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About the Department

Heritage Resources

About Palaeontology

Palaeontology Research

One of the main purposes of the collection is to make Yukon fossils available for researchers. Specimens from our fossil collections may be available for loan, for research or exhibit purposes, by recognized researchers and institutions. On-site access to collection specimens may be arranged by contacting the Yukon Palaeontologist. If you are interested in conducting various analyses of specimens (e.g. radiocarbon dating, isotopic analyses, ancient DNA and other biomolecules), but cannot visit our collection in Whitehorse, please contact us for arrangements.

Palaeontology research in Yukon, Canada

Yukon’s Ice Age mammal fossils play a particularly important role in research involving ancient DNA and other biomolecules. This is made possible because most Ice Age mammal fossils have remained frozen in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. For this reason, we have begun to keep some bones frozen, especially if they were collected before having thawed. Mummified remains (fossils with soft tissue still attached) also are kept frozen.

The Yukon Palaeontology Program is interested in conducting and facilitating palaeontological research for the benefit of all Yukoners. We have established several collaborative research programs with a number of organizations from Yukon, the rest of Canada and abroad. The two main regions of interest for Pleistocene palaeontology are the 1) Klondike goldfields of west-central Yukon and, 2) Old Crow region of northern Yukon. These two regions are Canada’s greatest producer of Pleistocene vertebrate fossils. Furthermore, they contain long, detailed records of Pleistocene environmental change that can tell us how the Beringian landscape has transformed over time. Work in the Old Crow region has been conducted in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin Government who own and manage significant palaeontological resources on their settlement lands. Ongoing studies of the Ice Age environments in the Klondike benefit from the continued support of the Klondike placer gold mining community.

Field research leading to the collection of new fossils or sampling of existing collections requires a Scientists and Explorers Research License and specimens will need to be returned to the Yukon Palaeontology Program and accessioned into the Yukon Palaeontology collection upon completion of the work.

If you are a researcher who would like access to the collection, are interested in particular specimens or would like to engage in collaborative palaeontological research in Yukon, please contact us for details on how we can facilitate your work.