Rooted in the resources and reputation of The University of Texas at Austin, the Texas Natural Science Center (TNSC) works to create awareness, understanding and appreciation of the past, present and future of biological diversity, especially that of the state of Texas.
Exhibits and educational programs are located at the Texas Memorial Museum. Research laboratories and collections are located at the Pickle Research Campus and include the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory (ranked 9th in the nation), Non-vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory (6th largest collection in the U.S.), and Texas Natural History Collections. Research areas are not presently available to the general public.
TNSC's world-renowned research has produced a collection of 6 million specimens in the disciplines of paleontology, geology, biology, herpetology, ichthyology and entomology. The Center maintains close working relationships within each of these fields of study at The University of Texas at Austin.
More than 85,000 people visit the exhibit hall, the Texas Memorial Museum, each year, including 40,000 schoolchildren, most participating in guided tours. Exhibits focus on dinosaurs and fossils, Texas wildlife, gems and minerals, and evolution. A working Paleontology Lab encourages visitors to interact with scientists preparing fossil finds.
Spotlighted in the exhibits are spectacular specimens found in Texas, including the largest flying creature ever found – the Texas Pterosaur, with a wingspan of 40 feet – and the 30-foot Mosasaur that swam the shallow sea that once covered most of the state.
Through its innovative educational outreach programs, the Center leads the way in providing science education enrichment for the Central Texas community. The Center's teacher training workshops on evolution, biodiversity and earth science reach 350+ K-12 teachers annually, giving them inquiry-based experience working in UT-Austin science labs and in the field, TEKS-based curriculum materials, and hands-on instruction on how to use these materials in the classroom. The enormously successful Museum Express program takes the Center’s scientists and education staff into Central Texas K-12 classrooms for presentations using specimens from the collections, and serves 3,000+ schoolchildren per year.
All exhibits and education/outreach programs are based on the Center’s collection of 6 million specimens, most of which are from Texas and many of which are unique and irreplaceable.
Public events such as Identification Days and Family Fossil Fun Days draw 10,000+ visitors annually.
The Center leverages its position as the leading informal science organization in Central Texas by partnering with:
The Center’s website includes virtual tours of the exhibits, educational materials for teachers (including lesson plans and curriculum guides grounded in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements for public schools), and leading-edge research data.
The Center operates on an annual budget of $1 million, with 85% funding from The University of Texas at Austin and 15% funding from the Texas Legislature. These funds pay for salaries and basic operating expenses. All educational programs are funded with donations from individuals, corporations and foundations.
As a dynamic science resource for Central Texas, the Texas Natural Science Center brings the thrill of discovery to students of all ages.