Visit the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota

Trilobite, Ammonite, Crinoid, sounds like aliens or something from outer space, and they even look like it. But these are things from our own planet, just millions of years ago. These are some of the extinct flora and fauna that you can see in fossil form at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City South Dakota.

The Institute is a research and fossil preparation facility that performs mainly preparation and research for museums. They receive fossils from the region and elsewhere and prepare and identify them for sale to museums and other places that do research, display and teaching of fossils. The fossils are mainly collected in the White River Oligocene beds and the Eocene Green River Formation and the Cretaceous formations of the Western Interior.

If these three locations don’t sound real to you, you are not alone. I had to look up what they were talking about myself. The White River area is the river that runs south of the Badlands National Forest. The Badlands area used to be underwater about 24 million years ago or at least parts of it. The entire continent of North America had a large inland sea running across the middle of it from north to south that included the Hudson Bay area. The shoreline of this sea ran right through the North and South Dakota areas at one time or another. Due to this sea, many fossils have been found in the area and have proved to be valuable to the study of Paleontology, or the study of fossils.

The other two mentioned, Eocene Green River Formation and the Cretaceous formations of the Western Interior are both areas that have good fossil formations. The first, the Green River formations, from the Green River of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, are famous for it’s very fine fossils that have minute details due to the small size of the sand and other deposits that formed the fossils. The second is the Cretaceous formations of the Western Interior, the Western Interior refers to the interior sea on the western side of the United States and the cretaceous is a time period about 65 to 140 million years ago.

These areas of South Dakota near the Black Hills and the Badlands of North Dakota are well known for it’s rich fossils, they are a good area that formed many fossils and have been a field of study for a couple of hundred years. In the early and late 1800’s first Native Americans and then others studied dinosaur and other fossils in these areas. The study of Paleontology was getting bigger and later in 1973 the Black Hills Minerals supply house was a going concern for supplying rocks, minerals and fossils from the Black Hills area, and the institute was incorporated in 1978 to prepare and study these fossils for preservation and research.

The institute is a great museum for it’s public displays. They have a wide variety of dinosaur fossils on display as well as many casts of real fossils. Casts are replicas made from modern materials such as epoxy resin to look like real fossils. They are made by making a mold from a real fossil out of a rubber latex and then the epoxy is pured into the mold to make the cast. This allows researchers to study replicas and not harm the real fossils, which can be quite delicate in many cases.

The whole institute museum looks like more of a storage facility with some displays than an actual museum, which it really is. The area is more packed in with exhibits than you might be used to seeing in other museums and that is one of the things that make it unique. Also, just the fact that they are a preservation facility and not just a museum also adds to the tour. There are people who work there that can answer questions that work with the preservation of fossils.

There are many fossils to look at, and they have quite a good collection of whole dinosaurs. Fossils are something that has fascinated many, including my family. To look at a collection of bones that are not really bones any more. And to know they are millions of years old is really neat. Fossils are parts of living things that were preserved by one of many means, refrigeration by permafrost, dessication in dry caves, interment by being buried in sand, mud or volcanic ash or many other means. Most fossils are buried in one way or another and their bones are preserved for the future.

One of the most common means that happens to fossils such as dinosaur bones is over a period of millions of years the actual cells of bones are replaced by minerals just like rock and the bones original shape is preserved down to a cellular level. This leaves behind a rock instead of bone, and the resulting fossil is actually a rock in the shape of the original bone. This occurs to bones, leaves, insects, shells and other things that once lived and now has been preserved over the years.

The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research maintains staff to preserve and research these fossil finds not only in the area of South Dakota but have been collecting fossils from around the world in conjunction with local governments. They give important research and educational materials to teachers, museums and the public on the topic of Paleontology. They are an important part of the research and techniques that are used to preserve the fossils they find and collect, then distribute to museums and others around the United States and the world. Techniques have been developed over the years and are now used around the world by the institutes personnel in the past and they continue to be valuable resources for the field of Paleontology.

They also are a good source for museums and others who collect fossils and other things of Paleontology for displaying these treasures of our past. They have perfected techniques for displaying and showing off collections that are used in museums around the world.

They have quite a collection of rocks and minerals in the museum along with all the dinosaur and other fossils. Their geological collections are specimens of rocks and minerals that would make any rock hound, a collector of rocks, drool. They also have many minerals and fossils for sale that are of museum quality, many more than most of the rock shops in the Black Hills area.

For your education a Trilobite is a marine arthropod or animal that lived on the bottom of the ocean. It is much like today’s crayfish, horseshoe crab, dragon fly or spider but lived some 570 million to 240 million years ago. Trilobites or fossils of them actually have been found on every continent of the world and lived for a span of 300 million years in some 10,000 different species during that time. For some reason the class of trilobite died off some 240 million years ago, many believe this is from the introduction of greater classes of fish such as sharks to the scene, which would have found the slower moving Trilobites a good food source.

An Ammonite is much like todays Chambered Nautilus, it was a cephalopod or predatory marine mollusk and was were around for about 330 million years. They died out about the same time as the dinosaurs and probably for the same reason, about 65 million years ago. Today these fossils are a popular decoration due to there spiral and chambered pattern.

A Crinoid is a class of living echinoderms or spiny-skinned marine animals, like todays starfish and sea urchins. These animals of the sea have been found in sedimentary deposits 530 million years ago and are abundant today in the seas of the world. They are an example of the tenacity of life and how even though other species became extinct, life continues to exist on some level on our earth during these times in our far past.

The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research is a great place to visit in the Black Hills area of South Dakota. It is probably the best museum and store for fossils and minerals of the area. They have hours and other information about their museum and institute here: .

They even have a catalog were you can buy some of the things they have collected and many are quite reasonable, if you call $100,000 for a replica of a T. Rex reasonable. They have some large and smaller and less expensive things for sale such as replicas and books, videos and tools of Paleontology and geology. The on line site is a great idea of what they do and what they are all about. The museum and store in Hill City is a great tourist attraction but is also a great education visit for families or interested people.

You can see first hand what Paleontology is all about and what the end result of all the work is, the displays of fossils and such. They have the knowledge and are more than willing to answer questions. There is also a very good store that you can purchase many smaller fossils and casts as well as dinosaur and geological gifts. The store has, of course many books on fossils and dinosaurs as well as the great displays of fossils.

If you are in the area of Hill City, this is one stop that is a must for a family vacation in the Black Hills, South Dakota area.

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