of the most significant collections of North American dinosaurs worldwide. Notably, the museum is home to the largest collections of Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops fossils, many of which are prominently displayed in the Siebel Dinosaur Complex, captivating visitors with their immense size and astonishing details.
The Paleontology Team has a history of groundbreaking research, exemplified by the work of former Curator of Paleontology, John R. (Jack) Horner. His pioneering studies shed light on the growth and social behavior of dinosaurs, revolutionizing our understanding of these ancient creatures.
In 2017, Dr. John B. Scannella's exceptional accomplishments and expertise earned him the esteemed position of the John R. Horner Curator of Paleontology. This fitting role allows him to contribute to the institution that had inspired his early passion for dinosaurs. As curator, he oversees the museum's paleontological collections, exhibitions, and leads various research initiatives.
Scientific exploration and discovery is ongoing at MOR, with the dedicated Paleo Team conducting summer fieldwork and continuing research in the Bowman Dinosaur Viewing Lab, Fossil Preparation Lab, Gabriel Lab for Cellular and Molecular Paleontology, and the Paleontology Collection spaces year-round.
MOR's reputation as a hub for paleontological research extends worldwide, attracting researchers from all corners of the globe who come to study the remarkable and unique specimens housed within the museum. The Siebel Dinosaur Complex showcases a portion of MOR's extraordinary collection, including recent discoveries made by the Paleontology Team and Montana State University students, faculty, and staff, providing a glimpse into the ongoing advancements in paleontological knowledge.
As the Paleontology Team continues to expand our understanding of Montana's prehistory, MOR remains committed to sharing these invaluable scientific findings with the public.
Although the morhistologylab.org website has been consolidated into this page on the museum's website, visitors are encouraged to bookmark this page and periodically check for updates and insights from Ellen-Thérèse, keeping them informed about the exciting discoveries and ongoing research in the field of paleontology.
The Paleontology Team invites members and visitors of all ages to embark on a captivating journey through time, exploring the ancient wonders of Montana's fossil heritage and fostering a deeper appreciation for the incredible biodiversity that once thrived in the region.
Fossils are the preserved remains, or traces of remains, of ancient animals and plants. MOR's paleontologists make the time to help people identify fossils that they have found in and around Montana.
To have your fossil identified, please send an email to Dr. John Scannella with the following information.
Due to our paleontologist's schedules, it may take up to four weeks to receive a reply.
Museum of the Rockies houses one of the largest collections of North American dinosaurs in the world as well as the fossils of mammals and other organisms from Montana and surrounding regions. MOR is a repository for federal and state fossils.
Paleontology collections access is available to qualified researchers for scholarly purposes Monday through Friday from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. Visiting researchers from outside the university are required to request an appointment in advance.
Requests for collections access should be submitted at least 30 days in advance. Requests to access histological specimens or specimens which are currently on exhibit should be submitted at least 60 days in advance. Visiting researchers will be escorted to the collections by MOR staff. Access to the paleontology collections may be limited during the summer months.
Requests for collection access or for the loan of fossil specimens should be submitted by sending an email to the Paleontology Collections Manager-Registrar.
Museum of the Rockies is the location of one of the few paleohistology laboratories in the world. Research here is focused on the study of the microscopic structure of fossil specimens, which allows for a more in-depth exploration into dinosaur growth, physiology, and behavior.
The Gabriel Lab has produced an unparalleled collection of thin-section slides of over 2,200 fossil specimens as well as numerous comparative samples of modern bone.
Fossil Preparation Lab is the area where the rock that has encased fossils for millions of years is carefully removed so that specimens can be available for research and possibly display. This process is carried out by fossil preparators, the individuals who carefully work to expose and, in some cases, repair specimens. The prep lab also produces molds and casts of fossil specimens which may be used for educational or display purposes. The lab is overseen by the Senior Preparator, MOR Lab and Field Specialist, and Paleontology Field Professional. Many students and volunteers have been trained in fossil preparation methods and techniques in the MOR lab. Learn about volunteering.
Some fossils are also prepared in the Bowman Dinosaur Viewing Lab located inside of the Sielel DInosaur Compex. This lab allows the public to see part of the process of preparation and also to ask preparators questions about their current projects.
Dr. Alida Bailleul, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology
Dr. David Bowen, Montana State University
Dr. Thomas Carr, Carthage College
Dr. Karen Chin, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History
Dr. Meaghan Emery-Wetherell, Central Washington University
Dr. Mark Goodwin, University of California Museum of Paleontology
Dr. Shin Ikebe, Aso Volcano Museum
Dr. Naoki Ikegami, Mifune Dinosaur Museum
Dr. Michael Ivie, Montana State University
Dr. Yoshi Katsura, Ishikawa Museum of Natural History
Dr. Devon Orme, Montana State University
Dr. Mary Schweitzer, North Carolina State University
Dr. David Varricchio, Montana State University
Dr. Ewan Wolff, Montana State University, University of New Mexico, Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Cary Woodruff, Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Royal Ontario Museum
Dr. Holly Woodward Ballard, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Museum of the Rockies is a proud partner of the Montana Dinosaur Trail. This statewide trail runs across Montana and consists of 14 locations from the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center in Bynum to the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka. Each location offers a glimpse at the historic discoveries in the state and provides visitors with a better understanding of the giants that once inhabited our planet.
Museum of the Rockies is proud to have sister-museum relationships with the Carter County Museum, Mifune Dinosaur Museum, Aso Volcano Museum, Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.