GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 310-11
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


HENDY, Austin J.W.1, ESTES-SMARGIASSI, Kathryn1, VENDETTI, Jann2 and WALKER, Lindsay J.1, (1)Invertebrate Paleontology, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007, (2)Malacology, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007,

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has among the largest holdings of invertebrate fossils in western North America, with some 7 million specimens. The Invertebrate Paleontology Collection dates back to the museum’s founding, but grew most rapidly during the 1950’s to 1980’s through a vigorous research program and the accession of several university collections. After fiscal crises in the early 1990s, the Museum has recently upgraded the collection’s location to a modern and spacious collections and research facility, hiring new faculty. Staffing and technological capacity have further improved through a series of recent National Science Foundation grants.

The collection has a legacy of research importance, housing nearly 14,000 type specimens, which are cited in more than 600 scientific publications. Strengths include the Cretaceous and Cenozoic of the eastern Pacific, providing an invaluable resource for systematics and biostratigraphy. However, research usage has declined, in part due to the loss of many university paleontology programs, the end of major geological mapping efforts, and relevance to the petroleum industry. Today we seek to become a hub for education as well as research. To achieve this goal, we have encouraged scientists, avocational paleontologists, students, and educators to use the collections as a setting to collaboratively research, learn, and teach.

To this end, we have created partnerships with a number of local area universities and community colleges, many of which are minority-serving institutions with limited opportunities for faculty or student involvement with natural history specimens. They have in turn created opportunities for collection-based field trips, lab exercises, capstone research projects, credit-awarding internships, and outreach collaborations. Student interns participate in all aspects of the digitization workflow, and are exposed to museum sciences and outreach activities. Teacher interns develop resources and learning pathways that mutually benefit the museum’s community outreach and provide real-world scientific experiences for local K-12 students. This transformation has created a sustainable environment for curating our historic collections and making them increasingly relevant in the 21st century.