The Missouri Institute of Natural Science was born on the heels of an amazing discovery. It was made while road crews were working on the construction of a new project just south of Springfield, Missouri. Charges were being set to blast through a large rock outcrop obstructing the path of the new road when an unusual call came in – all blasting was to cease immediately.
It was the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The World Trade Center in New York City had just been attacked.
Several holes had already been loaded with explosives and could not be removed. Special permission was given to detonate only those currently in the ground. The blast revealed a previously unknown cave system, which came to be known as Riverbluff Cave. This cave was full of formations, fossils, claw marks, and track ways left behind by animals that lived during the Pleistocene Epoch, a time period more commonly known as the Ice Age.
Dating techniques soon revealed that this was the oldest known Ice Age fossil cave in North America to date.
International interest, coupled with local recognition of the importance of the discovery, led to the acquisition of approximately 50 acres of land above and surrounding Riverbluff Cave for the purpose of preserving and protecting the resource. The need for an entity capable of supporting, running, and maintaining the resource soon became apparent. In 2003, the Missouri Institute of Natural Science was officially formed.
The primary objectives of the Institute at its inception, were to create a natural history museum, to educate the public on the ways in which learning from past environments can help us to be better stewards of our present climate and natural resources, to preserve and protect Riverbluff Cave and the fossils, minerals, artifacts and modern biological samples in the collection, and to provide a venue for meetings and educational activities involving community groups and local schools. Since that time the Institute has seen many successes, such as the installation of the first live broadcast fiber optic cable system within a cave, the construction of a combined office, geologic library and lab facility in November 2005, and the realization of a goal with the opening of Missouri’s first natural history museum May 5, 2009.
Public response to the creation of the Institute has been extremely positive, with a steadily increasing number of schools requesting field trips and lectures for their students, local groups utilizing the museum facility for their monthly meetings and requests for research assistance with archaeological, geological, and paleontological projects.
To interpret Missouri’s natural history within a regional and global context in a manner that is relevant, useful, educational and entertaining to all patrons.
Meet The Team
Research Associate and Curator
Asst. Prof. of Biology
Southern Connecticut State University
Retired USGS Geophysicist
The Missouri Institute of Natural Science is a volunteer run nonprofit organization funded solely through grants, donations, and the support of a community who shares our goal of educating and enlightening generations of visitors.