About Earth Sciences Collections

Earth Science Collections

The Department of Earth Sciences collections consist of 6 main groups and 2 smaller groups.

The Vertebrate Paleontology collection includes over a million specimens from the western United States, and around the world. Major sub-collections include fossils from the Eocene of Wyoming; the Pleistocene of Colorado; the Jurassic of Colorado; the Upper Cretaceous of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, and Montana; and the Cretaceous of Madagascar. The Bison material from the original Folsom site of New Mexico is part of the vertebrate paleontology collection. Drs. Krause (fossil mammals), Lyson (fish and reptiles), and Sertich (archosaurs) curate the vertebrate collection.

The Paleobotany collection includes about 73,000 specimens from the western US, including a large collection from the latest Cretaceous and earliest Tertiary of North Dakota, Green River Eocene flora, Eocene flora from Republic, Washington, and the Campanian Kaiparowits Formation. Dr. Miller curates this collection. Click here to search the paleobotany collection.

The Invertebrate Paleontology collection includes around 20,000 specimens, with emphasis on Cretaceous seaway molluscs, Eocene arthropods from Florissant, Green River, and Creede, and Paleozoic trilobites of the midcontinent and Rockies.  Dr. Hagadorn curates this collection.

The Mineral collection includes about 20,000 specimens. Besides a synoptic collection of mineral species, this collection includes many specimens from Colorado mines and iconic pieces such as the Campion gold collection from near Breckenridge, Colorado, the Alma King rhodochrosite, and the Diane’s Pocket aquamarine and smoky quartz plate from Mt. Antero.  The Museum also has a substantial Micromount mineral collection representing species from all over the world. The collection of 20,000 specimens is anchored by donations by the late Paul Seel and Shorty Withers. Dr. Hagadorn curates these collections.

The Meteorite collection includes about 650 specimens from 251 impact events, including many sighted falls from Colorado, specimens from Mars, and over 150 Canyon Diablo specimens from Barringer/Meteor Crater in Arizona. Dr. Hagadorn curates this collection.

We have two smaller collections, one of Rock specimens curated by Dr. Hagadorn, and another of Palynology specimens curated by Dr. Miller.

Identification of Objects

ID Requests

The Earth Sciences Department welcomes object identification requests from the general public.  If you have a question about an object in your care, please consult the instructions for Specimen Identification Requests & Donations. Your inquiry will then be passed along to the appropriate Curator for consideration.


Do you think you have a meteorite?  Arizona State University's Center for Meteorite Studies is an excellent resource for identifying meteorites and meteorwrongs!


The Department does not provide appraisals on material. Please visit the American Society of Appraisers, the  Appraisers Association of America, or the  International Society of Appraisers to find an appropriate appraiser.


If your object is from a modern animal, see the Zoology Department's page for instructions of their identification procedure.  If your object is human made or modified by humans, see the Anthropology Department's page for their identification procedure.

Research Visits to Collections

Permission to visit the collections is granted by the Curator in charge of that collection and logistics will be handled by the Earth Sciences Collections Manager (Kristen MacKenzie). You may contact them via phone, e-mail, or letter, although e-mail is probably the most reliable.  If you cannot reach the appropriate curator, contact the Collections Manager. See the following guidelines for further details.

-          Paleobotany, Palynology - Dr. Miller

-          Fossil Archosaurs (Dinosaurs & Birds, Crocodyliforms, Pterosaurs) - Dr. Sertich

-          Fossil Lower Vertebrates (Turtles, Squamates, Marine Reptiles, Fish) - Dr. Lyson

-          Fossil Mammals – Dr. Krause

-          Fossil Invertebrates, Rocks, Minerals, Meteorties - Dr. Hagadorn

Guidelines for Visiting Researchers

Welcome to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and thank you for your interest in our collections!  We appreciate the opportunity to share our collections with a wider audience.  These guidelines are designed to help make your research experience a bit easier.  Please feel free to ask any of the Earth Sciences staff if you have further questions!

Your host will provide you with a tour of the collections areas you will be working in and show you where the specimens you need are located.  (Remind them to point out the location of the nearest restrooms!)   If you need one, your host will also give you a user name and password for accessing the wireless internet.  Your host is responsible for providing you physical access to the collections.

Please let your host know what you need in terms of materials such as a work space, copy stand, microscope, etc.  If in need of assistance, check with your host, or if they are unreachable (in a meeting, perhaps), contact the collections manager.



The collections spaces are open 9-5 Monday-Friday.  If you need to work outside of these hours, please let your host know early on so that arrangements can be made.  Please do not expect to stay late or come in on weekends unless you have made prior arrangements with your host.


Specimen Care and Handling:

Gloves are not necessary for most of the specimens. Your host will let you know of any specific handling concerns. Please move the specimens as little as possible to reduce the risk of damage. Ask for help when moving heavy, awkward, or fragile specimens.


Food and Drink:

Food is not allowed in any of the collections areas.  Check with your host about drinks such as coffee.



We allow photography on all of the earth sciences collections. You can request existing photographs from the Image Archivist. If you are going to use a photograph of a DMNS specimen (even if you took it) in a commercial publication, you must get permission from the DMNS Image Archivist Rene M O'Connell.



  • All loans must be approved by a curator.
  • Type specimens are not loaned out except in unusual circumstances.
  • Specimens from active research collections will not be loaned except in unusual circumstances.
  • If you are a student, the loan must be to your advisor.
  • The maximum term for a loan is one year, with possible renewal.
  • If the appropriate curator is not available to approve a loan,  we will ship the specimens to you at a later date after obtaining approval.

Fossil Preparation Lab

The Schlessman Family Earth Sciences Laboratory is next to and is part of the Prehistoric Journey fossil exhibit on the third floor.  This fossil preparation lab is viewable through a large set of windows from the Prehistoric Journey exhibit and is open whenever the Museum is open.  In this facility one can see volunteers and staff preparing fossil material collected by Museum researchers for research, education, and outreach.  To volunteer in the lab, one must be at least 17 years old and have been trained by our staff preparators.  Check for current volunteer openings at dmns.org/join/volunteering.

Have a Question?

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  • Gabi Rossetto

    Collections Assistant



  • Kristen Mackenzie

    Collections Manager


    (303) 370-8372

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