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Expanded Hands-On Laboratory Opening at Las Vegas Natural History Museum

The improved facility will open to the public Oct. 8.

Research  |  Oct 5, 2016  |  By Shane Bevell

UNLV geoscientist Josh Bonde works in the paleontology lab at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum in September 2013. The lab has recently expanded. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

 A small, open paleontology lab created by UNLV geoscientist Josh Bonde in 2012 at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum is getting a big makeover.

The Las Vegas Natural History Museum is converting a 1,200-square-foot space into a working laboratory that will have three objectives:

  • To serve as a paleontological and archeological prep lab for college students
  • To serve as a research facility for science professionals
  • To serve as a live exhibit for museum visitors of all ages.

The Richard Ditton Learning Lab, the only one of its kind in Nevada, will align with the museum’s mission to inspire, through educational exhibits and programs, a better understanding and appreciation of the natural world. It will open to the public Saturday, Oct. 8.

Excavated Materials

Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) declared the Las Vegas Natural History Museum a federal repository for archeological and paleontological materials removed from BLM lands in Southern Nevada. The lab will house many of these excavated materials to be used for research and learning purposes as well as to be included in exhibits. Materials from Eureka and Clark counties, as well as Valley of Fire, Lake Mead, and Spring Mountain Ranch state parks are being processed and examined at the lab, including various fossils and paleontological finds.

The lab will connect students across Southern Nevada, from youngsters entering public education to young adults entering the workforce, to scientific discovery in action. With the help of Bonde, the resident paleontologist, the lab will give the public an opportunity to observe the process of science right before their eyes.

“The museum is beginning to become involved in research in addition to its interpretive mission, so a public lab that allows visitors to observe ongoing research is exciting and shows the museum’s level of engagement,” Bonde said. “Students can come to the museum and learn the skills they need as aspiring paleontologists and together we can work to keep some of Southern Nevada’s natural treasures here in Southern Nevada.”

Opening to the general public on the museum’s observance of National Fossil Day, the learning lab will closely engage audiences and aspiring scientists to share their passion and knowledge of natural history.