UW Geology Museum

UW Geology Museum Explore the Geology Museum and take a peek into Wisconsin's deep history!
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The weather outside isn't too frightful yet - come warm up with some sparkle and skeletons!
01/09/2024

The weather outside isn't too frightful yet - come warm up with some sparkle and skeletons!

Our hours over the winter break ❄️ We are open on both Saturday 12/23 and 12/30, and closed on both Monday 12/25 and 1/1...
12/22/2023

Our hours over the winter break ❄️

We are open on both Saturday 12/23 and 12/30, and closed on both Monday 12/25 and 1/1. Come get warm and say hello!

⭐️ Take a study break and gander at our anniversary specimen for December, newly on display!This sea star was crawling a...
12/21/2023

⭐️ Take a study break and gander at our anniversary specimen for December, newly on display!

This sea star was crawling along the seafloors of south-central Wisconsin roughly 450 million years ago. Sea stars most likely lived a similar life to today, grazing on algae and bacteria on the ocean floor.

This specimen is one of many found and donated by WI middle school teacher Gerald Gunderson. He started collecting fossils as a kid and continued for over 65 years! When Jerry passed away in 2021, he donated thousands of Wisconsin fossils to our museum, and has others on display in collections across the country. Learn more about Jerry’s collection here: https://ls.wisc.edu/news/a-life-in-fossils



Images:
1. Slab of gray limestone with a red arrow pointing to a small (~1 in) sea star fossil.
2. Many boxes piled over 6 ft high surrounding the large globe in the museum lobby. These were the boxes containing the Gunderson donation!

Invoking a frosty, frozen winter day for   with this striking white-and-blue combo of cavansite and stilbite! ❄️ These m...
12/11/2023

Invoking a frosty, frozen winter day for with this striking white-and-blue combo of cavansite and stilbite! ❄️

These minerals are both considered to be zeolites, a group of minerals that naturally form when groundwater interacts with volcanic rocks. They can be found wherever there are ash or volcanic deposits, and often grow within the bubbles and openings of the cooled lava rock. Zeolites have a porous molecular structure that can act like a sponge or a filter in many applications from cat litter to chemical spills, and are also grown commercially!

Stilbite (white) has a beautiful pearly shine, and is relatively common zeolite. The bright blue cavansite gets its hue from the element vanadium, and is considered a rarer variety. Come visit this winter and take a look at the beautiful and unique zeolite collection on display!

📸:
Small (mm to cm) white stilbite crystals, topped with a "frost" of blue cavansite. Poona, India. Donated by Richard Greiner.

As the snow starts to fall, it is time to snuggle up inside with our furry friends! Not a *true* cat, Hoplophoneus was a...
12/01/2023

As the snow starts to fall, it is time to snuggle up inside with our furry friends!

Not a *true* cat, Hoplophoneus was a saber-toothed relative. 🐾 This juvenile Hoplophoneus skeleton was recovered from the 32 million year old deposits of the Paleogene Period in the South Dakota Badlands. Not as snuggly as a modern house cat, Hoplophoneus ambushed and attacked its prey by sinking its dagger-like canine teeth into the neck or throat of its victim! The fangs in this specimen are called milk teeth, which will eventually fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. This suggests an age of about one and a half years, by which time the cat would have attained about two-thirds of its adult weight. When this animal died, the new canine teeth had just begun to erupt. On your next visit, see if you can spot the tips near the base of the ‘“milk fangs”! 🦷

📸: Fossil of a small saber-toothed cat (Hoplophoneus sp.) collected by Clarence Jurish; Prepared by Joe Skulan, 1987/88

Say hello to our latest birthday present! This “grape agate” just joined our exhibits! 🍇 This mineral first hit came on ...
11/28/2023

Say hello to our latest birthday present! This “grape agate” just joined our exhibits! 🍇

This mineral first hit came on the scene in 2016, and is only found in the western Sulawesi Province of Indonesia.

The name comes from its bulbous structure and deep purple hue. It is made up of silica (the same molecule that makes up quartz crystals), but the structure is very different. Here, layers of silica needles bunch together to make the grape-like clusters. These needles build up in air pockets within the local bedrock from silica-rich ground water.

This special specimen was generously donated by the Friends of the Geology Museum.

