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HEMET, CA – The Western Science Center is now home to a new species of armored dinosaur: Invictarx zephyri, a nodosaur from the Menefee Formation in New Mexico. The new paper by authors Dr. Andrew T. McDonald of the Western Science Center and Doug Wolfe of the Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences has been published in the open access science journal PeerJ.
Invictarx zephyri lived 80 million years ago and is the first new species of dinosaur named from the Menefee Formation, according to Dr. Andrew T. McDonald, curator of the Western Science Center and lead author on the paper. “It’s a slice of time we don’t know much about. Dinosaurs of any kind are rare in North American rocks of this age.”
“The fossils we have are fragmentary, but they provide a hint of more discoveries to come. This is currently the only named species of armored dinosaur from this time in North America. We will inevitably discover more about armored dinosaurs from this time period in the future; Invictarx is just the start,” says Dr. McDonald.
Nodosaurs are part of the larger group of ankylosaurian dinosaurs; they lacked the iconic tail club of their relatives, but brandished massive shoulder spikes. The name Invictarx zephyri can be translated as “unconquerable fortress of the western wind”.
“Invictarx was collected from strata containing coal from ancient swamps, along with standing petrified tree stumps, giant crocodiles, turtles everywhere, and dinosaurs we’ve yet to describe. Eighty million years ago, the now treeless badlands of New Mexico would have resembled modern coastal swamps in Louisiana or southeast Asia,” notes Mr. Wolfe, CEO and Chairman of the Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences.
The three partial skeletons of Invictarx, collected under permits on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land, were collected in 2011 and 2015 by Dr. McDonald and Mr. Wolfe, as well as staff and volunteers from the Southwest Paleontological Society and the Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences. The specimens, which include fossils from the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Western Science Center, were prepared for research and display by staff and volunteers from both institutions.
“As we continue to develop the Western Science Center’s collections and field programs, the description of Invictarx will be the first of many scientific contributions to come from our museum,” says WSC Executive Director Dr. Alton Dooley.
Invictarx fossils include around 20 osteoderms, which are bony armor plates set in the skin, as well as vertebrae and parts of the forelimbs. The Western Science Center has made 3D prints of these specimens, which will be used in future WSC programs to give the public an opportunity to interact with the museum’s newest dinosaur. The original fossils will be put on display at the Western Science Center in the future.

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For Immediate Release

Western Science Center in Hemet Receives Fossil Whale

HEMET –The largest natural history museum in Riverside County has a new arrival – the Western Science Center has received a fossil whale from Los Angeles County-based mitigation company Paleo Solutions, Inc.
In September 2015, a Paleo Solutions’ paleontologist watching construction excavations for the Polo Ranch housing development in Scott’s Valley, California, spotted a bone that was unearthed by heavy equipment. More bones were exposed, and the bone was identified as an extinct species of baleen whale. The specimen is approximately 3-5 million years old.

Several jackets of material were delivered to the museum on Friday, June 22nd, and the largest of those jackets will be on public display outside of the museum’s main building near the Simulated Dig Site.
Western Science Center staff and volunteers will immediately begin the lengthy process of preparing the whale out of the jacket and removing the surrounding sediment, which visitors will be able to observe as part of their regular museum admission.

Visitors to the Western Science Center will also have the opportunity to put forward their family-friendly ideas for the new arrival’s name, which will then be voted on by WSC staff and announced on July 11th. Suggestions can be submitted either online at or at the admissions desk. “Whales have been part of California’s ecosystems for millions of years; we’re excited to give our visitors the chance to give their new neighbor a name!” says Marketing & Events Specialist Brittney Stoneburg.

The recovery and permanent preservation of this exciting fossil discovery could not have been made possible without the hard work and dedication of Paleo Solutions’ salvage and laboratory staff; support and assistance of the Lennar Corporation, Independent Construction Company, Albion Environmental, and City of Scotts Valley; and vision and commitment of the Western Science Center staff and volunteers.

For more information, please contact:
Brittney Stoneburg, Marketing & Events Specialist (951)791-0033 |

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For Immediate Release

Mastodons to the Max Event Celebrates Mastodon Exhibit at the Western Science Center

HEMET – A new year offers Western Science Center visitors a new opportunity to learn about the prehistoric elephant-like creatures that once roamed the Inland Empire! The Western Science Center kicks off the second half of the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit with a new event on January 20, 2018.

