About Rancho La Brea

fossil work at the tar pits rancho la brea

Our research group uses fossils preserved in asphaltic sediments to investigate big questions related to climate change, evolution, and paleoecology.

Because Rancho La Brea represents the largest collection of late Pleistocene asphaltic fossils in the world, we use this opportunity to train students, build collections through excavation, prepare and conserve fossils in our public viewing Fossil Lab and curate this massive collection onsite. Our staff also use these collections to study scientific questions with visiting academics. Much of the current research could not be possible without the unique geological circumstances that occur in the La Basin and the efforts of the paleontologists who came before us.

Geology around Rancho La Brea

Historic Excavations

Early Researchers at Rancho La Brea

As a place-based museum, we are also committed to engaging the communities around us, sharing our research through exhibits, and preserving this National Natural Landmark for future generations.

Our Staff

Postdoctoral Fellow, Rancho La Brea
Mairin Balisi, Ph.D.

Dr. Balisi is investigating how the dual disturbances of megafaunal extinction and climate transition shaped the mesocarnivore community over the past 40,000 years and by extension, our Los Angeles community today.

Curator Emeritus, Ornithology
Kenneth Campbell, Ph.D.

Dr. Campbell began his tenure at the Natural History Museum in 1977 as one of two curators to fill staff positions for the newly opened George C. Page Museum, a satellite facility of the Natural History Museum.

Preparator, Rancho La Brea
Sean Campbell

As a Preparator at Project 23, Mr. Campbell is responsible for excavating fossils, training volunteers and students and sharing his expertise with the public.

Preparator, Rancho La Brea
Connie Clark

As a Preparator in the lab, Ms. Clarke is responsible for preparing fossils, supervising volunteers and communicating her work with museum guests.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Rancho La Brea
Libby Ellwood, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellwood's ecological research occurs at the intersection of climate change, conservation, and citizen science.

Collections Manager, Rancho La Brea
Aisling Farrell

As Collections Manager Ms. Farrell has co-managed all of the fossils at Rancho La Brea for over a decade.

Curator Emeritus, Rancho La Brea
John Harris, Ph.D.

Dr. Harris is a Curator Emeritus at Rancho La Brea.

Lead Preparator, Rancho La Brea
Carrie Howard

Ms. Howard works on digitization projects in the collections and in the field through photography, photogrammetry, and 3D surface scanning.

Assistant Curator and Excavation Site Director, Rancho La Brea
Emily Lindsey, Ph.D.

Dr. Lindsey's research integrates information from past and modern ecosystems to understand how Ice Age animals and environments functioned.

Assistant Collections Manager, Rancho La Brea
Christine Mazzello

Ms. Mazzello is interested in proper paleontological cataloging techniques, preservation and conservation of fossil specimens through best museum and curatorial practices, to ensure long-term research accessibility.

Our Policies

We are part of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. You can find more information about our positions, policies, and processes here.