Summer Events

Artwork by Ray Troll from Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway. Photo courtesy Museum of the Earth

The Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) is opening a new exhibition, Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway, which features the work of artist Ray Troll.

The exhibition, which opens June 4 and runs through September 4, is based on the storyline of a book by the same name by Troll and paleontologist Kirk Johnson. The book has been a hit among science enthusiasts, art lovers, fossil hounds and anyone with a kid who loves dinosaurs. It recounts the 5,000-mile, fossil-hunting road trip they took through the American West in 2007.

The exhibition – a collaboration between Troll, Johnson, and The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington – combines the visuals and stories from the book, explores the abundance of fossils in our midst and under our feet, and explains how and why fossils shed light on Earth’s past.

Filled with Troll’s dynamic and whimsical illustrations bursting with color, this exhibition brings excitement and fun to the study of fossils. The self-described “paleo-nerd duo” express the joys of fossil hunting in every story and painting. Troll makes the fossils come alive with his surreal and fantastical rendering, and while the images are playful and often hilarious (for example, visitors will find a cheeseburger hidden in every panel), the fossils depicted are scientifically accurate.

Visitors to the exhibition can explore evolution, extinction and prehistoric life through the images, fossils, and accompanying text and stories. Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway features 19 framed originals of Troll’s artwork, along with many large-scale murals and story panels. Troll’s paintings depict fossilized plants, shelled critters – ammonites and trilobites – and a close relative of the mighty T. rex, Albertosaurus, to name a few.

The exhibition compares the modern and prehistoric examples of leaves, fish, mammals and birds, and it highlights related specimens in the museum’s permanent collection, taking visitors on a virtual “road trip” and scavenger hunt through the myriad specimens on view at the museum. The exhibit opening will be celebrated on Friday, June 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. with a catered wine and hors d’oeuvre reception featuring wines from the Finger Lakes Region.

For details on exhibition hours and a complete schedule of events go to the museum’s website,, or call 607-273-6623 ext. 33.

A second Ithaca museum, the Cayuga Nature Center (CNC) will offer 10 full weeks of day camp, Monday through Friday, from June 27 to September 2. Camp runs each day 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free before and after camp care between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Kids can come to experience all the wonder and exciting things nature has to offer.
Parents are invited to browse the brochure at to see the various options available. TEAM Challenge Camp provides a new experience for older campers. Overnight Adventure Trips, another option for older campers, will again be offered. Medical history forms as well as vaccination records are required for all campers.

New Partnership in the Works
For more than a decade The Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth (PRI) and the Cayuga Nature Center (CNC) have actively partnered on many programs from exhibits to events. The collaboration has capitalized on the unique strengths of these two organizations to offer high-quality natural science programming to Central New York, and improve joint and separate programmatic capacity at both organizations. In January, the boards of trustees of PRI and CNC voted unanimously to formally move forward on a plan for an eventual legal merger.

For the past three years, the Summer Camp at CNC has included substantial involvement of PRI, and has been a huge success. Hundreds of students took part in day camp activities ranging from learning how to build outdoor shelters to investigating ancient creatures by studying fossils. The CNC/PRI summer camp is unique in that it offers kids quality science and nature programming with highly trained staff, in a beautiful outdoor setting. It keeps kids engaged with learning until school starts up in September.

The planned merger is made possible by the Triad Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to continuing the legacy of Roy Hampton Park through its support of education, ecological and scientific research and human services. Triad Foundation’s involvement stems from its long-term support for both the Cayuga Nature Center and the Paleontological Research Institution.

“We believe that environmental education in Tompkins County will be significantly enhanced by blending the irreplaceable natural resources of the Cayuga Nature Center with the outstanding collections and earth science education programs of the Paleontological Research Institution,” said Joanne Florino, executive director of Triad Foundation.
She explained: “We were working with the Cayuga Nature Center to build that organization’s capacity and sustainability when the discussion of joining with another local organization first began. Among several executive directors who were presented with the idea, Warren Allmon indicated what I would call a ‘cautious interest’ in the possibility. A collaboration grant was made to enable CNC and PRI to hire a joint staff member and work together on summer camp and a field guide to CNC. That experience was quite positive and led to the consideration of a formal merger. The opportunity became a reality because of the hard work of Tom Trencansky, Warren Allmon, and the boards of both institutions. They have taken a huge step forward in organizational restructuring that required both vision and courage, and the foundation is proud to be their partner in this undertaking.”

From the first capacity-building grant to CNC through the grants that will be made to support the merger, Triad will have invested well over $600,000 in this project. The plan is also supported by the Strategic Tourism Planning Board, the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County and the Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund.

This collaboration also will allow PRI to benefit from the CNC’s site, which includes a gorge and waterfall, and its collection of live animals. In the past CNC and PRI have collaborated to bring live animals to public events at Museum of the Earth. The expanded partnership will allow for the inclusion of more CNC live animals in more museum programming. The gorge can serve as a valuable site for PRI programming on Earth science and paleontology.

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