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The Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory (VPL) has maintained a field research program for more than 50 years. Today, our program offers many opportunities for students to gain field experience. Thanks in large part to field work by our graduate students, nearly 500,000 specimens have been collected for VPL from Texas, the American Southwest, Mexico and other parts of the world.
The first significant field collections were made from 1890 to 1894 by Professor W. F. Cummins for the Texas Geological Survey, which was then under the direction of E. T. Dumble. The preeminent paleontologist E. D. Cope reported on these collections of Permian, Triassic and Cenozoic fossils from the northern part of the state.
Between 1939 and 1942, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) funded the collection of approximately 11,100 specimens in a huge regional effort directed by Dr. E. H. Sellards. At that time Sellards was director of the Texas Memorial Museum and he managed an average of nine field crews at any given time that collected fossil vertebrates at different locations across Texas. Approximately $300,000 was invested in this effort. The WPA collection includes specimens from Permian and Triassic terrestrial sediments of North and Central Texas, from Tertiary terrestrial sediments of the Gulf Coastal Plain, from Tertiary terrestrial sediments of the Texas Panhandle, and from Pleistocene deposits throughout the state.
In his exploration of Friesenhahn Cave, Dr. Grayson E. Meade began a series of cave excavations in 1949 and 1951 that have produced some of the most significant fossils in VPL's collections, including the complete skeletons of adult and juvenile scimitar-toothed cats. Dr. Russell W. Graham (now Director, Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum, Penn State) wrote his dissertation on VPL specimens he collected from this locality in 1973 and 1974.