What Lies Beneath: Exploring the Geology of Western New York

Cover Image:
Map Showing Boundaries of Physical Regions of New York State
Map Showing Boundaries of Physical Regions of New York State - Image Source

The ground beneath our feet in Western New York is ancient, some layers having formed over 440 million years ago. Each layer from the Queenston Formation (440 mya*) in the Niagara Gorge to the Olean Formation (295 mya) along the Southern Tier has recorded the history of changing marine environments, preserved strange creatures, and bears witness to the uplift and formation of mountains and several mass extinctions.

The opportunities for exploration with this core collection are limited only by your imagination. Rocks and minerals are, by their very nature, the foundation upon which humans have lived and worked in this region for over 13,000 years!

Subjects accessible for exploration through this collection include but are not limited to; indigenous use of the naturally occurring rocks in the area (i.e., the use of Onondaga chert in lithic manufacture), what makes WNY geologically significant, time periods including the Ice Age and the formation of Niagara Falls, fossils as representatives of extinct species. This digital collection is also useful to avocational scientists or home schoolers who may find interesting rocks in their own back yards and wonder what they are and how they came to be!

Most of the images in this exhibit come from the Buffalo Science Museum, whose collection of more than 700,000 artifacts and specimens focus heavily on the Greater Niagara Region, documenting a record of life in all its forms in anthropology, botany, geology, and zoology.

*denotes "million years ago."


This project was supported by the Western New York Library Resource Council’s American Rescue Plan Act Grant Funds and is a partnership between the Buffalo Museum of Science and Erie 1 BOCES School Library System. This exhibition was written by Kathryn H. Leacock (Buffalo Museum of Science), with project management and additional contributions from Holly Schreiber (BMS), Alicia Thompson (Erie 1 BOCES), Rebecca Klie (BMS), Kacey Page (BMS), and Kimberly Meehan (BMS). Additional support was provided by WNYLRC Staff Jay Barone, Shayna Diamond, and Heidi Ziemer.


Buffalo Museum of Science. What Lies Beneath: Exploring the Geology of Western New York. New York Heritage Digital Collection, 2022