Paleontological Research Institution

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Paleontological Research Institution
Paleontological Research Institution (logo).jpg
Founder(s) Gilbert Harris
Established 1932[1]
Focus Paleontological research
Director Warren Allmon
Key people Gregory P. Dietl
Jonathan Hendricks
Robert Ross
Location Ithaca, New York
The Paleontological Research Institution
Gilbert Harris, 1864-1952

The Paleontological Research Institution, or PRI, is a paleontological organization[1] in Ithaca, New York with a mission including both research and education. PRI is affiliated with Cornell University,[2] houses one of the largest fossil collections in North America, and publishes, among other things, the oldest journal of paleontology in the western hemisphere, Bulletins of American Paleontology.

In 2003, PRI opened the Museum of the Earth, an 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m2) exhibit facility that houses rotating temporary as well as long-term exhibits about the history of Earth and its life. The museum's displays include fossils, glaciers, coral reef aquariums, a right whale skeleton and a mastodon skeleton.

In 2013, the Cayuga Nature Center became part of PRI, with the goal of educating the public about the impact of climate change on the fauna and flora of Tompkins County, New York.[3]


PRI was founded in 1932 by Gilbert Harris, a professor of geology at Cornell University from 1894 to 1934. He founded PRI to house his collection of fossils and to publish research in paleontology - the study of the history of life on Earth. PRI began as a small building behind Dr. Harris' home in Ithaca, New York. Through various additions over the next two decades, the original building grew into a 20-room complex that housed the Institution's collections, library, laboratories, and offices.[4]

PRI has continued to grow through the years, requiring a move to larger quarters in 1968. The present facility on West Hill, along Trumansburg Road (N.Y. Rte. 96), holds over 2 million fossils and shells, and a 50,000 volume research library. In 2003, PRI opened the 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m2) Museum of the Earth, a natural history museum that showcases PRI's specimens and takes the visitor on a journey through time.


The Education Department at PRI serves audiences in Ithaca, across New York State, and across the nation. These audiences include a diversity of individuals, from Museum visitors to teachers and college students to underserved urban school students.

PRI's Education Department offers programs in six major areas: Interactive Programs and Events, Teacher Development, Global Change Education, Evolution Education, Earth Research Partnerships, and National Education Networks.

The Teacher-Friendly Guide series published by PRI provide information for grade 6-9 teachers and include guides for Evolution, Maize, and Earth Sciences. Teacher-Friendly Guides to Earth Sciences cover six US regions (West; Northwest Central; Southwest; South Central; Midwest; Southeast; and Northeast), each with their own book.[5]


PRI houses one of the eight largest American collections of fossils and Recent shells, with over 2 million specimens. Many of these specimens represent invertebrates - animals without backbones. The collection represents an extraordinarily diverse array of living things, from the tiny shells of single-celled organisms to dinosaur bones and woolly mammoth teeth. Many of their specimens are especially valuable, because they are from localities now destroyed or unavailable for study today. Among those specimens are over 30,000 type and figured specimens, the 5th largest such collection in the United States.

In 1994-95 the invertebrate fossil and Recent mollusk collections of Cornell University were transferred to PRI on long term loan.


PRI staff members have a wide range of research expertise, including mastodons, Earth science education, and gastropod mollusks.


Bulletins of American Paleontology[edit]

Begun in 1895, this journal is the oldest continuously published paleontological journal in the western hemisphere. It publishes longer papers in any area of paleontology.

Paleontographica Americana[edit]

Begun in 1916, the academic journal Paleontographica Americana publishes major illustrated works (longer than 200 published pages) in all areas of paleontology.

American Paleontologist[edit]

A quarterly newsletter of paleontology designed for everyone interested in fossils and the history of life. American Paleontologist is a benefit of membership of PRI and the Museum of the Earth, and features articles by experts in paleontology and related fields, regular columns, book reviews, a Museum calendar of events, and a children's section.

The Museum of the Earth by night


  1. ^ a b "Paleontological Research Institution". Retrieved 11 April 2016. 
  2. ^ acn22. "Cornell Connection Page — CU Natural History Collections". Retrieved 2017-01-27. 
  3. ^ "About". Paleontological Research Institute. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Paleontological Research Institution". Retrieved 2017-01-27. 
  5. ^ "Paleontological Research Institution". Retrieved 2017-01-27. 

External links[edit]