Snapshots in Time

NEW EXHIBIT OPENING! With Special Talk from Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues*

May 9, 2015    10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

This unique exhibit brings us a snapshot in time of Jurassic life 150 million years ago.

Directly across from the paleontology viewing lab, Snapshots in Time: The Unique Paleofauna of the Solnhofen Limestone showcases some of the worlds rarest Late Jurassic fossils discovered in the Solnhofen Limestone, of southern Germany.

No other locale has produced more iconic fossils from this time period than the Solnhofen Limestone. Rockford’s own Burpee Museum will display some of the most unique fossils from the Solnhofen, on loan from a private collection!

To enhance your experience at the exhibit’s grand opening, Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues, Senior Curator of Paleontology at the Smithsonian Institution: National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC will be giving a special presentation at 2pm!

Ticket Info

Members: FREE!

General Public:
Special Talk only from Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues: $5
Special Talk and New Exhibit Access: $10
Special Talk and Full Museum Access: $15

Introducing Abyssomedon williamsi

Elements of the newly described Abyssomedon williamsi from the early Permian of Oklahoma.

Elements of the newly described Abyssomedon williamsi from the early Permian of Oklahoma.

Abyssomedon williamsi is a new parareptile from the Richards Spur Locality in Oklahoma reported by Mark MacDougall and Robert Reisz from University of Toronto, Mississauga in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Parareptiles are a sister taxon to Eureptiles, or “true reptiles,” and have traditionally included the anapsids. These species are generally very primitive. There is an unusually high number of Early Permian parareptile fossils found at the Richards Spur Locality in Oklahoma. A. williamsi is just the newest species described from the locality.

A. williamsi is an important new species. A. williamsi belongs to a clade of Parareptiles called nyctiphruretids, This clade is normally found in mid-to late Permian deposits in Russia. The discovery of A. williamsi in Oklahoma in early Permian deposits extends both the clade’s temporal and geographic range.

On a more personal note, A. wiliamsi has a very close tie with Burpee Museum; A. williamsi is named for Burpee Museum’s very own Scott Williams! Scott has collected in the Richards Spur Locality and has frequently collaborated with Dr. Robert Reisz on Permian projects that are part of the Museum’s permanent collection. In the paleontology world, to have a fossil species named after you is quite an honor. We hope you’ll join us as we congratulate the authors and Scott on this great new Parareptile species!

Be There or Be Square: PaleoFest 2015

"Eoraptor" (C) Csotonyi

“Eoraptor” (C) Csotonyi

Add it to your calendars now, PaleoFest 2015 will be held March 14 & 15, 2015!

Tickets go on sale Monday, December 1, 2014.

The upcoming PaleoFest will be hosted in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and will once again feature an international symposium. The symposium, titled “The Beginning of Dinosaurs and the Origins of the Modern World,” will feature two dozen researchers who’s primary focus is the flora and fauna of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods.

The PaleoFest Dinner has been transformed into “Burpee Museum Presents: Hans-Dieter Sues at PaleoFest” and will be hosted by Cliffbreakers Resort, the host hotel. Dr. Sues is the Senior Scientist and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and is also the co-convener of the symposium.

In addition to the symposium events, Burpee Museum will also be hosting Triassic and Jurassic period themed PaleoPassport Stations, a Family Workshop about fossil tracks, and two Children’s Workshops. This year the Children’s Workshops will be: “Tooth Tales” where kids can learn about dinosaur teeth and jaws with Dr. Matthew Bonnan, Stockton College, recommended for kids 5-9 years old. Older aspiring paleontologists can work with Dr. Thomas Holtz, University of Maryland, on “T. Rex: Bones and Beyond” and learn how fossils help us learn about dinosaur behavior and classification, recommended for kids 10-14.

If you’re interested in attending PaleoFest visit Burpee Museum’s PaleoFest webpage for more details. We can’t wait to see you!

The Jane Diaries

Dr. Thomas Carr a Tyrannosaurid expert from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin has been working with “Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex specimen from the Hell Creek Formation in south eastern Montana to determine if “Jane” is indeed a juvenile T. rex or if the specimen should be referred to a different species of theropod dinosaur.

"Jane" Burpee Museum's juvnile T. rex

“Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvnile T. rex

Dr. Carr has spent countless hours documenting and studying “Jane’s” fossil components to observe as many details as possible so that the specimen can be placed soundly into a fossil species based on morphological characteristics. If you would like to follow his journey into the details of “Jane’s” skeleton check out his blog Tyrannosauroidea Central or follow him on Twitter at @TyrannosaurCarr. His work with “Jane” will be published as a manuscript once his research is complete – keep an eye on Dr. Carr and Burpee Museum’s social media outlets for updates on the manuscript publication as well!

