Science Division News

Learn more about the latest news and discoveries from the Science Division

The Science Division grows and cares for a world-class natural history collection composed of 4.3 million artifacts and specimens, conducts scientific research with robust and diverse community participation, and conveys accurate, compelling stories that connect the past, present, and future. Our core scientific competencies are anthropology, earth sciences, health sciences, space sciences, and zoology. The Museum collections contain scientifically and culturally significant objects in archaeology, ethnology, geology, paleontology, health sciences, zoology and archives. While generally focused on the Rocky Mountain West, the collections also contain objects that bring the world to Denver and provide a broader intellectual and scientific context for the regional collections.

Romer-Simpson Medal goes to Dr. David Krause

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's highest honor

DMNS curator David Krause will receive the prestigious Romer-Simpson Medal from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, at their annual meeting on November 6.  The Romer-Simpson Medal is the society’s lifetime achievement award and is the highest honor given by the society. Krause, a vertebrate paleontologist with expertise in fossil mammals, is one of the most accomplished scientists to ever have worked at the DMNS. To wit, curator James Hagadorn said "When we heard he was considering coming to the DMNS, it was like hearing about Peyton Manning joining the Broncos. Dave helped elevate us to new levels.” Dave has published more than 130 peer reviewed manuscripts and has received continuous funding from the National Science Foundation for his work in Madagascar since 1995, the latter of which is virtually unheard of. Originally from rural Alberta, Dave spent the first 34 years of his career at Stony Brook University, where he helped refine our understanding of mammalian evolution through study of fossils from Madagascar and many other places. Dave’s field program in Madagascar is legendary -- countless jaw-dropping fossils have been discovered there and it has been the training ground for numerous graduate and undergraduate students, including other DMNS curators. Dave has forged lifelong collaborations with colleagues in Madagascar, has helped build a paleontology program in the country with Malagasy graduate students working on Malagasy fossils, and he even started a 501c3 not-for-profit that has built six schools and hosted numerous medical and dental clinics in rural Madagascar. This level of investment by paleontologists working foreign countries is unheard of and is truly astounding. Dave calls this “Science with a Social Conscience” and it is a philosophy that the field of paleontology is just starting to think about - something Dave has been implementing for the past 30 years. Here in Colorado, Dave has helmed research exploring how mammals diversified after the demise of the dinosaurs, increased the international scope of the museum’s collections, and helped develop new partnerships that bring students to the museum as interns. Not only a scholar, Dave also helped start nonprofits that invest in healthcare and education in rural communities and has been a mentor to hundreds of youth worldwide. Dave joined the museum in 2016.  

Latest Blog Posts

Giant Gar from Cretaceous-Palaeogene

by Julio Poletti

It is scorching hot in the middle of July 2016, temperatures surpassing the 3-digit mark. Location: Southwestern North Dakota, aka middle of nowhere. Sweat is dripping from every pore of Denver Museum of Nature & Science Scientist Tyler Lyson and Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Kirk Johnson. They were the only two brave souls in this part of the Hell Creek badlands roasting under the summer sun, hiking along the outcrop in search of amazing plant and animal fossils... and [hopefully] new discoveries.

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Miller Moths and Their Annual, Strenuous Migration

By Julio Peoletti

Every year, the miller moths’ migration takes place between mid-May to mid-June and could extend to early July. As they travel, they provide food for birds, bats, predatory insects, and even cats and dogs. When they feed on nectar, they also pollinate flowers on the way. Their journey is also a useful one as miller moths serve as an essential source of food and fat for larger animals, like bears who need every bit of fat available to sustain months of hibernation.

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Science on the Spot

Pop up opportunities to learn about the science being done behind the scenes

August 11th, 2022

This month's Science on the Spot focused on our three Preparation Labs and featured this summer's Department of Earth Sciences interns.

Chief Preparator Natalie Toth and Interns Laura Kleim, Dylan Dewitt, and Kayla Grant presented newly prepared dinosaurs from the Cretaceous and their work in the Paleontology Prep Lab.

