RECORD 8,000!

Well… Ary and I are still working on the fossil insect grant. Things are slowly moving forward- but we have reached over 8,000 records! Woohooo! We have about 700 more to go as we need to photograph and catalog 8,910 insects total.


Thysanoptera, aka Thrips; VMNH#98538; scale bar: 5 mm with 0.1 mm div.

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Posted in From the Collections Room, Museums, Newark Supergroup, Saltville, Solite Quarry, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New Intern working on Virginia cave bones (guest blog written by Mr. B. Khameiss)


I am a new intern in the Paleo Lab at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, in association with the Smithsonian Institute. This is the first time I have been in this city and the museum as well. I am a PhD student from Ball State University, Geology Department, in Muncie, Indiana.

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The Paleo Lab Welcomes A New Intern! (A guest blog by Madison Pullis)


Hello everyone! I am one of the new interns invading the Virginia Museum of Natural History this summer. My name is Madison Pullis and I can be found in the Paleontology lab most days. I am from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and just graduated from Iowa State University this past May. I majored in Anthropology, and minored in Environmental Studies and Sociology. I have some experience within anthropology – last summer I spent time in Costa Rica studying howler monkeys and I’ve also helped Dr. Matt Hill, an archaeologist at Iowa State studying the late Pleistocene/early Holocene time period (to put it simply), with research on extinct peccaries from Peccary Cave in Indiana.

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Posted in General Geology, Uncategorized, Vertebrate Paleontology, Wyoming Excavations | 6 Comments

Return to Carmel Church

A couple weeks ago the VMNH paleo team returned to the renowned Carmel Church fossil site for a few days of excavation.  This 14 million-year-old marine site has been producing for years and this time was no less. We had a pretty good haul, including something extra special we’ll have to excavate out next time.


VMNH fossil preparator, Ray Vodden, with a whale vertebra.

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A haiku!

As we near out grant deadline, Ayranna and I have been working hard to finish up the digitization project. Things have begun to slow down, as we are running out of prepared specimens and now must take extra time to look on slabs have not been pre-checked nor sorted. We end up looking at a lot of slabs that only have plants or shell fragments and no insects. In terms of numbers for this grant, those slabs are worthless, though we do try to mark anything interesting for future researchers. But we need to keep moving forward on the insects, and cannot stop to take time photographing other things.


All the slabs we have searched through this last month with no insects present. They are to be stored in their appropriate cabinets to be available for future study.

However, we are making progress– we have reached our 7,000th record! Again, similar to our 6,000th record from March, it is not a very exciting specimen. Yet, we are proud of our progress and want to celebrate!



Our 7,000th Record! VMNH#97321; indet. insect abdomen fragment, scale bar: 5 mm with 0.1 mm div. 

Our 7,000th record! To commemorate this moment, Aryanna has written a Haiku!

Searching with the ‘scope

For record seven thousand

a bug butt I see.

In other news, Senator Tim Kaine stopped by last week for a tour of the museum and came into the lab to see some of the Solite fossil specimens.


Dr. Alex Hastings discusses the value of keeping donated orphan collections, one of which features a very important triceratops horn; with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. 

You can read about Senator Kaine’s visit here: in a write-up by the local Martinsville Bulletin. And we are preparing to be a designated stop For the Garden Club of Virginia on the Historic Garden Week tour. We will be assembling a giant cycad fossil to have on display, and the Solite fossils will also be out for folks to study under a microscope.

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Casting up a storm!

The VMNH paleontology lab has been busy making many different casts for several upcoming exhibit and outreach projects.  Paleo labs often make copies of important fossils so they can be shared with other museums and researchers, used in displays, and brought around for people to see and touch.


Beaver skeleton cast being mounted in a sitting position (it’s rolled on it’s back right now) for an upcoming display at Radford University.

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6,000 Records Reached!


As we near the deadline of our grant, which you can learn more about here and here, I am excited to say that we have reached over 6,000 records with images! We only have a few short months to reach the anticipated number of 9,000- so Aryanna and I are busier than ever here in the Paleo Collections. I wish I could say the 6,000th record was something glamorous, but unfortunately we have gotten into the territory of unsorted specimens, that have mostly just been bits and pieces of possible fossil insects.

Regardless, I feel it is worth celebrating this moment as we are two thirds of the way there!

SO… drum roll please…

Introducing fossil specimen number 6,000:


VMNH96365 – Nymph

See, I told you it wasn’t glamorous.

Here, I can make it fancier:


fancy nymph – VMNH996365

Better, no? Well, I probably should not be wasting time applying clip art to insect fossils, but hey, we all need a little levity once in a while.

In other news, the Paleo department has been busy with education outreach this past month- we took part in two separate Darwin Day events, one at Roanoke College and the other at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. We also headed down the the Schiele Museum of Natural History for their annual Fossil Fair. Alex’s enthusiasm cannot be matched.

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And… we are excited to be going back out on the road for a couple upcoming events. First, on  March 26th,  we will be heading north of Richmond for a paleo dig at Carmel Church Quarry. This is a 14 million year old site where 17 species of whales and dolphins; 15 to 20 kinds of sharks; seals; sea turtles; 20 to 30 fish, including sunfish, tuna, drum and sturgeon; and crocodile have been unearthed.


Cast of Eobalaenoptera harrisoni, a nearly complete 30-foot whale recovered from Carmel Church Quarry in 1990

And then, in May, Alex and I will drive up to Richmond for this year’s Virginia Academy of Science spring meeting. I went to school at Virginia Commonwealth University, and I am excited to see old friends and professors while there for the meeting.

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