UC Museum of Paleontology

Established in 1921, the mission of the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) is to investigate and promote the understanding of the history of life and the diversity of the Earth's biota through research and education.

UCMP is an active center of research and houses the largest paleontological collection of any university museum in the world. By fully integrating its research, teaching, and educational outreach with effective uses of technology, UCMP fulfills its mission of increasing the understanding of all aspects of Earth history and biodiversity--from the first appearance of life on Earth to current genetic patterning in populations. The Museum's well-curated and data-based collections include both fossils and modern organisms, and encompass past and present biodiversity from all continents of the world, representing the broad geographic research by UCMP faculty, staff, and students.

Research within the Museum of Paleontology focuses primarily on the evolutionary history, interactions, and relationships of species with their environments. Because this requires a multidisciplinary integration across a wide variety of spatial and temporal scales, this research contributes broadly to fields outside of paleontology, including: systematics, evolution, development, biostratigraphy, paleoecology, paleoceanography, paleobiogeography, and paleoenvironmental analysis.

UCMP research is supported by state-of-the-art facilities. The Museum has laboratories for activities including fossil preparation, molding and casting of fossils, histological studies of living and fossil tissues, phylogenetic analysis, and molecular biology. The Molecular Phylogeny Laboratory (shared with the University and Jepson Herbaria) is a state-of-the-art laboratory for the preparation and sequencing of molecular data used for the reconstruction of the history of life. A separate evolutionary development molecular facility is also housed within UCMP.

The Museum serves the University community in various research projects and provides support for instruction at Berkeley and other UC campuses. Our unique synthesis of research, teaching, outreach, and collections allows in-depth insights into the history and evolution of life. In addition, the collections are used by paleontologists, biologists and geologists throughout the world, and through generous bequests to the Museum there are several funds that support graduate student research and promote research on the Museum's collections by visitors.
UCMP further serves a broader audience through two publications: PaleoBios, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and UCMP News, a newsletter about UCMP's programs and research.

UCMP has a long history of public outreach. Programs include teacher workshops, lecture series, curriculum development, an annual open house, community college partnerships and four award-winning web sites. UCMP pioneered innovative uses of the web to share knowledge. After nearly 20 years of experimentation and development, the current UCMP websites average ~ 5 million page accesses per month and together have > 6,000 pages devoted to the explanation of topics in evolution, paleontology, biodiversity, geology, the history of science, and related topics.

UCMP also has a long history of providing professional development opportunities and classroom resources for teachers in evolution and related topics. These include short courses for teachers and workshops in local school districts and presentations at professional meetings of the California Science Teachers Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Teachers Association, Geological Society of American, and the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists. UCMP has an advisory board of educators that help develop, pilot and evaluate programs designed for K-12 and undergraduate classrooms. Combining the scientific expertise of UCMP with the experience and expertise in teacher professional development, UCMP has successfully developed a suite of interactive, inquiry-based digital modules. Understanding Evolution, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, provides content and resources for teachers, their students, and the general public to increase their understanding of the processes, patterns, and importance of evolution. Understanding Science, also funded by NSF, accurately portrays what science is and how it really works, focusing on strengthening the teaching of the nature and process of science in grades K-16. The newest UCMP web resource, Understanding Global Change, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, explores the causes of and solutions to climate and environmental change, and invites users to construct models to explain what drives global change.

Photos © UC Museum of Paleontology

Staff contact
Mailing address

1101 VLSB, Berkeley, CA 94720 - 4780

In News

Did Dome-Headed Dinosaurs Sport Bristly Headgear?

Paleontologists are increasingly finding evidence that dinosaurs had elaborate head ornaments not preserved with the fossil skulls that were likely used as visual signals or semaphores to others of their kind.

Our earliest primate ancestors rapidly spread after dinosaur extinction

The small, furry ancestors of all primates — a group that includes humans and other apes — were already taking to the trees a mere 100,000 years after the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs and most other terrestrial animals, according to a new analysis of fossil teeth in the collections of the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP).

Rare fossil bird deepens mystery of avian extinctions

During the late Cretaceous period, more than 65 million years ago, hundreds of different species of birds flitted around the dinosaurs and through the forests as abundantly as they flit about our woods and fields today. But after the cataclysm that wiped out most of the dinosaurs, only one group of birds remained: the ancestors of the birds we see today. Why did only one family survive the mass extinction?