Large collections of Cretaceous and Tertiary vertebrates have been made from Big Bend National Park by the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory (VPL) under the direction of the late Dr. John A. (Jack) Wilson and the late Dr. Wann Langston, Jr. Under permits from the National Park Service, this work has been ongoing for more than 50 years, and it continues to the present day under the direction of students trained by Drs. Wilson and Langston.
Included among the specimens collected from Big Bend National Park is the giant pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the largest known flying animal, which was discovered in 1971 by then University of Texas graduate student Dr. Douglas Lawson, who was working on his master's thesis under the direction of Dr. Wann Langston. Jr.
VPL also houses significant collections made from the Park by the Work Projects Administration (WPA) and by personnel at The University of Texas at El Paso.