Image:
1. Approximately 8-in specimen of grape agate: tiny, lavender-colored, sparkly balls like a clump of grapes.

Edited to correct the identification of this mineral from grape amethyst to grape agate.

Just a reminder that we will be closed on Thursday, November 23rd in observance of Thanksgiving. We will be back open fo...
11/20/2023

Just a reminder that we will be closed on Thursday, November 23rd in observance of Thanksgiving. We will be back open for our regular hours this Friday and Saturday, come visit! 👋

Come visit us at the Madison Gem and Mineral Show this weekend at the  Alliant Energy Center!In order to celebrate our 1...
11/17/2023

Come visit us at the Madison Gem and Mineral Show this weekend at the Alliant Energy Center!

In order to celebrate our 175th anniversary, we will be showing off exciting samples from our collections gathered throughout our history. Some of the specimens pictured here have been with the museum since the late 1800s!

Come take a closer look:

Saturday Nov 18th 2023, 9:30am - 5:00pm
Sunday Nov 19th 2023, 10:00am - 5:00pm

Alliant Energy Center, Exhibition Hall
1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison WI

Images:
1. Close up of white balls of mordenite from India, with blue, cubic fluorite from New Mexico, USA in the background.
2. White, rhombic, fist-sized calcite from Iowa county, WI, USA and two palm-sized, chocolatey brown ammonites from Whitby, England (both purchased in the 19th century)
3. Original label with fancy script on the white calcite "Calcite"

These kids of the 90s are peering into the Museum Director’s office at a 122 lb piece of galena! Galena is a mineral mad...
11/09/2023

These kids of the 90s are peering into the Museum Director’s office at a 122 lb piece of galena!

Galena is a mineral made of lead and sulfur, making it very dense. It is mined for lead, and is the state mineral of Wisconsin. It is found all over southern Wisconsin in the fractures and holes of the limestone bedrock and can be identified as gray cubes with a metallic shine to it.

This specimen was donated by the Friends of the Geology Museum in 1995! (See the link in bio to become a member)

Images:
1- Black and white film photo of two elementary kids peering through a glass window at a large (~10 in) gray cube of galena. (1995)
2- A color image of two college students in the same pose studying the same sample (2023)

When Mars attacks! Luckily, the only Martians that have made it to Earth are rock fragments from the Red Planet. This pi...
10/31/2023

When Mars attacks! Luckily, the only Martians that have made it to Earth are rock fragments from the Red Planet.

This piece of Mars broke off, sped through space, and in 2011 impacted Earth (in Morocco). Martian meteorites account for less than 1% of all meteorites that have been cataloged on Earth, and you can see one on display at our museum. Come check it out, and have a Happy Halloween!

Celebrating with a bang!  Last week at our Behind the Scenes Night birthday party, we revealed a new Wisconsin meteorite...
10/30/2023

Celebrating with a bang! Last week at our Behind the Scenes Night birthday party, we revealed a new Wisconsin meteorite in our collection. 🥳

The Pine Ridge meteorite fell in the early 20th century near Pine Ridge, WI. Found by a local farmer, it spent years as an anvil for cracking hickory nuts until making its way to us. It is an exceptionally rare type of space rock, with fragments of rock encased in metals like iron and nickel. Happy birthday to us!

Come check out our collection of Wisconsin meteorites, on display in our Gem and Mineral Room. ☄️ And head to our website to become a Friend of the Geology Museum for fun, exclusive events like this!

This meteorite was added to our collection with support from the Sherry Lesar Fund for Geological Wonder

Images:
1. Image of the Pine Ridge Meteorite fragment: Gray, chunky, and about 2 in long.
2. This meteorite in the bright orange gloves of Dr. Rich Slaughter
3. A partygoer looking at a Triassic fossil under a microscope in the prep lab
4. Volunteers presenting our 3D map of the Madison watershed (our Water Cycle!)
5. A volunteer taking about the Sudbury meteorite impact with partygoers
6. A volunteer in the collection repository showing off Triceratops bones
7. A young partygoer getting a piece of birthday cake!

#175

This Saturday, we are celebrating the Wisconsin Science Festival!Stop by the museum to learn more about rocks, minerals,...
10/20/2023

This Saturday, we are celebrating the Wisconsin Science Festival!