Valley of the Mastodons, the largest exhibit of mastodons ever developed,started out as a scientific workshop hosted by the Western Science Center in August 2017. Scientists and science writers from across North America came to Hemet to study the museum’s collections and make contributions to the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit, which is now open to the public through May 2018. Through this conference and exhibit, the Western Science Center has given visitors a window into the scientific process and into the fossil record of mastodons.

Visitors will have a chance to catch up with some of the researchers who participated in the Valley of the Mastodons conference this past August, who, along with other scientists, will be Skyping into the museum theater throughout the day to give presentations on their research.

“Mastodons are an iconic American Ice Age fossil,” says Dr. Alton Dooley, Executive Director of the Western Science Center. “While the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit focuses on California mastodons, our knowledge comes from workers and specimens all over the world. This event will give visitors a chance to see examples of other mastodons from across the country.”

In addition, young visitors can explore the Pleistocene through the museum’s Valley of the Mastodons scavenger hunt and take home a miniature 3D print of one of the exhibit’s mastodons. Other hands-on activities will be available, such as coloring pages and more. Museum staff will be preparing mastodon fossils and answering visitor questions at the museum’s new Exploration Station in the main exhibit hall.

A free print of the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit mural, signed by paleoartist Brian Engh, will also be raffled off to one randomly chosen user who uses the #ValleyoftheMastodons hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. More information can be found at

The event is on January 20, 2018 from 10:30AM – 4PM. Admission is $8.00 for adults, $6.50 for seniors 62+, $6.50 for students 13-22 w/ID, $6.00 for youth 5-12, under 4 years old is free, and Active Military (individual) w/ID is free. Admission to the museum is included in the ticket price. WSC members can attend for free. All proceeds from the event benefit museum exhibits and programs.

Brittney Stoneburg, Marketing & Events Specialist
(951)791-0033 |

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HEMET – The Western Science Center is pleased to announce its annual fundraiser, Science Under the Stars, taking place on September 9, 2017 at 5:00 PM. This year’s theme is “The Science of the Ice Age.”

Considered one of the greatest parties in the Inland Empire, Science Under the Stars takes place on the museum’s beautiful outdoor piazza. Guest will enjoy a delicious catered dinner, open bar, and the chance to explore the museum’s exhibits. Guests will also have the opportunity to take home unique auction items, which include vacation getaways, fossil replicas, and a signed print of artwork featured in the museum’s new exhibit Valley of the Mastodons.

This year’s guest speaker is paleontologist Eric Scott of Cogstone Resource Management, who assisted with the excavation of Diamond Valley Lake. The night will be MC’d by radio personality Bob Madden of local station 101.3 The Mix. Music will be provided by classic rock band One 2 Many, and guests are encouraged to dance the night away!

Western Science Center is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit; all proceeds from Science Under the Stars support the Western Science Center and its programs. Currently in its eleventh year of operation, the museum continues its mission to discover the past, explore the present, and promote a sustainable future. Science Under the Stars is a vital component of the Western Science Center’s fundraising goals as the museum seeks to provide educational opportunities to the Inland Empire at large.

“The Western Science Center is at the forefront of research and education about the Inland Empire’s natural history,” says Dr. Alton Dooley, the Western Science Center’s Executive Director. “Community support, including Science Under the Stars is what enables us to do this innovative work.”

Ticket prices are $125 per seat, $1000 for a table of eight; opportunities for sponsorships are still available. Please call (951) 791-0033 to reserve your spot today; guests can also RSVP online at

For more information, please contact:
Brittney Stoneburg, Marketing & Events Specialist | 951-791-0033, ext. 221

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The workshop schedule for Valley of the Mastodons is now available!

The full workshop schedule can be downloaded here.

Please RSVP to the workshop presentations here. Free for students & members w/ID, $5 for educators w/ID, regular admission for all others.

