Rochester Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology

Rochester Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology
265 Carling Road
Rochester, NY 14610

The Rochester Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology (RIVP) is non-profit corporation that was founded in 1992 for the purpose of furthering scientific research in the field of vertebrate paleontology. Research is ongoing and the researchers associated with the RIVP have a history of excellence in the field. Since its inception, RIVP has received nearly $10,000 in funding through private contributions and institutional grants to support its work. It has paid nearly $2,000 for student assistantships in vertebrate paleontology to students attending local colleges (Hobart College, SUNY Brockport, University of Rochester, Buffalo State College). The RIVP has also funded field work for the last five years, where thousands of scientific specimen have been collected and are now part of museums around the country (University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, NE; Long Island Natural History Museum; Tate Geological Museum, Casper, WY). During the first five years of its existence, the Research Associates of RIVP have published nearly 40 articles in scientific journals and the institute has begun to publish a journal of its own (Paludicola). Each year the amount and scope of the research that is done at the RIVP is expanding to include more scientists in differing fields of specialization and is becoming widely respected in the scientific community. Copies of the most recent Annual Report are available upon request.


The field of vertebrate paleontology is the study of the five hundred million year history of fossil vertebrate animals. It is an integrative field of study which involves elements of geology, climatology, biology and evolutionary theory. Today, as it was over 150 years ago, interest in fossil animals such as dinosaurs has sparked the imagination of the general public as well as professionals. Television programs, children' books, and movies such as Jurassic Park give most children their first exposure to the scientific method and the world of scientific investigation. Even more valuable may be the application to vertebrate paleontology to modern environments. The study of vertebrate paleontology involves the interpretation of environment change and the extinction of past life. The application of such knowledge of extinction and their relationship to a changing environment will better help us to understand or own impact on the environment and its possible consequences to life on Earth today. The major aspects of research in vertebrate paleontology are field work, laboratory analysis, and publication.

FIELD WORK: This is the location and collection of fossils specimens. It involves extraction of fossils from rocks or sediment and their transport to a research facility. Significant data regarding the orientation and spatial relationships of the fossil specimens, the exact geographic location at which they were found, and the exact rock horizon (stratigraphic position) is carefully recorded. Without the latter two pieces of information, the scientific value of the specimens is greatly diminished. These kinds of field information provide biostratigraphy (relative age of specimens), paleoecology (reconstruction ancient environments) and taphonomy (cause of death, burial history).

LABORATORY ANALYSIS: There are several steps to laboratory analysis. The first is preparation: the preservation, sorting, and reassembling of the fossil specimens collected from the field. Next is the study of these specimen, a close scrutiny of the material in order to deal with specific problems or series of problems. What kind of animal does the specimen represent? Is it like any other specimens that have been collected? But beyond the question of identification, vertebrate paleontologists are concerned with phylogeny (the animal's history and evolution), comparative anatomy (what is looked like, how it moved), systematics (relationships to other fossils or living animals), paleoecology (how the animal lived), etc.

PUBLICATION. For field or laboratory work to be of lasting value, the results must be evaluated and disseminated to the general scientific community through publication. This involves the writing of text and preparation of illustrations for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The RIVP publishes a peer-reviewed journal, Paludicola twice each year.

For more information contact:
Dr. William W. Korth
Dr. Judy A. Massare