History of SNOMNH Invertebrate Paleontology
The OMNH Invertebrate Paleontology Collection
are an amalgamation of collections by OMNH curators, faculty
at the University of Oklahoma School of Geology and Geophysics,
and staff of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. Invertebrate paleontology
is an integral part of the geology degree program at the School
of Geology and Geophysics.
The museum was established by the Territorial
Legislature in 1899 as a Department of Geology and Natural
History, with Dr. A.H. Van Vleet, Professor of Biology of the
fledgling University of Oklahoma, as the Territorial Geologist
and Curator of the Museum. Dr. Charles N. Gould was hired the
following year to teach geology at the University and shared
Dr. Van Vleet’s
office. During this territorial era, the collections of the museum
were divided into zoological, botanical and geological sections,
with Dr. Gould caring for the geological collections.
The original Invertebrate Paleontology
Collection consisted of specimens that Dr. Gould brought from
Kansas and collections that he made from various locations
as part of his study of Oklahoma geology. This collection perished
in a fire in 1903. To replace this loss, Dr. Gould purchased
geological specimens and cases in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s
Fair, and continued collecting and studying Oklahoma geology.
Dr. Gould became the first State Geologist in 1908 with the
establishment of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. He later became
one of the founding members of the AAPG (American Association
of Petroleum Geologists).
In 1907, Dr. Chester Reeds, a former student of
Dr. Gould’s, joined
the School of Geology and Geophysics staff and taught Invertebrate
Paleontology until 1909. Dr. Reeds pioneering work on the geology and
invertebrate paleontology of the Silurian and Devonian in the Arbuckle
Mountains formed the basis of all subsequent studies. He was later employed
by the American Museum of Natural History.
Dr. D.W. Ohern took over the teaching of Invertebrate Paleontology from
1909 to 1911. Dr. Ohern was the head of the OU School of Geology and Geophysics
(1908-1911) and later became the director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey
(1911-1914). Dr. Ohern was also one of the founding members of the AAPG.
The first formal Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at the museum was
Dr. Irving Perrine from 1912 to 1915. Dr. Perrine later became one of
the founding members of the AAPG and participated, with Dr. Ohern, in
the first seismic reflection project for the exploration of oil and gas
Dr. M.G. Mehl was also a founding member of the AAPG as the first secretary-treasurer.
He taught a course in the Paleontology of Oklahoma in 1915 before embarking
on a long career with the University of Missouri.
Dr. Charles E. Decker became the next Curator of
Invertebrate Paleontology and faculty member of the School of Geology
and Geophysics in 1916. He retired in 1943 but continued his research
activities until his death in 1958. He was also a founding member of
the AAPG and served as its secretary-treasurer from 1919 until 1926.
During his tenure at the University of Oklahoma, the collections underwent
significant growth from teaching, research, and student activities.
Among other contributors to the collection during Dr. Decker’s
tenure were Dr. J. Willis Stovall (1930-1953), Dr. R.W. Harris (1929-1943
and 1947-1977), Dr. Cecil Lalicker (1934-1941), Dr. E.A. Fredrickson
(1941-1963), Dr. G.G. Huffman (1948-1984), and Dr. C.C. Branson (1950-1972)
of the School of Geology and Geophysics, and T.W. Amsden (1955-1985)
of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. Beginning in 1950, a new numbering
system was instituted, which has been continued to the present. In 1954,
Dr. Huffman was appointed Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology for the
Museum and served until 1961.
In 1961, Dr. P.K. Sutherland became the Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology.
Dr. Sutherland and his students made numerous additions to the collections,
particularly middle to upper Paleozoic corals and Carboniferous brachiopods.
Dr. Sutherland retired in 1990 although he remained active as curator
emeritus until his death in August, 2000.
In 1998, Dr. Stephen Westrop became the Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology
and continues on a long tradition of teaching and research for the OMNH
and the University of Oklahoma School of Geology and Geophysics. In 1999,
BP-Amoco donated an extensive collection of invertebrate fossils to the
OMNH. These collections add breadth to the existing specimens and include
materials from several continents.
Dr. Charles E. Decker
Dr. Charles E. Decker (1868-1958) became the Curator
of Invertebrate Paleontology and faculty at the School of Geology and
Geophysics in 1916. He continued to be active long after his retirement
in 1943 and continued research and publications until his death in 1958.
He was a founding member of the AAPG, serving as secretary-treasurer from
1919 to 1926.
During his tenure at the University of Oklahoma, the
Invertebrate Paleontology Collection underwent significant growth from
teaching, research, and student activities. He published some 99 papers
on subjects including graptolites, hydrozoans, trilobites, eurypterids,
and algae. He also published on biostratigraphy, sedimentology, structural
geology, quaternary geology, structural geology, economic geology and
Decker is best known for his work on graptolites,
and the composition of the C.E. Decker Collection reflects this focus.
This important component of the Invertebrate Paleontology Collection
includes specimens from the Athens Shale, Viola Group, Arbuckle Group,
and Hunton Group. In addition, 136 specimens from Decker’s publications
are included in the Type and Figured Collection.