New Mexico museum wins grant to study mammal life after mass extinction

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The National Science Foundation has selected an Albuquerque museum to receive a grant they say will help researchers further their study of prehistoric mammals while helping local students learn more about science, technology education, art and math.

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science has one of the largest collections of early Paleocene mammals in the world with nearly 8,000 fossils that they’ve collected over 20 years.
Thanks to this grant, the collection will be used to shed light on how mammals were able to survive after the mass extinction of dinosaurs.

“We want to understand how these animals are related to each other and when they diverged and how they evolved,” said Thomas Williamson, curator.

Researchers say the project aims to increase the understanding of the origins of placental mammals. These are mammals that give birth to fully developed live young like dogs, cats, livestock, and even humans.

Researchers say through a really tedious process, they will analyze the skeletons by looking at teeth and brain anatomy. They’ll then put that information into a data base to develop a huge family tree that they’ll eventually work into the exhibit at the museum.

The grant will also help support educational and outreach programs locally by giving teachers material they can then take back to the classroom.

‘We are going to help teachers develop curricula around these fossil specimens so they can take back this information to the classroom and teach their students about this,” said Williamson.

Researchers here will be working with other museums both nationally and internationally from countries like China, South America and the U.K.

Researchers say we could begin seeing these outreach programs once the project is completed in four years. They also say we could see some of these fossils in the museum’s Hall of Mammals exhibit within the next year or so.

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