Stop by the museum to learn more about rocks, minerals, and fossils that are found right here in Wisconsin. Come hear about the fiery volcanoes, tropical beaches, and towering glaciers of Wisconsin’s past.

And if you’re visiting the UW-Madison Discovery Building this weekend, look out for our Water Cycle! Our cyclists will be ready to talk about the water cycle here in Dane County. Saturday 9 to 11am.

Images:
1. Museum volunteer shows off some specimens to two kids at a past museum event
2. Kids surround a bike trailer built to look like a 3D map of Dane County, WI with the surface landscape and bedrock below. A volunteer shows off a hand-sized sample of porous sandstone.

Today for our staff highlight, we want to talk about the lovely Matildé Acosta!Mathildé has been part of the museum staf...
10/12/2023

Today for our staff highlight, we want to talk about the lovely Matildé Acosta!

Mathildé has been part of the museum staff since 2021 as both a tour guide and a volunteer in the prep lab as well as out in the field. She is a Junior from Houston, Texas and is earning dual degrees in Life Science Communication and Environmental Studies.

Favorite exhibit: “Edmontosaurus and Black Light Room”
Best part of the job: “[The] Aha! moments from patrons during a tour or an activity! Returning kids from tours as weekend guests”
Fun fact: “I want to work in museums for the rest of my life!”

Image: Matildé with pink bangs and a blue bandana in her hair, with a big smile on her face sitting outside for lunch.

175! 🎉 In 1848, well before the world had light bulbs (1880), the UW Geology Museum was founded.At the  first meeting of...
10/07/2023

175! 🎉 In 1848, well before the world had light bulbs (1880), the UW Geology Museum was founded.

At the first meeting of the Board of Regents, they supported a “project for the early collection of a Geological and Mineralogical cabinet of various ores, rocks, fossils etc., found within the state.” that would be displayed in a cabinet. And a museum was born!

Starting this October and stretching out over the coming year, we are celebrating our 175th year of being a gem on the UW Madison campus. Keep your eye out for how we’re recognizing the museum’s long, rich history and also special upgrades that look toward our bright future!

“Ooo I wanna eat that!” … is something we overhear from young guests when they examine these brilliantly bright fluorite...
10/02/2023

“Ooo I wanna eat that!”

… is something we overhear from young guests when they examine these brilliantly bright fluorite octahedra! The mineral fluorite is made from fluorine and calcium and is known for its many vivid colors. These colors are often due to impurities in the mineral, such as adding a teensy amount of other elements like copper, iron, or manganese. Sometimes an increase in heat can change the resulting color as well!

Fluorite often grows from groundwater traveling through cracks in bedrock, and as the chemistry of the water changes, the color of the fluorite deposit can change too. This means that within one deposit, you can find many different colors. Here, you can see a beautiful array of hues including some within the same crystal.



Image: Four octahedra (looking like two 4-sided pyramids connected at their bases) ranging from ~1cm to ~5cm in length and colors bright blue, green, and one with yellow and purple.

Have you checked out these chompers??  The teeth of “Stan” the T. Rex range from relatively small to the size of a banan...
09/29/2023

Have you checked out these chompers?? The teeth of “Stan” the T. Rex range from relatively small to the size of a banana!

That is because dinosaurs could continuously replace broken teeth, and for T. Rex these teeth could take 2 years to grow back. The newer teeth we can observe are still growing in.

On your next visit, take a minute to peer into these menacing jaws to find the first bit of new tooth appearing behind some of the bigger ones. You can also spy a T. Rex tooth on display in the vertebrate room, it’s a big one!



Images:
1. Skull of a T. Rex on a metal stand on display atop a white platform, with teeth ranging from 2 to 9 inches long.
2. Solitary, chocolate brown fossil T.Rex tooth ~8 inches long sitting on a white background.

We are looking for tour guides! Email our Assistant Director Brooke Norsted (brooke@geology.wisc.edu)  for a more detail...
09/20/2023

We are looking for tour guides!

Email our Assistant Director Brooke Norsted ([email protected]) for a more detailed job description and application info. UW-Madison undergrad/grad students interested in geoscience and education are welcome to apply.