Chaos to Convention

Burpee Museum has had a whirlwind past three weeks.

In the last three weeks the museum, in conjunction with the museums in the Riverfront Museum Park and other Rockford museums, hosted the Illinois Alliance of Museums conference from October 22-24.

Burpee Museum also hosted a very successful Night Sounds event for families on the evening of October 24, 2014.

Scott Williams, Director of Science & Exhibits, also headed to Kemmerer, Wyoming to pick up
Green River fossil specimens to be prepped for the upcoming Fossil Lake exhibit.


This, however, was all leading up to #SVP2014 in Berlin, Germany. Four members of the Burpee Staff are attending the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting. The museum is presenting two posters, and several additional presentations are utilizing Burpee specimens as part of their datasets or research questions. It is quite an honor for a museum of Burpee Museum’s size to be so well represented at a professional conference.

If you are interested in following along with hot topics being discussed at the meeting look for #SVP2014 on social media, or follow Brian Switek, author of the National Geographic Phenomenon: Laelops blog or check out Dr. Thomas Holtz’s Twitter feed at @TomHoltzPaleo.

The Bison are coming, the Bison are coming!

Bison return to Nachusa Grasslands.

Bison return to Nachusa Grasslands.

Or rather, the Bison are here!

Bison have returned to Nachusa Grasslands near Franklin Grove, Illinois as of Friday October 3, 2014.

20 Bison were transported from the Broken Kettle Grasslands near Sioux City, Iowa and brought to Nachusa. The animals are currently in a holding pen, and out of the public eye, as they acclimate to their new surroundings.  They will be visible from viewing areas in mid November.

The Bison are part of the Nature Conservancy’s plan for further restoration at the Nachusa Grasslands conservation site. Bison feed on different plant types than cattle or deer and will help to restore the prairie. Eventually the grasslands within the Nachusa site may support as many as 100 Bison!

If you’d like to know more about Bison returning to Nachusa, please visit the Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Bison page.

Answers to “Ask a Curator Day” 2014

"Jane" Burpee Museum's juvnile T. rex

“Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvnile T. rex

Great questions from Ask a Curator Day last week! Burpee Collections Staff received a set of questions from Andy Hyunh that will be addressed today. Andy submitted a short bio and these questions to us last week:

From Andy:

Hello! A little bit about myself, I am currently serving in the Army and I plan to study Paleontology and Paleobiology once I am finished with my military career. It has always been a childhood dream of mine to become a Paleontologist.

 My questions are:

 1) How many fossils do you have in your collection?

 2) What is the largest fossil you currently have in your collection?

 3) Once I am done with my service, where can I start to begin a career in the field of Paleontology? I am from California and I tend to visit the Natural History Musuem of Los Angeles as well as the Page Museum/La Brea Tar Pits whenever I come home for leave. I was told that I could start volunteering in the museums? What classes/courses do I need to take? I am highly motivated and extremely excited about all this!

These are great, and very important questions for anyone aspiring to go into the paleontology field! Check out the Collections Staff’s responses below!

1. How many fossils are in the Burpee Museum Collection?

Burpee Museum has over 30,000 fossils in its permanent collection. They range in size from tiny microvertebrate fossils to huge sauropod limb bones, and in age from 455 million year old Ordovician fossils to, relatively, new Ice Age fossils.

2. What is the largest fossil in the Burpee Museum Collection?

“Jane” the juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex on display is 21 feet long as a whole specimen. However, as far as individual elements go, we have an Ordovician cephalopod that is nearly 10 feet long.

3. How to begin a career in Paleontology?

Volunteering in museums and at field sites is an excellent way to start. There are many different facets of paleontology – everything from field work, prep work, and scholarly research fall into the field of paleontology. Volunteering can help you narrow down what area interests you the most.

Depending on your area of interest, there are different requirements to get into the field.

