Programs & Services

Museums’ Fossil Mammal Research Project Gets NSF Grant

July 25th, 2017

(Albuquerque, NM) - The National Science Foundation has awarded the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science a $101,125 grant to support research on early placental mammals and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) educational programs. The project, aims to shed light on how mammals fared after the Cretaceous extinction (K-Pg extinction), an event most famous for the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs. 

The Museums will partner with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Duquesne University, and Purdue University Northwest as well as international collaborators from the United Kingdom, China, and Brazil. 

The project aims to increase the understanding of the origins of placental mammals, the group of mammals that are dominant today. To accomplish this, the international team will be studying museum collections in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. The project will utilize the fossil mammals from the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, which has among the largest collections of early Paleocene mammals in the world. 

“This is an exciting opportunity to analyze the early history of placental mammals,” NMMNHS Paleontology Curator Tom Williamson, Ph.D. “Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation, we will also be able to create a teaching tool that will explain evolution, climate change, biology, evolution, and geology.” 

Grant funds will support educational and outreach programs as well as research. New information gleaned from this research will be incorporated into exhibits at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

In addition to enabling public-facing research through exhibits, the grant will enhance museum outreach and field trip programs. This project will also give undergraduate students from six universities laboratory and research experience and train four doctoral students and a postdoctoral fellow. 

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that promotes the progress of science by funding scientific research and education. 


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Photos: Skull of an early Paleocene mammal collected from New Mexico from the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Photo: Courtesy New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

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