The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County announced that La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park has been selected as one of The First 100 IUGS Geological Heritage Sites named by the International Union of Geological Sciences, one of the world’s largest scientific organizations representing over one million geoscientists from more than 120 member countries. IUGS is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a conference in Zumaia, Basque Coast, Spain, at the UNESCO Global Geopark, and this month will make the formal announcement of The First 100 IUGS Geological Heritage Sites. A new designation similar to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, IUGS Geological Heritage Sites are key places with geological elements and/or processes of international scientific relevance and those that represent a substantial contribution to the development of geological sciences through history and understanding of the Earth. La Brea Tar Pits have been identified by IUGS as the richest Pleistocene (“Ice Age”) fossil site on earth, and as the key paleontological site that has shaped the understanding of this time period for both scientists and the public.
“Beloved by Angelenos and known for capturing the imagination and inspiring pop culture from the current “La Brea” T.V. series to the Ice Age animated films, La Brea Tar Pits is a one-of-a-kind site for scientific research into the past with important data for understanding climate change in our own time,” said Dr. Lori BettisonVarga, president and director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, which oversees La Brea Tar Pits as an active field site and museum. “This acknowledgement from the international scientific community is recognition of La Brea’s gifts to science and the hard work of paleontologists, preparators and volunteers during its more than 100 years of research and excavation.”
The significant IUGS designation happens at a noteworthy time. A planned expansion of the Tar Pits’ 13-acre campus has been in the works since 2019, when the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, through a public competition, selected the worldrenowned architecture firm Weiss/ Manfredi to create a master plan to improve research facilities and collections space, expand exhibits and unify the various elements of the site – the Lake Pit, the tar pits, the lawn and the museum at La Brea Tar Pits. The master plan developed with Weiss/Manfredi is a multi-year process of public engagement, master planning, design and future construction at the Tar Pits’ campus, which encompasses its asphalt seeps, surrounding parkland and the George C. Page Museum building.
“The plan to reimagine La Brea Tar Pits aims to demystify the science and seize this opportunity to educate visitors about the impacts of climate change, in the past and now,” Bettison-Varga said. “At the heart of the plan is NHMLAC’s promise that La Brea Tar Pits will remain inclusive and accessible to all – whether it’s a child marveling at just-unearthed fossils at the Tar Pits or a neighbor jogging past the still oozing asphalt.”
The La Brea Tar Pits are located at 5801 Wilshire Blvd. For information, visit tarpits.org.
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