About the Paleontological Research Institution

Founded in 1932, the Paleontological Research Institution has outstanding programs in research, collections, publications, and public education. The Institution cares for a collection of nearly three million specimens (one of the 10 largest in the U.S.), and publishes Bulletins of American Paleontology, the oldest paleontological journal in the Western Hemisphere, begun in 1895. PRI is a national leader in the development of informal (i.e., outside the classroom) Earth science education resources for educators and the general public.

PRI and its two public venues for education, the Museum of the Earth and the Cayuga Nature Center, are separate from, but formally affiliated with Cornell University, and interact closely with numerous University departments in research, teaching, and public outreach.

Outreach Education

The Paleontological Research Institution is a national leader in Earth systems science education research and programming dedicated to sharing knowledge and to understanding the science by which we gain that knowledge. We offer a diversity of programs and resources on Earth Science topics including evolution, geology, the environment, climate, energy, and the public understanding of science. We serve learners of all ages, provide professional development for educators, offer college- and graduate-level courses, and interact with audiences from local to national.

Our facilities at the Museum of the Earth and the Cayuga Nature Center provide venues for hands-on education that emphasizes science as an inquiry-driven process of exploration and discovery. We offer programs at local schools, create classroom-friendly activities and content, and send specimens to learners across the globe. We lead professional development that introduces educators of all backgrounds to innovative pedagogy and technology to serve their communities.

PRI also conducts research on science education and the public perception of science, and participates in both local and national initiatives to improve education practices and increase scientific literacy. Through our education and outreach endeavors we strive to promote Earth stewardship and to continue to make science relevant to our local, state, national and international audiences.

Museum of the Earth

PRI’s Museum of the Earth was established in 2003 to provide the general public with a unique opportunity to explore our world through a mix of natural history displays, interactive science features, and art exhibitions. The museum’s 8,000-square-foot permanent exhibition takes visitors on a journey through 4.5 billion years of history, from the Earth’s origin to the present day. Through hands-on, visual exhibitions and outreach, the Museum of the Earth encourages critical thinking about life on Earth in the past and today, and how our species is affecting the natural world.

Cayuga Nature Center

In 2013, the Cayuga Nature Center became PRI's second educational public venue. The Nature Center cultivates an awareness, appreciation, and responsibility for the natural world through outdoor and environmental education. The Nature Center's Summer Camp is one of the longest-running and well-loved in the area. The Nature Center strives to be a premier educational center for teaching and learning about the impact of climate change on the fauna and flora of Tompkins County.

Smith Woods

Henry A. Smith Woods is a 32-acre old-growth forest located in Trumansburg, New York. Henry Atterbury Smith (1822-1891) was a businessman from New York City who had purchased this parcel of land as a summer residence and although he visited the property sparingly, he was a well known member of the Trumansburg community. In 1909, this undeveloped forest fragment was left to the Village of Trumansburg by Henry A Smith’s sons to be preserved as a public park forever. The purpose of the park is “to execute and carry out the terms of the trust in the spirit of the grant, namely the preservation of the park in its natural state and for educational and recreational purposes”.

In 2007, ownership of this forest was transferred to Cayuga Nature Center to continue it’s use as an educational site. Since the transfer, a loop trail was created and the Cayuga Nature Center staff have continued to uphold the mission of the park through school visits and public hikes. Smith Woods is open to the public year round.