Chief Preparator Andrea Carrillo and volunteers Shane Fenstermaker and Cate Corry presented vertebrate preparation techniques for mammals, birds and reptiles and their work the Vertebrate Zoology Prep Lab.

Preparator Lindsay Dougan and Interns Cameron Pittman, Eldon Panigot, Franklin Duffy, and Hannah Holtz presented Three-dimensional printed fossils and their work in the Digital Lab.

Earth Sciences Collections Manager Kristen MacKenzie and Interns Luke Friedman, Isiah Newbins and Lara Yagodzinski presented fossils and dinosaurs from the Museum and their work in the Vertebrate Paleontology Collection.

Teen Science Scholar Success Stories

From Teen Science Scholar to paleontology graduate school

Hear 2017 Teen Science Scholar Isiah Newbins' story on how the TSS program impacted his scientific career.

Watch the video

Stucky Postdoctoral Fellowship Fund established

Richard Keith Stucky passed away on May 4, 2022, following a courageous battle with lung cancer.  It would be hard to overstate Richard Stucky’s impact on your Museum. During more than 25 years on staff, Stucky served as preparator, Earth sciences department head, curator of vertebrate paleontology, chief curator, vice president of research & collections, vice president of programs and curator of paleoecology & evolution.

Stucky and his wife, Barbara, have long supported the Museum financially and donated treasures to its collections. In 2016 they joined the Edwin Carter Legacy Society. Their trust provides for the establishment of a postdoctoral fellowship fund at the Museum that is modeled after a fund at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History of Pittsburgh. In 1982, Stucky was a Rea Postdoctoral Fellow at that museum.

In 2021, another generous Museum donor, Dolores Schlessman, was inspired to make a major gift in Stucky’s honor. After consulting with Richard and Barbara, Dolores’ gift established this fund immediately. Over time, distributions from the Stucky Postdoctoral Fellowship Fund will accumulate to support a Stucky Postdoctoral Fellow in the Science Division. The Museum is deeply grateful to Dolores Schlessman and to Richard and Barbara Stucky for this amazing circle of generous support.

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Recent Catalyst Articles

Winter 2022

Museum Treasures: Introducing Casey Mallinckrodt and Chris Potrello

By Maura O'Neal

Discover Science: Behind the Scenes: Zoology Prep Lab

By Andrea (Andie) Carrillo

On the Cover: Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)

Photograph by Rick Wicker

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Fall 2022

Museum Treasures: Digital Research Lab Reveals Fossils, Slice by Slice

By Lindsay Dougan and Eldon Panigot

Discover Science: Fayum Portraits Open Doors to Rich History and Collaboration

By Dr. Erin Baxter and Megan Salas

On the Cover: Scale model of Saber-tooth cat

Photograph by Rick Wicker

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New Gift to the Museum

$25 million for conservation of scientific collections

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science and its supporting organization, the DMNS Foundation, have received a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor. This is the largest gift in the institution’s 121-year history.

“We are amazed by the donor’s generosity and vision,” said George Sparks, Museum President & CEO. “The support will vastly expand the Museum’s capacity for collections conservation."

"Collections are treasures held in the public trust. Preserving them and making them accessible to source communities, scientists and the public has long been an institutional priority,” said Museum Director of Anthropology and Senior Curator of Archaeology Stephen E. Nash. “This unprecedented gift will take our work to another level, with the expertise and state-of-the-art analytical equipment needed to advance the field and train the next generation of conservation professionals from a wide range of backgrounds. It will position the Museum as a leader in culturally-inclusive object conservation in the Rocky Mountain region, nationally and internationally.”

Ten percent of the funds will go directly to the museum for initial staffing, equipment and launch activities, while 90% will establish an endowed fund at the DMNS Foundation. Annual distributions from the endowment will support the Museum’s conservation work over the long term.

Read the press release
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