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County of San Bernardino

Geological Sciences

How to Excavate a Fossil - Online Exhibit

The Barstow Fossil Beds - Online Exhibit

Geological Sciences Research

The Division of Geological Sciences encompasses paleontology, mineralogy and geology,  and a library of geological references, periodicals, journals, and gray literature.

The Division of Geological Sciences holds more than half a million fossils of extinct vertebrates and invertebrates, primarily from the southwestern United States with an emphasis on San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. The Division has nearly 200,000 specimens recorded in a computer database with associated contextual information, and is currently in the process of upgrading this database. Collections of particular interest include:

  • late Pleistocene fossils from Diamond Valley Lake outside of Hemet in Riverside County, as well as other sites throughout the inland valley area;
  • later Pliocene to late Pleistocene fossils from throughout the Mojave Desert, including Kokoweef Cave, Antelope Cave, the Fort Irwin region, the Piute Valley, Valley Wells, Daggett, and the Victorville/Hesperia region of San Bernardino County;
  • middle Pliocene to middle Pleistocene fossils from the San Timoteo Badlands along the San Jacinto Fault Zone in Riverside County;
  • early Pliocene and early to middle Pleistocene fossils from Murrieta and Temecula along the Elsinore Fault Zone in Riverside County;
  • middle Miocene vertebrate fossils and fossil trackways from in and around the Barstow Fossil Beds, type locality for the Barstovian North American Land Mammal Age;
  • later Jurassic dinosaur trackways from the easternmost Mojave Desert.

Fossils from these sites have greatly expanded knowledge of the fossil animals and plants that roamed southern California thousands and millions of years ago. Studies of these fossils by the Division of Geological Sciences have resulted in the discovery and description of new taxa, as well as the expansion of our knowledge of the geographic range and morphological variation of established species. These investigations have also enabled the staff of the Division of Geological Sciences to advance new interpretations regarding the sequence and timing of deposition of fossil-bearing strata throughout southern California.

The Division of Geological Sciences also performs paleontologic management services including: assessments of sensitivity; plans for mitigation of impacts to significant nonrenewable paleontologic resources; excavation monitoring and salvage of paleontologic resources; and preparation, identification, curation, retrievable storage, and summary reports and inventories in compliance with federal, state, and local laws, policies, and guidelines for the preservation of nonrenewable paleontologic resources. The division holds and annually renews an Antiquities Act Permit from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, to perform such services on public lands.

The Regional Paleontologic Locality Inventory (RPLI) is a computer database with positional and contextual data for more than 3,000 fossils localities from throughout California and the southwestern United States. The RPLI has been instrumental in the development of paleontologic sensitivity maps and management recommendations for the County of San Bernardino, the County of Riverside, Edwards Air Force Base, the San Bernardino National Forest, Fort Irwin Military Reservation, the California Desert Conservation Area of the Bureau of Land Management, the Upper Santa Ana River Dams project of the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as for local agencies and private firms. The RPLI database is presently in the process of being upgraded. For the protection of the resources, and in accordance with the guidelines of applicable agencies, access to the RPLI is provided by the Senior Curator of Geological Sciences, Eric Scott, Curator of Paleontology . Locality data can be made available to qualified researchers.

Mineral collections are from the southwest: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Baja California, with a strong worldwide component for comparison. Collections are organized by mineral chemistry (modified Dana system) and by locality suites. The Dana suites have strengths in carbonates, sulfates, borates, arsenates, phosphates, vanadates and molybdates. Localities are well represented in San Bernardino County, southern Nevada and Arizona. The mineral collection includes 55,000 specimens and 10,000 micromounts.

The Geology Library centers on the geology of the three western states. The library contains about 500 volumes, 34,600 serial publications, and 150,000 pages of reprints.

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Eric Scott, Curator of Paleontology,(909) 798-8616

Eric Scott has worked at the museum since 1991. He studies the evolution and extinction of Plio-Pleistocene large mammals in western North America, with a particular emphasis on horses and bison. His studies include both field and museum work throughout the western United States as well as in Mexico and South America. He has authored numerous paleontology research articles in professional scientific journals and books. Eric is an adjunct instructor in biology at California State University, San Bernardino, and serves as Associate Editor for the Journal of Paleontology. Prior to his present position, Eric was Chief Excavator at the Rancho La Brea "tar pits" in Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1990 and lives in Bloomington.

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San Bernardino County Museum - (909) 307-2669 - 2024 Orange Tree Lane, Redlands, California 92374

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