Tour guiding fits in nicely around a class schedule, and is a fun break from your day-to-day responsibilities to meet new people and learn more about the earth sciences. This is a great opportunity to develop your communication and speaking skills for any degree/career path while working in a friendly and flexible environment!

09/06/2023

Welcome back Badgers! We love seeing the start-of-school hustle and bustle as campus awakens from summer. Come and see the natural marvels we have on display while you (re)acquaint yourselves 👋

University of Wisconsin-Madison

We will be closed in observance of Labor Day on Monday, September 4th, but still open 9a to 1p this Saturday. Come visit...
09/01/2023

We will be closed in observance of Labor Day on Monday, September 4th, but still open 9a to 1p this Saturday. Come visit and beat the heat! 🥵

08/29/2023

Space rocks can be so beautiful! The unique pallasite meteorites can tell us about the earliest days of our solar system!

Pallasite meteorites are classified as “stony-iron”, which means that they contain both metals (such as iron and nickel) as well as other minerals. Here, mainly the green mineral olivine. This mysterious group of meteorites are thought to be the result of impacts between proto-planets in the beginnings of the Solar System. They also help us date the age of the Earth and the universe to roughly 4.5 billion years ago!

This type of meteorite is somewhat rare: roughly 170 have been accounted for across the globe out of >50,000 recorded meteorite finds! This is a slice from the Esquel meteorite that originated from the asteroid belt and was found in Argentina in 1951, and is reported to have been around 1500 lbs before being cut up for different purposes and collectors.

This piece is cut and polished to highlight the cm-sized olivine crystals and sits on display with some of the oldest rocks on our planet!



Image: Blue gloved hand holds a palm-sized, rectanglar, polished slab of iron with 0.5-1 cm subrounded yellow-green olivine crystals. The light shines through the olivine and reflects off the polished iron.

Our mystery marvel is the mineral calcite! On your next visit, see how many different types of calcite you can find! ✨  ...
08/17/2023

Our mystery marvel is the mineral calcite! On your next visit, see how many different types of calcite you can find! ✨

What is it Wednesday! (comment below with your guess! 👀) This mineral can appear in many hues,Transparent with the sunsh...
08/16/2023

What is it Wednesday! (comment below with your guess! 👀)

This mineral can appear in many hues,
Transparent with the sunshine coming through.
With yellows, purples, greens and reds and blues,
These wondrous crystals can make quite the view.

Their shape and size depends on where they grew,
But their favorite form is the funky rhombus.
Seeing double is a vital clue,
‘N a penny can be used for diagnosis.

From caves to beaches, find it all around.
O! Even biogenic stuff of shell!
And all the rocks within Wisconsin abound
This showy stuff is such a natural marvel!

Come spy the striking samples on display,
O many forms to find, so don’t delay!

?

This “fool’s gold” wasn’t cut or polished! It is a natural artistic wonder. A mineral’s shape depends in part on how it ...
08/14/2023

This “fool’s gold” wasn’t cut or polished! It is a natural artistic wonder. A mineral’s shape depends in part on how it formed…

Fool’s gold or pyrite is found in many places but in Northern Spain these pyrite crystals are relatively large, well-formed, and beautifully cubic. These cubes of pyrite are mined from rocks that were deposited during the Mesozoic Era over 100 million years ago. Water flowed through the spaces in these sedimentary rocks and dissolved and deposited different minerals. Here, the water picked up iron and sulfur and then deposited these elements as the mineral pyrite. This process takes place all over the globe, and pyrite is a relatively common mineral. In this particular case, this process has been going on long enough to build these amazingly geometric specimens.

See if you can spy these treasures on display on your next visit! 👀

📷: Roughly 10 shiny, perfect cubes of pyrite (brassy-colored, ~1-2 cm wide) on carbonate (Spain)

How many of you have experienced a guided tour of the museum? Every year, thousands of people are led through our exhibi...
08/11/2023

How many of you have experienced a guided tour of the museum?

Every year, thousands of people are led through our exhibits to learn more about the beautiful minerals, glowing rocks, Wisconsin fossils, dinosaurs, and more that are on display. Even for seasoned visitors, a tour of the museum can show you secret treasures and special specimens that have been hiding in plain sight.