A full speaker schedule for the workshop presentations can be found below:

Thursday, August 3rd
8:10 AM | Dooley: Introduction
8:15 AM | Springer: “The Valley of the Mastodons 20 years on: a look at the past with a view toward the future”
8:30 AM | Scott: “More than mastodons: the Diamond Valley Lake local fauna in a regional context.”
8:45 AM | Dooley: “Mastodons of Unusual Size: How do California specimens of Mammut americanum compare to the rest of North America?”
9:05 AM | K. Smith: “American mastodon tusk morphology: Beast Coast vs. Best Coast”
9:25 AM | Engh: Mastodon Painting
9:45 AM | Break
10:00 AM | Pasenko: “A comparison of the scaphoid in the families Elephantidae, Mammutidae, and Gomphotheriidae (Proboscidea, Mammalia).”
10:20 AM | Zazula: “Mastodons of the frozen North”
10:40 AM | Widga: “In the time of giants: Mastodons from the Gray Fossil Site”
11:10 AM | G. Smith: “The ecological interrelationships of sympatric mammoths, mastodons, and gomphotheres”
11:30 AM | Green: “Regional variation in the browsing diet of the American mastodon as revealed by tooth wear”
11:50 AM | Means: “Beyond the Valley of the Mastodons: 3-D Technology and Ice Age Animals of North America”



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HEMET – Mastodons once roamed Diamond Valley Lake – this summer, they’re coming back! The Western Science Center, Riverside County’s largest natural history museum, is announcing the opening of a new exhibit, Valley of the Mastodons, on August 5th, 2017.

Dozens of individual mastodons were found during Metropolitan Water District’s excavation of Diamond Valley Lake; this has earned Hemet the nickname “Valley of the Mastodons”, and many people aren’t aware that these prehistoric relatives of elephants once roamed their backyards.

Valley of the Mastodons will not only be an exhibit, but a workshop where science will be done in real time
in front of the public! Beginning August 2nd and leading up to the exhibit’s opening reception on August 4th, scientists from across the country will be arriving at the Western Science Center to study the mastodons in the museum collections.

“The Western Science Center has an amazing collection of mastodon fossils that I had a brief opportunity to study last summer. While studying them, I began to realize how different they were – in size and shape – from mastodons from other regions of the country,” says Dr. Kathlyn Smith of Georgia Southern University, one of the participating researchers who will be attending the Valley of the Mastodons workshop. “I’m thrilled to find out what new ideas and research opportunities this ‘meeting of the mastodon minds’ will produce, and am delighted to share the research process and interact with members of the public through this exhibit!”

Other participating researchers include Chris Widga (East Tennessee University), Jeremy Green (Kent State University), Eric Scott (Cogstone Resource Management), Gregory Smith (Vanderbilt University), Dr. Bernard Means (Virginia Commonwealth University), Kathleen Springer (USGS), and Dr. Grant Zazula (Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture). The exhibit will also feature artwork by paleoartist Brian Engh.

Members of the public will be able to talk with the scientists during museum hours; local students will be invited to the Valley of the Mastodons workshop to hear lectures from the researchers.

“The Diamond Valley Lake fossils are having a major impact on our understanding of Ice Age California, and mastodons are a big part of that story,” says Dr. Alton Dooley, Executive Director of the Western Science Center. “WSC’s mastodon collection is the largest on the west coast and one of the largest in North America, and we’re proud to have this opportunity to advance scientific and public knowledge of these interesting animals.”

Valley of the Mastodons is sponsored in part by Bone Clones, Inc., Golden Village Palms RV Resort, Abbott Vascular, and California Imaging & Diagnostics. A special exhibit reception for WSC members and VIPs will be held on August 4th at 5:30 PM; light refreshments will be served. The exhibit will open to the public August 5th.

Admission to the Western Science Center is $8.00 for adults, $6.50 for seniors 62+, $6.50 for students 13-22 w/ID, $6.00 for youth 5-12, under 4 years old is free, and Active Military (individual) w/ID is free. Valley of the Mastodons will run until early 2018.

For more information, please contact:
Brittney Stoneburg
Marketing & Events Specialist
951-791-0033 |


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Interested in volunteering at the Western Science Center? Apply today with our new online application!

From working with fossils in our lab to sharing your knowledge with visitors out on the museum floor, we have opportunities available in almost every part of the museum. Volunteers log thousands of hours a year to help us further our mission to inspire our community to discover the past, explore the present, and promote a sustainable future.

All potential volunteers must complete the museum’s volunteering training program and a reference check.

Our Location
2345 Searl Parkway, Hemet CA, 92543
Phone: 951-791-0033

10 am – 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday

Western Science Center

To inspire our community to discover the past, explore the present, and promote a sustainable future.