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Fossils, minerals adorn geological sciences department wing

Wandering around New Mexico State University's Department of Geological Sciences wing in Gardiner Hall, it is easy to imagine you are in a museum. Inside the newly renovated building, students, staff and visitors can see a variety of geologic pieces including minerals, petrified wood and the department's newest addition, a six-and-a-half-foot tall dinosaur bone.

A six-and-a-half-foot tall humerus dinosaur bone is now displayed in the Department of Geological Sciences wing inside Gardiner Hall. The bone is one of more than 20 pieces from the Zuhl Collection. (NMSU photo by Donyelle Kesler)

Before taking residence in Gardiner Hall, the Department of Geological Sciences was limited in the amount of space available to exhibit geological specimens. Now, display cases line the hallways and large mineral and fossil specimens hang in the entrance lobby of the department's wing.

"These displays have really given our department a chance to express ourselves," said Nancy McMillan, academic department head of geological sciences. "We now have space to share our collections and work with the public and it's turned out even better than I expected."

After moving to Las Cruces, N.M. in 2000, Herb and Joan Zuhl gave the university their personal collection of petrified wood, fossils, minerals and rocks that they had collected over the span of 30 years. While a large portion of NMSU's Zuhl Collection is displayed in the NMSU Alumni and Visitors Center and the Zuhl Library, the Department of Geological Sciences wing now houses more than 20 pieces, including the dinosaur's humerus bone, gems and fossils.

When entering the department's wing on the east side of Gardiner Hall, visitors will notice huge pieces of petrified wood placed outside the doorway. Three large geological maps that show representations of the known rocks and minerals in New Mexico in 1928, 1965 and 2003 hang near the department's entrance and 15 display cases feature collections such as the R.E. Clemons collection, Minerals You've Never Heard Of and the Sample of the Month collections.

The department also transformed old fuse boxes in Gardiner Hall into shadow boxes to display mineralogy students' work as part of their term project.

Another display space is dedicated to students and faculty who earn the department's P.O.E. awards.

"P.O.E. stands for Pocket of Excellence and refers to the place on a rock where the exceptional minerals come from," McMillan said. "These awards represent the accomplishments and happenings within our department."

The first awards have been given to three graduate students who have authored published papers. Their picture and a summary of each student's success are showcased in the P.O.E. space.

McMillan says she has noticed much more traffic in the hallways at Gardner since the displays have been up. She would like to gain a wider audience for these treasures and hopes to host field trips for local public school students to visit the building and learn more about the department's collections.

For teachers interested in booking a field trip to visit the Department of Geological Sciences, contact the department at 575-646-2708.