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Department of Earth and Space Sciences

The mission of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences is to explore and document the evolution of the physical and biological components of the earth and its place in the universe, and to facilitate understanding and protection of our planet and its record of the past.

The department has five curators in the disciplines of vertebrate paleontology, paleobotany/invertebrate paleontology, geology, and space sciences, with collections maintained by a collections manager. The collections have strengths in Mesozoic and Cenozoic vertebrates and plants from the Western Interior of North America. Geology collections hold specimens of most mineral species in the Rocky Mountains and others throughout the world. Meteorites and rocks are also represented. The Schlessman Family Preparation Laboratory is a state-of-the-art facility staffed with two full-time preparators and a host of volunteers. It is part of the Prehistoric Journey exhibit. Staff conduct field work and research throughout the Western Interior, and have also developed international collaborative projects.

General Collections and Research Information

Check out volunteer opportunities with the Collections and Research Division.

  • 36,000 vertebrate fossils (including 52 primary type specimens)
  • 35,000 plant and invertebrate fossils (including 6 type specimens)
  • 30,000 rocks, minerals, and meteorites

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Departmental Initiatives and Highlights

  • Prehistoric Journey, a cutting-edge, award-winning exhibit on the history of life, has been seen by more than one million visitors since its opening in October 1995.

  • Coors Mineral Hall features the Alma King, one of the largest known crystals of rhodochrosite and the rhodochrosite crystal wall, an 8-square-foot natural cavity with more than 140 rhodochrosite crystals in their natural environment.

  • The Certification Program in Paleontology offers a series of courses that allow interested adults to learn and practice paleontology. The program has more than one hundred graduates who are now working with professional paleontologists at DMNS and elsewhere to collect, prepare, curate, and study fossils.

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  • Richard K. Stucky, Chief Curator and Curator of Paleontology
    [email protected]
    Ph.D., 1982, University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthropology (Vertebrate Paleontology)

    Research interests:
    Evolutionary relationships and ecology of Cenozoic mammals

    Recent publications/exhibits:
    Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth (with Kirk R. Johnson)
    Mammalian Evolutionary Paleoecology (edited with Serge Legendre)

  • Russell Wm. Graham, Department Chair and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology
    [email protected]
    Ph.D., 1976, University of Texas at Austin

    Research interests:
    Evolution and biogeography of Quaternary mammal communities

    Recent publications:
    Graham, R. W. 1997. The spatial response of mammals to Quaternary climate changes. IN Past and Future Rapid Environmental Changes: the Spatial and Evolutionary Responses of Terrestrial Biota. B. Huntley, W. Cramer, A. V. Morgan, H. C. Prentice, and A. M. Solomon (eds.), NATO ASI Series 1: Global Environmental Change 47:153-162.

    Semken, H. A., Jr. and R. W. Graham 1996. Paleoecologic and taphonomic patterns derived from correspondence analysis of zooarcheological and paleontological faunal samples, a case study from the North American prairie/forest ecotone. IN Neogene and Quaternary Mammals of the Palaearctic, A. Nadachowski and L. Werdelin, (eds.), Acta Zoologica Cracoviensia 39:477-490.

    Faunmap Working Group (Graham, R. W. and E. L. Lundelius, Jr. - co-directors) 1996. Spatial response of mammals to late Quaternary environmental fluctuations. Science 272:1601-1606.

    Graham, R.W., J.O. Farlow and J.E. Vandike 1996. Tracking ice age felids: identification of tracks of Panthera atrox from a cave in southern Missouri, USA. PP. 331-345 IN Morphology and Paleoecology of Late Cenozoic Mammals - Tributes to the Career of C.S. (Rufus) Churcher, K. M. Stuart and K. L. Seymour (eds.), University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

  • Kirk R. Johnson, Curator of Paleobotany and Invertebrate Paleontology
    [email protected]
    Ph.D., 1989, Yale University

    Research interests:
    Mesozoic and Cenozoic paleobotany and stratigraphy; Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary extinction, plant taphonomy

    Recent publications:
    Johnson, K. R. 1997. Hell Creek flora, pp. 300-302 in P. J. Currie and K. Padian, eds., The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, Academic Press, San Diego.

    Johnson, K. R. 1996. Description of seven common plant megafossils from the Hell Creek Formation (Late Cretaceous: late Maastrichtian, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana). Proceedings of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, series 3, vol. 3, pp. 1-48.

    Johnson, K. R. and Richard Stucky 1995. Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth. Roberts Rinehart Publishers and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science Press.

    Johnson, K. R. 1992. Leaf fossil evidence for extensive floral extinction at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, North Dakota, USA. Cretaceous Research 13:91-117.

  • Jack A. Murphy, Curator of Geology
    [email protected]
    M.S., 1993, University of Northern Colorado

    Research interests:
    Historical geology, building stones, mineralogy, and meteorites

    Recent publications:
    Murphy, J. A. 1997. Geology Tour of Denver's Capitol Hill Stone Buildings, Historic Denver.

    Cobban, R. R., D. S. Collins, E. E. Foord, D. E. Kile, P. J. Modreski, and J. A. Murphy 1997. Minerals of Colorado by Edwin B. Eckel. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden.

    Murphy, Jack 1995. Geology Tour of Denver's Buildings and Monuments,
    Historic Denver.

  • Laura Danly, Curator of Space Sciences
    [email protected]
    Ph.D, University of Wisconsin (Astronomy)

    Research interests:
    Studies of the halo of the Milky Way and most distant reaches of our galaxy.

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  • Logan Ivy, Collections Manager
    Ph.D., 1992, University of Colorado
    [email protected]

    Research interests:
    Eocene mammals

  • Kenneth Carpenter, Chief Preparator
    Ph.D., 1996, University of Colorado
    [email protected]

    Research interests:
    Dinosaur ontogeny and systematics

    Recent publications:
    Carpenter, K. 1997. A giant coelophysid (Ceratosauria) theropod from the Upper Triassic of New Mexico, USA. Neues Jahrbuch fur Geologie und Palaontologie, Abhandlungen, Stuttgart 205:189-208.

    Carpenter, K. 1997. Ankylosaurs. IN The Complete Dinosaur, J. O.
    Farlow and M. K. Brett-Surman (eds.), Pp. 307-316, Indiana University
    Press, Bloomington.

    Carpenter, K. 1997.Dinosaurs as museum exhibits. IN The Complete Dinosaur, J. O. Farlow and M. K. Brett-Surman (eds.), Pp. 150-164, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

    Kirkland, J. I., B. Britt, D. L. Burge, K. Carpenter et al. 1997. Lower to Middle Cretaceous dinosaur faunas of the central Colorado Plateau: a key to understanding 35 million years of tectonics, sedimentology, evolution and biogeography. Brigham Young University Geology Studies 42:69-103.

  • Bryan J. Small, Assistant Preparator
    M. A., 1985, Texas Tech University
    [email protected]

    Research interests:
    Paleozoic and Mesozoic vertebrates

    Recent publications:
    Small, B. J. 1997. A new procolophonid from the Upper Triassic of Texas, with a description of tooth replacement and implantation. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 17:674-678.

  • Kelly Goulette, Registrar
    [email protected]
    Collections and Research Division
    M.A., 1996, University of Denver,
    Anthropology with museum studies concentration

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