Fossil plant collection arrives at VMNH


As I’ve mentioned before, orphaned collections are are major source of acquisitions at VMNH. Collections can become orphaned for all kinds of reasons, but a common one is when a prolific researcher spends a career at a university building a large collection and then retires. Most universities don’t have the space or personnel to deal with large collections if there’s no faculty member specifically working on them, so these collections often end up being transferred to museums.

Dr. Stephen Scheckler is Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences and Geosciences at Virginia Tech, and spent several decades building a large collection of fossil plants, mostly from Virginia and West Virginia. With Dr. Scheckler’s retirement, Virginia Tech decided to transfer this important collection to VMNH, where it will be integrated into our existing paleobotany collections.


The collection is pretty large, consisting of 16 specimen cases (which were included in the transfer). Crucially, it also includes locality and geologic data for each specimen, which is what makes this collection so valuable from a scientific standpoint. In fact, without the associated data, we most likely would not have accepted the collection. Dr. Scheckler also included a large number of reprints of paleobotany papers, many of which were based on specimens in this collection, for the VMNH library.

When we picked up the collection almost everything was already boxed up for shipping, so I’ve not yet seen most of the specimens. But there were a few oversized pieces that weren’t in boxes:


I’d like to thank Dr. Scheckler, as well as Dr. Brenda Winkel and Jacob Waller from the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Sciences, and the VMNH Foundation and our paleontology and buildings and grounds staff for making this transfer possible.

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3 Responses to Fossil plant collection arrives at VMNH

  1. accpaleo says:

    1) “In fact, without the associated data, we most likely would not have accepted the collection.” I’m sure you got your reasons, but i hate to see fossils of any persuasion get thrown out. Send them our way! The CCPP will give them a good home!

    2) So these would be mostly paleozoic plants? Or does Virginia and West Virgina have some other aged fossil floras?

    3) Where might one be able to get such collections cases?

    4) On the subject of acquisitions, when are you going to post on those dinosaurs you got from Shenandoah U?

  2. altondooley says:

    1) We certainly don’t have the room for 16 cases of specimens with no data, which would render them almost completely useless for research. They might be useful for teaching, and maybe for exhibits, but that’s about it (and maybe our education dept. would want them). Given that we have finite space and other resources, and we’re a research museum, we have to limit ourselves to things that fit our scope, and in our case that’s specimens with research value.

    2) Yes, they are mostly Paleozoic, in fact mostly Carboniferous. I expect there are some Devonian specimens as well, and maybe some Triassic. I’m hoping there are some Silurian ones. We have around 100 boxes to go through, so it’s going to take awhile to get through it all.

    3) There are several companies that sell museum specimen cases, but they tend to be expensive. That’s why we were happy to take these, even though they’re pretty old and they’ve been around the block.

    4) I know my post rate has dropped this year, and I feel bad about that. It’s mostly because I’ve been overwhelmed with so many administrative duties that I haven’t been able to do much science, and I didn’t think anyone wants to hear, for example, about the 4 hiring committees I’ve had to sit on this year, or the 150+ applications and resumes I’ve had to read for those. However, things are about to change for the better. Starting next week I’ll have an almost daily series of posts about a casting project that’s going to last for three weeks, followed in the fall by more casting posts, plus updates on the SVDM Triceratops, several Carmel Church whales, Cornwallis, Megalonyx, and more. So I hope soon to be back to my normal 2-3 posts per week.

  3. Mike Huggins says:

    Wow, that is fantastic that Steve Sheckler’s collections have found a good home. No doubt, there is some great stuff in there; hopefully including some fossil Devonian seeds (and lots of Lower Mississippian plant fossils from the Price Formation).

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