Millions of years ago, giant saber-tooth cats, mastodons and short-faced bears roamed our region, while ammonites, ancient whales, sharks and marine reptiles swam in our oceans. Today, evidence of their existence is on display at Chico State’s Gateway Science Museum.

A new exhibit, “Fossils and Formations,” is now open and runs through 2022. A collaboration between the Gateway and Chico State’s Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, this extensive paleontology exhibit gives visitors a chance to explore our region’s rich evolutionary and geological history.

Gateway Director Adrienne McGraw said the highlight of the exhibit is live fossil preparation by Chico State geology students. Fossils from a recently unearthed “Miocene Zoo”— likely dating back to 8 million years ago—continue to be prepared for studying and viewing in the museum lab. This remarkable find was discovered in Northern California and is one of the most prolific collections of fossils found in the state—included are a partial mastodon skull, teeth and intact tusks, as well as fossilized bones from camels, rhinos and tortoises.

“The exhibit will take you through time and how California has changed in animals, climate, tectonics,” said Todd Greene, chair of the Geological and Environmental Sciences Department, who assisted with the fossil recovery. “And it’s fun because we get to show off a little bit.”

Adding to the exhibit’s allure and educational insights, the surrounding walls have been filled by an original paleo mural painted by alumna Shelby Self (Art Studio, ’21). This artwork helps visitors imagine several ancient landscapes from the Triassic to the Pleistocene. Also featured are fossilized ichthyosaurs, ammonites and creatures from the Chico Formation, a local geological formation discovered in Bidwell Park.

“Among other things, the microeye—our museum favorite— is set up to invite visitors to get a closer look at tiny fossils in incredible detail,” McGraw said. “From the large to the small, this exhibit will appeal to everyone who has ever imagined ancient life.”

Other ongoing exhibits at the Gateway include Tinker Space, encouraging curious minds of all ages to engage with a collection of STEM-related activities. The Gateway Gardens provide a glimpse of the diverse and distinct eco-regions of Northern California. And visitors entering the museum will pass by a pair of beautiful murals created by Chico State art students in 2019 and 2021.

Additionally, the Gateway continues to offer virtual exhibits, bringing learning and exploration into homes on demand. Exhibits include Sustainability at Gateway, a fun, engaging way to learn more about how to practice sustainability at home. Virtual visitors can test their innovative and logical skills at home with STEM. And guests can delve into a world where art meets nature with Wildflowers, Watercolor and Wonder: The Edward Stuhl Collection and Ocean Commotion.

The Gateway Science Museum is located at 625 Esplanade and is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children age 3–17 and students and free for Chico State students and museum members. Visitors are required to wear masks. To consider giving to Gateway Science Museum, please visit its giving page. Those who require an accommodation at Gateway Science Museum or who have questions about accessibility may contact the Accessibility Resource Center at 530-898-5959.