Going Paleo

Cretaceous dinosaur fossils from Big Bend National Park (VPL).

In fall 2013, the University of Texas at Austin’s world-class paleontology collections were transferred from the College of Natural Sciences to the Jackson School of Geosciences.

The collections—housed in the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory (VPL) and Non-Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory (NPL)—are vital for education and research for students, faculty and research scientists.

“Both the VPL and NPL labs play a major role in public outreach, education and research,” said Sharon Mosher, Dean of the Jackson School. “Their specimens enrich the scientific community of Texas, and it is critical to ensure their continued care in the future.”

Founded in 1948, the VPL’s fossil holdings rank among the seven largest in North America. Most of its specimens were collected by faculty, staff and students from UT-Austin. The holdings also include several important collections made over the last two centuries by other Texas universities and research organizations. These were transferred to VPL by legislative mandate and under agreements with those organizations to ensure the continued maintenance and accessibility of research and teaching specimens.

The NPL was created in 1999 to conserve, curate and make accessible collections from early state surveys and from research at the Bureau of Economic Geology, the Department of Geological Sciences and the Texas Memorial Museum. Other material came from orphaned collections within Texas. Additional collections have been contributed as donations. The NPL is a vast repository for more than four million specimens, the fifth largest collection of its kind in the United States.

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