Our Home

A big reason our recent collections improvement efforts are possible is we recently moved into a new facility.  The act of moving several hundred thousand specimens into new space necessitates renewed organization and curation efforts.  Additionally, because we serve as a repository for many federal and tribal partners, we need to be vigilant about the organization and accessibility of our collection.

This week’s post is a brief description of the research facility we call “home”.  We officially “arrived” in the fall of 2010, having relocated all materials from the old facility.  The next several years involved the quintessential “U-Haul boxes in the kitchen” stage of the move.  Five years later we are “settling in” nicely.

The Martin Paleontology Research Laboratory.
The Martin Paleontology Research Laboratory.

The Martin Paleontology Research Laboratory is a 3100 square meter facility specifically dedicated to paleontology.  It includes repository space for vertebrate paleontology, invertebrate paleontology, Recent biology, paleobotany, mineralogy, and petrology.  Additional facilities include a preparation lab, a molding and casting lab, map repository and archives, a library, classroom, offices, and oversize receiving area.  Upon entry, visitors are greeted by a floor-size geologic map of South Dakota and our family of brontotheres, recently relocated from the Field Museum.

Atrium of the research laboratory.
Atrium of the research laboratory.

The vertebrate paleontology collections space consists of 492 square meters of compactorized space for our vertebrate holdings.  This is by far our most extensive collection.  Highlights include specimens from the Pleistocene of Oregon, the Oligocene White River Group, and, of course, our holdings from the Cretaceous Interior Seaway.

Vertebrate collections space.
Vertebrate collections space.

Our invertebrate collections space is 84 square meters of newly compactorized space housing our pre-existing invertebrate paleontology holdings.  Recent additions to this collection include the career collection of Dr. Laurie Anderson, and the dissertation collection of Dr. Christina Belanger.

Invertebrate collections space.
Invertebrate collections space.

Some of our less expansive collections include 61 square meters housing Recent biological collections, mostly modern osteology material, 98 square meters dedicated to our vast mineralogy and petrology collection, and 28 square meters devoted to paleobotany, much of which consists of specimens from the former Fossil Cycad National Monument.

Preparation lab with volunteer Kenny Brown working on another mosasaur from his ranch.
Preparation lab with volunteer Kenny Brown working on another mosasaur from his ranch.

The “active” portion of our facility includes two main laboratories, a 106 square meter fossil preparation laboratory and a 110 square meter molding and casting laboratory, which doubles as student work space.  Both are roomy enough to accommodate the largest sauropod specimens, but also facilitate instruction of large groups of students eager to learn the trade.  Additional facilities include a wet lab for washing sediment and specimens, an analytical lab for preparation of samples, a digital imaging lab with 3D scanner and digital microscope, archives, and a classroom.  Everything a paleontologist immediately needs in one convenient location.

Molding and casting lab with Heather Falkner (MS Paleo student) utilizing the student work space.
Molding and casting lab with Heather Falkner (MS Paleo student) utilizing the student work space.

One of the best parts of working in this building is knowing that all the activity, all the commotion, all the conversation, and all the effort you encounter daily is dedicated to paleontology, particularly that of students who will make a big impact in our beloved science.  Being a part of this naturally makes this our second “home”.

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