Our knowledgeable guides can tailor tours to suit any age and interest, and we would love to have you!

Visit https://museum.geoscience.wisc.edu/tours/ for more information about scheduling a tour!

We are saddened to share that Klaus Westphal, the UW Geology Museum’s former Director, passed away on July 31st. Over hi...
08/02/2023

We are saddened to share that Klaus Westphal, the UW Geology Museum’s former Director, passed away on July 31st. Over his 34-year tenure (1969-2003), Klaus improved the museum in many transformative and lasting ways. He co-founded the Friends of the Geology Museum, a non-profit organization whose dedicated members have generously supported the museum’s mission for nearly fifty years. In 1980, he moved our collections and displays from Science Hall to their current home in Weeks Hall. This mammoth endeavor more than tripled our exhibit space, creating new opportunities for showcasing geological wonders to the public. Klaus then launched an ambitious and successful venture to put the first dinosaur skeleton on display in Wisconsin. Over one million visitors have admired this awe-inspiring attraction since. He also established our Fossil Preparation Lab, the most visible and viewed working lab on campus.

Klaus was a beloved educator, a reputation that was solidified over his many semesters of teaching “Life of the Past”. This class was essentially a semester-long tour of the museum, where Klaus would guide students through the history of life on Earth with museum specimens. Throughout his career, Klaus’ humor and hospitality were always present. For decades, he regularly hosted museum staff and students in his office to puzzle over and answer the Wisconsin Public Radio lunchtime quiz question. A loyal bus-rider, Klaus would routinely befriend fellow passengers and invite them for a personal tour through the exhibits, sharing stories along the way. His love for the museum and its visitors was joyful and this vibrant spirit lives on in the special space he built.

Today we want to introduce Annemarie! She is a Junior studying geological engineering, and works as the Tour Coordinator...
07/26/2023

Today we want to introduce Annemarie! She is a Junior studying geological engineering, and works as the Tour Coordinator for our tour program as well as in our collections as a curatorial assistant. She gets to interact with tour groups in the museum as well as down in the collections.

Where are you from? Houston, TX

Fun fact about you? I can sing almost any Taylor Swift song from memory!

Favorite museum specimen? the Canyon Diablo Meteorite! ☄️

So where do all of these new fossils end up? Specimens can sometimes wait years in plaster jackets and plastic bags befo...
07/21/2023

So where do all of these new fossils end up? Specimens can sometimes wait years in plaster jackets and plastic bags before being cleaned up in the prep lab! Once they have been “prepped out” these fossils are in the hands of and are labeled, recorded, and snugly packaged for storage in our collection space. Here, they are ready to be examined by researchers both from and other institutions. Here, we have examples of Triassic fossils from WY at different stages of the “grave-to-cradle” process.

Images:
1. Student worker Annemarie tucking in a little Triassic amphibian skull
2. Triassic bone fragments (black) “prepped out”of the rock and exposed on the surface. It is sitting in a plaster half jacket.
3. Open drawers of Triassic material safely stored in the repository
4. More Triassic fossils still in plaster, waiting for their turn!

Our field crew has returned and is busy cataloguing their finds from this summer! This includes GPS points, notes, and s...
07/14/2023

Our field crew has returned and is busy cataloguing their finds from this summer! This includes GPS points, notes, and sketched maps at the field site before securely wrapping up the samples for the return to Madison. Since we don’t always know what we will find, there is often an element of improvisation to packing up fossils (empty boxes, plastering, and LOTS of duct tape).

Once back at the museum, each specimen is photographed, labeled, and safely stored. This information is important for any future work that will be done using these finds, so good note-taking is a must!

Images:
1. going through notes and labeling samples
2. Example of the labels and notes needed for future work
3. Fossils secured in plastic bags, snugly inside some empty breakfast boxes!
4. Jazzy duct tape providing support for larger specimens in plaster “jackets”

Happy International Rock Day! Celebrate by going outside and finding a new sample for your own collection. 🪨 🔍 Anyone fi...
07/13/2023

Happy International Rock Day! Celebrate by going outside and finding a new sample for your own collection. 🪨 🔍

Anyone find something neat?

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1215 W Dayton Street
Madison, WI
53706

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