Rancho La Brea Research Studies | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

A young Chester Stock working on fossil sloth materials in Bacon Hall at UC Berkeley, circa 1917. The mounted skeleton in the center is a tree sloth and the skull to its right is a Harlan' ground sloth. (Photo donated by Jane Stock Sullivan.)
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Page Museum Collections Contacts

Aisling B. Farrell
Collections Manager

(323) 857-6300 ext 127

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Research at Rancho La Brea


The first scientific article mentioning the fossils of Rancho La Brea was by William Denton of Wellesley College, published by the Boston Society of Natural History in 1875. However, it was not until the early 1900s, after W.W. Orcutt—a well known Los Angeles geologist — had amassed a collection of saber-toothed cat, dire wolf, and ground sloth fossils that the site's importance was widely recognized, Orcutt later entrusted these to Dr. John C. Merriam of the University of California. Explorations by the University of California, the Southern California Academy of Sciences, and Los Angeles High School retrieved large collections of fossils from the site. The Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science, and Art was built at Exposition Park in part to house the fossils collected by the Southern California Academy of Sciences. In 1913 the Hancock family gave sole permission to the newly opened Los Angeles County Museum to excavate for two years. The resultant immense collection provided valuable insight to our understanding of the late Pleistocene fauna and flora of North America.



The collections at Rancho La Brea are still at the core of late Pleistocene North American research today. Staff, research associates, professional paleontologists, and graduate students frequent the collections throughout the year. Today's research ranges from carbon-14 dating projects to asphalt-dwelling microbial ecology to traditional taxonomic and functional studies. Many questions still remain to be answered. The collections are available for any appropriately qualified person interested in doing formal research. All inquiries must be made through the Collections Manager, including requests for loans of specimens. We only loan specimens to institutions.


Visit the Research and Collections pages at www.tarpits.org for more information