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Self-Taught Geologist Donates 18,000 Fossils to UI

Robert Wolf, a self-taught geologist, has devoted the last 55 years to scouring for fossils across the Midwest. He accumulated 18,000 specimens, which he recently donated to the University of Iowa after years of collecting and cataloging them in a garage. 

Wolf and Paleontology Repository Collections Manager Tiffany Adrain join Talk 0f Iowa host Charity Nebbe to talk about Wolf's vast collection. Wolf, 64, says his passion for rocks was sparked in the fourth grade after discovering his first fossil. He later developed his geological expertise through self-study, going out in the field to search, and his involvement in the Geological Society of Iowa.

Wolf says one of his most memorable moments was discovering fossils from the Cambrian Era in northern Iowa. 

"I'm just fascinated by these things because they're like 490 million years old and they come on the heels of what they call the Cambrian Explosion, which was a big worldwide event where many of the lifeforms we know today first started appearing," Wolf says. "It's just fascinating to read this and see documentaries on it and actually be able to put my hands on that stuff right here in Iowa..."


  • Robert Wolf, self-taught paleontologist
  • Tiffany Adrain, UI adjunct instructor and collections manager for the Paleontology Repository
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa