Over the years there have been many associates of PRI and The Museum of the Earth who have worked on collecting and researching fossil corals. Below is a list of a few notable people and a brief summary of their work.

John Wells

John Wells was a very well respected authority on corals in the Paleontology community. While attending Pittsburgh University he met a geology professor named Henry Leighton. Leighton was a Cornell University graduate and sensing Wells’ interest in geology, suggested that Wells also take classes in biology. Wells took these classes at Cornell (which was a short distance from his home in Homer, NY) and here met and worked for PRI founder Gilbert Harris. This began his long relationship with PRI and the larger Paleontology community.

He wrote over 175 scientific papers on corals with over half of them regarding his greatest interest — Scleractinian corals. Many of these papers were published in PRI’s journals published by Gilbert Harris. Wells worked mainly on Mesozoic to modern coral but did do some research on the Devonian corals located in New York State. It was work on Devonian corals that led him to hypothesize that the earth was turning around 400 times a year during the Devonian as opposed to the modern 365. This was a revolutionary idea that was shown by counting the daily growth rings with simple instruments and measurements. This find lead to the conclusion that the Earth’s rotation has been gradually slowing over time which is an important idea when understanding our planet’s history.

Wells donated his personal scientific library collection to PRI shortly before his death in 1994. The collection was estimated to be the largest private collection about fossil and modern corals in the world. These books are now housed in the John Wells Rare Book Room that was built in 1996. Wells was a board member at PRI from 1959-1963 and 1980-1981. He also served as President of PRI from 1961-1963.

James (Jim) Sorauf

James Sorauf focused on fossil corals mainly from the Devonian period. During his studies, he collected corals in North America and Europe. Much of his vast collections are housed in the PRI Systematic Collections.

Sorauf was a professor of Geology at Binghamton University from 1962 until his retirement in 1997. Sorauf is still active in research. He has begun to study more modern corals. One of his main projects right now is studying the minute details of coral skeletons using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Additionally, he is working with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in St. Petersburg, Florida to research the reefs along the Florida Keys.

Sorauf has written numerous scientific papers on his collections and research several of which were published in Bulletins of American Paleontology, one of PRI’s publications. Sorauf was President of PRI from 1988-1990 and a member of the Board of Trustees in 1983-1997. He remains an Emeritus Trustee to this day.

Bill Klose

While attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Klose collected Middle Devonian reef corals just outside of Albany, NY in the Thompsons Lake bioherm. The specimens that were collected from the Onondaga Limestone are now housed in the Paleontological Research Institute’s Systematic Collection.

Later, while still in school and also serving in the United States Navy, Klose collected Ice Age corals in Southern Florida, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. Material collected from Florida was featured in Bulletins of American Paleontology. This material also helped increase the number of recognized species of corals and hydrozoans in the Miami and Key Largo Limestone to 28. The corals that Bill collected in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were from the Jaimanitas Formation. Some of the collected corals were documented in a paper published by the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Many of the best specimens collected during this time are housed in the PRI Systematic Collection and Type & Figured Collection. Bill still volunteers at PRI, helping in the Collections.