Paleontology At Webb
The Alf Museum is a perfect example of unbounded thinking in action. It’s not just a place where students go to look at fossils. It’s a place where students are part of the scientific process, where they learn the joy of discovery, where they actually advance science. And it’s just plain fun.
Every Webb student spends a weekend at a real dig site. Beyond learning how field scientists work, students enjoy the physical challenges of “roughing it” and maybe even the thrill of making an important find for the museum’s collection. After all, 95% of the museum’s more than 175,000 specimens were discovered by Webb students, teachers and alumni.
Imagine you’re at a dig site searching for fossils. You find one. It doesn’t seem like much at first, but when you show it to one of Webb’s five paleontologists they tell you it could be something important. The thrill of discovery still fresh, you carefully pack it up to take back to the lab at the museum. But it doesn’t end there. You clean off your specimen, and the research begins. What is it? How old is it? The answers unfold and you find that you have uncovered something no one has ever seen in that part of the country. But your work still isn’t done. You continue your research, write a paper and submit it to a scientific journal for publication. When it appears in print, you experience the sense of accomplishment and pride of a scientist. And rightly so.
At A Glance
95% of the museum’s more than 175,000 specimens were discovered by Webb students, teachers and alumni.
In the summer of 2010, we successfully extracted a juvenile dinosaur skeleton from GSENM. We named him Dinosaur Joe!
More than 25 student co-authored research papers have been published in the last 10 years.
A 1936 fossil collecting trip with students inspired the founding of the Alf Museum.
Student Research Spotlight
A preliminary restudy of felid footprints housed at the Alf Museum from the Barstow Formation (Miocene) of Southern California
Luebbers ’17, Chu ’17, and Dr. Farke
The Alf Museum
In addition to our four-year paleontology program, which includes participating in independent research, there are lots of volunteer opportunities for students, including cleaning fossils in the preparation lab, laser scanning a dinosaur bone in the research lab, and maintaining the skulls and skeletons on exhibit. And, of course, you are welcome to join the museum’s annual summer Peccary Trip, which brings students and museum staff to wilderness areas in Montana, Utah, and California on a three-week search for fossils.
Webb freshman are introduced to the museum through their two-semester core course Evolutionary Biology, which includes a weekend Peccary Trip to the area around Barstow, California, to participate in a fossil dig. For more specific information as it relates to your academic program, please check in with your advisor. Approximately 95 percent of the Alf Museum’s more than 175,000 specimens were discovered by Webb students, teachers, and alumni!
The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, located on the campus of The Webb Schools, is the only nationally accredited museum in the USA on a high school campus. Also, the Alf Museum provides a unique research program for Webb students where they study fossils they find on collecting trips and publish the results of their research in collaboration with museum staff, a unique program for secondary school students only offered at Webb.
General hours of operations for the Alf Museum are 8 am – 4 pm Monday – Friday, 10 – 4 on Saturday, and closed Sunday.
**The Alf Museum is currently closed to visitors as a result of COVID-19.