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La Brea Tarpits, photo from website

Plant Stories Trapped in Tar:
Paleobotany at the La Brea Tar Pits


BAGSC members, friends, colleagues and family are invited to join us for
a special BAGSC presentation to explore the ancient ecosystems of the
LA Basin with Jessie George, PhD, postdoctoral researcher at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.

A Los Angeles icon, the La Brea Tar Pits are world-famous for their preservation of Ice-Age mammals—extinct megafauna such as saber-tooth cats, dire wolves, mammoths, and mastodons.

The unique preservation of past life at La Brea includes much more than mammals, however. Entire ecosystems have been preserved—spanning the last ~57,000 years—from the Late Pleistocene through to the Holocene.

Although animal remains at La Brea have been thoroughly researched since 1906, relatively little is known about the ecology and plant life. Jessie has been studying the plant fossils at La Brea Tar Pits for years and is among the first to study the site’s ancient vegetation. Fossil plants preserved at the La Brea Tar Pits include seeds, wood, leaves, needles, cones, pollen and phytoliths.

To give visitors better insight into the vegetation that grew here during the end of the Ice Age, approximately 50,000 years ago, the museum has created a living Pleistocene Garden, consisting of plants based on the fossils recovered from Pit 91. The climate in the Los Angeles basin appears to have been a coastal maritime climate similar to the current Monterey peninsula. Jessie will discuss the plant discoveries in the tar, and how these ancient floras reveal a rich history of climatic and environmental change in Southern California over the last several millennia, leading to the formation of today’s ecosystems.

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Images of tar pit bubble and cone specimen from La Brea Tar Pits website, used per website guidelines.

Information at a Glance



Thursday, July 25, 2024, 7 pm, Pacific Daylight Time


Online, Zoom


FREE to everyone!

This presentation will be recorded and available for unlimited viewing for two (2) weeks following the event for everyone who registers.

Contact BAGSC Meetings Committee by clicking here.

Contact BAGSC Media Committee by clicking here.

Register by clicking the button below:

About our Presenter

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Dr. Jessie George stands between rows of archival drawers in the “primary range,” a catacomb-like area at the La Brea Tar Pits where fossil collections are stored. Photograph © June 12, 2023, by Jesse Rieser


From “A River Runs Through It” by Mary Daily, June 12, 2023

Scientist Jessie George is a postdoctoral researcher at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. She recently received her PhD from the Department of Geography at UCLA and has an MSc in Environmental Archaeology from University College London. Her research interests and work in biogeography, paleobotany, and archaeology are focused on the interactions of plant life, climate, and fauna (including humans) across time. She has conducted field work and research in sites across Western North American and the Eastern Mediterranean.


Her current research includes reconstructing the changing vegetation and patterns of extinction in Los Angeles during the last 55,000 years through the lens of asphalt-preserved plant macro-fossils. Her research is being used to explore the wealth of paleo-data in Los Angeles and how to best use that information in conservation of today’s environment.

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