News Releases

Museum of Geology awarded nearly $500,000 grant
Release Date Thursday, May 15, 2014
Representative samples from the Neogene collections of Laurie Anderson, Ph.D., principal investigator in a nearly $500,000 grant awarded to the Museum of Geology by the National Science Foundation’s Collections in Support of Biological Research program. Anderson is museum director and head of the Department of Geology & Geological Engineering at the School of Mines.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (May 15, 2014) – The Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded a $499,887 grant to curate and digitize three recently acquired collections of modern and Neogene-age invertebrates and protists.

The collections represent ancient and recent shallow-marine environments from the last 23 million years and form a foundation for conservation paleobiology and historical ecology research. The grant was awarded by the National Science Foundation’s Collections in Support of Biological Research program.

The project will focus on 1989-2011 field collections of principal investigator Laurie Anderson, Ph.D., museum director and head of the Department of Geology & Geological Engineering, and dissertation collections of co-principal investigator Christina Belanger, assistant professor in the Department of Geology & Geological Engineering, as well as an orphaned collection from the former University of South Dakota-Springfield.

Products of this project will include well-curated collections, digitized and georeferenced records including ancillary data, and illustrated faunal lists. “The targeted collections are exemplars of ancient and historical shallow-marine systems and are crucial for understanding the development of modern ecosystems, calibrating ecological impacts of environmental disturbance, and interpreting ecological and evolutionary processes over long time scales,” Anderson said.

Additionally, because both Anderson and Belanger use bulk-sediment sampling techniques in their field work, these collections provide records of entire fossil assemblages that can be used to independently measure environmental information and biotic responses to environmental changes geographically and through time.

Outreach and educational activities related to the project will include training graduate and undergraduate students in modern curatorial techniques. The School of Mines offers the only master’s degree in paleontology in the country. 

“Dr. Anderson’s excellent work in geology and paleontology adds to the outstanding reputation the School of Mines has had for over 100 years in these fields,” said President Heather Wilson. 

Mines students will also be involved in designing exhibits for use in outreach to middle and high school students.

Additionally, the targeted specimens will be used in course development for the training of the next generation of museum curators, including students from state and tribal colleges. 

The grant was announced at the 2014 Conference on Fossil Resources, which is being attended by more than 120 paleontological experts from around the world. The conference runs through Thursday with a focus on partnerships between federal and non-federal agencies in managing fossils found on public lands. 

The university’s Museum of Geology has been a repository for federal, tribal and state fossils for many years. Its 33,000-square-foot Paleontology Research Laboratory holds more than half a million specimens in mineralogy/petrology, paleobotany, invertebrate paleontology, micropaleontology, biology and vertebrate paleontology.

In October, the Museum of Geology received funding from the Institute of Library and Information Services to digitize collections from the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway.

Additional information about the museum and may be found at:



About SDSM&T

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is $62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at