Skip to Main Content

Earth Science Division

The Earth Science Division explores and documents the evolution of the physical and biological components of the Earth, and facilitates the understanding and protection of our planet and its record of the past.   The specimens we collect and conserve document the occurrence of individual organisms in space and time. Taken together they form a vast (and growing) permanent record, which scientists can examine again and again, applying new analytical techniques and testing new hypotheses.

It consists of 4 main collections and 2 smaller collections.  The Vertebrate Paleontology   collection includes over 100,000 specimens from Idaho and surrounding states.  A major portion of the collection are specimens from federally managed lands that are held in the John A. White Paleontology Repository (JAW).  The Paleobotany collection includes over 1400 fossil specimens spanning the time period from the Precambrian Period to the Pleistocene Epoch. The Invertebrate Paleontology collection includes 1200 catalogued specimens from the state of Idaho and the Intermountain West.  The Marie Hopkins Comparative Osteology collection includes 2500 bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and fish skeletal specimens.  The Division also has a substantial geology collection and a teaching/cast collection.


Permission to visit the collections is granted by the Curator and logistics will be handled by the Earth Sciences Collections Manager.  You may contact them via phone, e-mail, or letter, although e-mail is probably the most reliable. 


The Earth Science Division welcomes object identification requests from the general public.  If you have a question about an object in your care, please consult the instructions for Specimen Identification Requests & Donation


Dr. Leif Tapanila

Director, Research Curator, Division Head Earth Sciences

(208) 282-5417


Amy Commendador, MS

Manager, Earl H. Swanson Archaeological Repository (ESAR) Interim Collection Manager of Earth Sciences

Office: Museum Building 129 921 S 8th Ave Stop 8096 Pocatello, ID 83209

(208) 282-3042

Vertebrate Paleontology

Vertebrate Paleontology

Vertebrate Paleontology is the study of fossil fishes, sharks, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals — animals with internal skeletons including a backbone composed of a series of vertebrae.



Paleobotany is the scientific study of ancient plants. Paleobotanists learn what plants were like long ago from fossils found in sedimentary rocks.

Invertebrate Paleontology

Invertebrate Paleontology

Invertebrate Paleontology is the study of fossil invertebrates (animals without backbones). Most groups of invertebrates and geologic ages are represented in the IMNH collection including sponges, corals, trilobites, insects, crustaceans, clams, snails, sea urchins, and sea lilies.

Marie Hopkins Comparative Osteology

Marie Hopkins Comparative Osteology Collection

The Comparative Osteology Collection is a teaching and interpretive resource, containing over 2500 bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and fish skeletal specimens.



Rocks and the minerals are the building blocks of the earth. Modern technology and our society as a whole depend upon rocks and minerals as raw materials.