Preparators work to clean, restore, and reconstruct fossils in a lab setting. There are conferences like Fossil Preparation and Collections Symposium that you can attend to learn techniques and methods for fossil preparations and collections care. Many preparators also work, in some capacity, with collections managers to make sure that specimens are both prepared and stored properly. The last Fossil Preparation and Collections Symposium was held in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Scholarly research in the paleo field generally requires at least a Masters degree, if not a Doctorate. Coursework for aspiring paleontologists generally is in Biology or Geology, ideally some of both. Many universities have opportunities for undergraduate research as well as graduate level research. This can be a great way to see if research is something that you enjoy as well as a way to start to build a research resume. Early research projects, or even assisting with projects, will help to introduce you to people in that field who may turn out to be great advisers for future projects.

Field work is generally a component of a career in paleontology, but it is usually not the sole focus. Researchers, preparators, students, and collections staff are usually involved with field work at some point. Very few people end up getting paid to to field work year round. That said, having good field skills is very valuable. Some universities have paleo field schools, where you spend several weeks in the field learning about field techniques. There are also some museums (Burpee Museum included) that have opportunities for people who are not paleontologists to do field work.

We wish you the best Andy, and we hope that if you are ever in Northern Illinois that you’ll stop by and say Hi!


Small But Mighty

Amazing specimens abound in small museum collections.

Amazing specimens abound in small museum collections.

What’s your favorite natural history museum? Most people will name one of the big museums -The Smithsonian, The Field Museum, The American Museum. These museums are the heavy-hitters of the museum world; they have huge and diverse collections, their researchers tackle the big issues in their fields, they are destinations for locals and visitors alike, and they’re names are on the tip of the populations’ collective tongue.

But, what people forget, or may not know, is that small museums can house some truly incredible specimens, and that their collections fuel lines of research big and small. Burpee Museum falls into this category. Burpee’s specimens are used by researchers from near and far and in projects big and small. This week alone, Burpee Museum has hosted Dr. Thomas Carr from Carthage College and Dr. Mark Goodwin from the University of California Museum of Paleontology to research our flagship specimens “Jane” the juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex and “Homer” the sub-adult Triceratops, as well as Joel Greenberg one of the most prominent Passenger Pigeon researchers in North America. Burpee Museum shares this rank with small regional museums, city museums, and some small college museums. These museums’ collections can supplement data gathered from other institutions, and many drive their own lines of research. They are small but mighty.

This summer Burpee Museum was fortunate to host a collections and exhibits intern from Beloit College, Stephanie Morgan. Stephanie worked in the museum’s collection building the frame work for a new, digital collections database. She also created a movie about the importance of small museum collections, check it out below!


Project Passenger Pigeon

Burpee Museum is proud to be part of Project Passenger Pigeon, a movement to commemorate and learn from the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon 100 years ago. Project Passenger Pigeon encompasses all aspects of the birds’ demise and seeks to educate people about current conservation issues. As a part of the Project Passenger Pigeon, the museum will be installing an exhibit that combines exhibit work provided by Project Passenger Pigeon and specimens from the museum’s permanent collection.

Joel Greenberg's "A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction" will be on sale at the lecture and opening!

Joel Greenberg’s “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction” will be on sale at the lecture and opening!

The exhibit will open officially on September 9, 2014 with a Mahlburg Scholars Lecture by Joel Greenberg. Joel is the author of “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction” as well as a lifelong birder and naturalist. He will be speaking about the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon 100 years ago and why it is important to us now. Please join us for his lecture on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 7pm, doors will open at 6pm. Admission to the lecture is $8 for adults (13 and up), $7 for kids (4-12) and free to Burpee Members; admission includes general admission to the museum.

Highway to Hell Creek 2014 is underway!

Burpee Museum Field Crews have been working near Ekalaka, Montana preparing for the 2014 Highway to Hell Creek field season for the past two weeks. Already they have opened the “Pearl” site and have unearthed more of the rare Oviraptor, as well as opened the Double L Triceratops site and the Ninja Turtle site. Hopes are high for lots of great finds this field season!

L to R: Simon Masters, Gene Sullivan, Steve Landi, Hillary Parks, and Maureen Mall pose after finishing opening the Double L Triceratops site.

L to R: Simon Masters, Gene Sullivan, Steve Landi, Hillary Parks, and Maureen Mall pose after finishing opening the Double L Triceratops site.

They have also attended and presented at the second annual Dino Shindig at the Carter County Museum among many other very notable paleontologists. The first round of expedition participants arrived at Camp Needmore on Sunday and will be digging with the Burpee Crew all week.

Camp Needmore, the field crew's home for the next few weeks.

Camp Needmore, the field crew’s home for the next few weeks.

Stay tuned to the Burpee Facebook Page for updates about our finds from the field!