Earth Science Collection

The University of Bristol’s Earth Science Collection, based in the School of Earth Sciences in the Wills Memorial Building, houses over 100,000 paleontological, petrological and mineralogical specimens of historical and scientific importance. It also manages an archive of international geological maps, geological thin sections and slides.

New Ichthyosaur species discovered in the Earth Sciences Collection

Ichthyosaurus larkini has recently been identified by palaeontologists Dean Lomax (University of Manchester) and Judy Massare (Brockport College, USA), the type specimen of which is on display at the School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol. The species has been named in honour of Nigel Larkin; the work larkin means 'fierce', in keeping with how this arch-predator would have lived.


This story has recently appeared in the BBC and the Daily Mail, amongst many other news sites.

Collection facilities

For researchers

  • Searchable collection catalogue
  • Access to over 700 type and figured specimens and related papers; a historic register of collectors and donors; an archive of geoscientific slides and maps; collections of paleontological and petrological thin sections
  • Transmitted and incident light microscopy, polarizing and binocular microscopy, digital photography facilities

For teachers

  • Over 16,000 handling specimens suitable for teaching in higher education and secondary school
  • A teaching resource tailored towards Geology GCSE courses
  • Collections of fossil casts and models suitable for handling

For the general public

  • Inspiring and educational displays and interactive
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Work placement possibilities
  • Guided tours (by appointment)

Current projects and initiatives

Our key aim for the coming 12 months is to improve access to our collections and promote this unique and valuable resource to scientists, schools and the public. We will be working on two main projects:


Iconic fossils and rocks are on display in the recently refurbished areas of the School and are open to the public during university opening hours. Over the coming months we will add new display elements to the gallery space: a remote access point to the collection catalogue, a virtual tour behind the scenes of the School and a seismic station.

Supported by the University of Bristol Alumni Foundation.


We are currently developing tools to improve remote access to our collections to open up an otherwise inaccessible wealth of information. This includes: development of an online collection catalogue with linked GIS features, access to an online image archive, a new Geology Collection website including social media, involvement in open resource projects like Culture Grid and SYNTHESYS.

Get involved yourself

Are you interested in OnShow or OnLine, or simply fascinated by evolution, the history of our planet or the human stories hidden behind our collections? We offer a range of volunteer opportunities. To find out more, please see the Volunteer Bristol website.


Ammonite Asteroceras stellares, from Lyme Regis, Dorset

Museum card index catalogue. Now also available in digital form

Museum volunteer Charlie Narravo helping with the photo archiving project

Volcanic lava from Mount Etna