Dane G. Hansen Paleontology Research Center 

The Dane G. Hansen Paleontology Research Center at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History houseslab the Oceans of Kansas fossil prep lab and a histology research lab. Construction and outfitting of these lab spaces was funded by an $81,000 matching grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, Mike and Pam Everhart, proceeds raised from Sternberg Museum Galas, and 57 other private donors. The Research Center formally opened in 2019 – just in time for Fort Hays State University to host the Association of Methods and Materials in Paleontology annual meeting. 

Oceans of Kansas Fossil Preparation Lab

The fossil preparation lab is where staff, volunteers, and students clean, stabilize, and repair fossils for long-term preservation before they are ready for research or exhibit. It is a fundamental part of the museum, contributing to research, education, and outreach goals. The lab is integrated with exhibit space so visitors can observe and interact with preparators to learn more about the process of science. Having a larger, safe, and state-of-the-art lab also allows us to provide hands-on education, volunteer opportunities, and professional development to students and the community.

Prep Lab

Fort Hays State University students are an essential part of the Oceans of Kansas Fossil Prep Lab. Undergraduate and graduate student form the foundation of our volunteer prep staff, helping clean, preserve, repair, and replicate fossils. With large sliding windows that open into the museum’s Cretaceous Seaway exhibit gallery, the prep lab is a dynamic part of exhibit space. Through this, student volunteers and staff are able to undertake important science communication and non-formal education to museum visitors. 

You can find more information on the Sternberg Museum’s Prep Lab page.

Histology Research Lab

When the Oceans of Kansas prep lab was built, the old lab was renovated into a histology research lab. Histology in the study of tissue, and this lab is designed to support the study of bone tissue, specifically. Here, bones are cut open into thin slices, glued to glass slides, ground so thin that light can penetrate them, then analyzed under microscope. By studying patterns in bone, scientists can better understand how evolutionary history, aging, biomechanics, and environment affect bone growth. Together, this can shed light on the life history of an animal – metabolism, how large they got, at what age they reached skeletal maturity, at what age they reached sexual maturity, at more. The histology lab is fully equipped with saws, a lap wheel, fume hood, and research microscope for processing and analyzing histologic slides.

Research Collections

The Sternberg Museum’s research collections are world class and form the backbone of the museum. Collections document the past and present ecosystems of the Great Plains, but also have representative specimens from other geographic regions for comparison. Zoology, paleontology, and geology collections are open to FHSU faculty, staff, and students, as well as external scientists for research purposes; the are also the foundation of museum exhibits and education programming. You can find out more about the research collections on the Museum’s website. The paleontology collections catalog is also searchable with most specimens imaged.

If you’re interested in donating to paleontology research, collections, or funded student opportunities, you can donate online through the FHSU Foundation. To donate select Designation: “Other,” then input “Sternberg’s Prep Lab.” You can also contact Dr. Laura Wilson, Curator of Paleontology, at lewilson6@fhsu.edu to discuss donation opportunities. There is a naming opportunity available for the Histology Research Lab.