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Skull of the extinct mammal Hyaenodon

Skull of the extinct mammal Hyaenodon

It all starts in the rocks, where teams from the Alf Museum carefully collect and document fossil discoveries. After cleaning in the museum’s fossil preparation lab, the specimens are identified, cataloged, and housed in the fossil collection. Much like a library, the Alf Museum’s collection is organized so that researchers can read the history of our planet. Scientists from all over the world visit the Alf Museum to access its unique collections.

Weeks, months, or sometimes even years of research are required to fully understand the significance of a fossil. This research is undertaken by Alf Museum scientists in collaboration with students from The Webb Schools, as well as outside researchers. Finally, the research is submitted for peer review at a scientific journal, and once that is successfully completed, the find can be announced to the world!

During the past decade, Alf Museum researchers have published over 50 scientific papers, half of them in collaboration with Webb students. These publications have appeared in some of the field’s top journals, as well as being featured in news outlets such as New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NPR, CBS News, and more.

A few highlights:

  • “Dinosaur Joe” – the smallest and most complete skeleton of the dinosaur Parasaurolophus, discovered by a Webb student, showed how this animal grew its unusual headgear
  • Fossil mammals of the Goler Formation (southern California) show the life of a 60 million year old tropical rainforest that covered what is now the Mojave Desert. New species include Nannodectes lynasi, one of the oldest primates known from California.
  • An Alf Museum scientist was on the team that named Aquilops americanus, the oldest horned dinosaur from North America.