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 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.

Additional Information

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.

  • One to three photos of the fossil attached to the email. Please do not add attachments that collectively total over 10 MB in size. Please include something in the photograph for scale, such as a ruler.
  • The location where you found the fossil. Example: On my ranch, located a few miles north of Miles City.
  • What was the soil or rock-like surrounding the fossil? Examples: It was found in the gravel by a river. It was found in a tan sandstone hill.

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.

In the Fossil Preparation Lab, rock that has encased fossils for millions of years is carefully removed so that specimens can be studied and displayed. This work is conducted by fossil preparators, experienced paleontologists who carefully expose, preserve, and, in some cases, repair specimens.

The prep lab also produces molds and casts of fossils which may be used for educational or display purposes. The lab is overseen by the Paleontology Lab and Field Manager. Many students and volunteers have been trained in fossil conservation and preparation techniques in the MOR lab, which continues to run an active volunteer program. Learn about volunteering.

Fossils are also prepared in the Bowman Dinosaur Viewing Lab located inside of the Siebel Dinosaur Complex. This lab space allows the public to see fossil preparation in action and 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.