Mission, History, Team

Education - Inspiration - Research


Pacific GeoLab is an educational and research facility located on the Monterey Peninsula in California.  Our mission is to foster in all people an appreciation for our planet by showcasing Earth’s natural history through the wonders of geology and paleontology.  We are a hands-on educational facility whose staff roams far and wide to study, excavate, and prepare specimens for display and research.  We also document the natural world through art, illustration, writings, and publications.  We are not yet open to the public but plans are in the works for construction.

A Brief History


Pacific GeoLab is an indirect descendent of Potomac Museum Group (PMG), a renowned Minnesota education and research company that thrived for thirty years.  PMG was originally formed by Jon Kramer as a student cooperative group at the University of Maryland in the late 1970’s.  The Group traveled the country excavating fossils and minerals for education and research.   From its meager origins subsisting on the efforts of inspired geology undergraduates, PMG grew to become a respected leader in the museum and education industry.  In 1985 Jon moved the operation to Minnesota and brought in Hal Halvorson as a full partner.  As it turned out, Jon and Hal were a dynamic duo and the business took off.


By the early 1990s PMG operated several major excavations across the country, four retail stores in the Twin Cities, and a vibrant wholesale education materials business. At that time Jon and Hal spent 8 – 9 months in the field each year.  For almost ten years we operated a dinosaur excavation in the high desert of Wyoming, bringing school groups out from the Twin Cities.  We also excavated fossil ferns in Pennsylvania, stromatolites in Minnesota, agatized coral in Georgia, fossil fish in Wyoming, trilobites in Utah, Ice Age mammals in California, and many other fossils at locations around North America.


Eventually, however, the partners got sick of the sales aspect and closed the stores.  They refocused the wholesale business toward educational museum exhibits.  From that point, PMG became a leader in natural history touring exhibits, producing several landmark exhibitions that toured over the next dozen years:


1996 – ELEPHANTS!  50 Million Years of Evolution / 15,000 square feet

1999 – Manatees: The Edge of Extinction / 5,000 square feet

2003 – Dinosaur World Tour / 200,000 square feet

2009 – Dinosuar World / 6,000 square feet


By the late 2000s, rents were going up, museum budgets were shrinking, and competing touring exhibits came onto the market.  It became a struggle to survive.  Rather than wither away slowly, Hal and Jon made the tough decision to close down Potomac Museum Group and go separate ways.


But you can’t take the soul out of the person!  Even with PMG winding down, every year Jon and his wife Julie Martinez would travel the country collecting rocks, minerals, and fossils.  They expanded their scope and began compiling guidebooks for various states that gave folks the lowdown on the greatest natural history sites of the region.  Through an international publisher, they and their friend Vern Morris produced:


2007 – Arizona Journey Guide

2007 – Colorado Journey Guide

2009 – New Mexico Journey Guide

2009 – California Underground

It was fun, but it wasn’t much of a living.  So, Jon and Julie got into the solar business, founding Sundial Solar Consultants in Florida and then moving it to Minnesota, where it became simply Sundial Solar.  The company grew rapidly and evolved into Sundial Energy. After many years with a long and fruitful sojourn in the solar industry, they sold the business and returned once again to their natural history roots.

Pacific GeoLab


Pacific GeoLab is a union of many people with several decades of experience. It’s a collection of ideas and values manifested through the eyes and efforts of Jon and Julie, lifetime companions and co-creators. Jon is a geologist and paleontologist; Julie is a naturalist and natural history artist. Both received undergraduate degrees in the 1980s. Jon started his natural history career at the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History where he interned for two years, learning how to clean and prepare fossils and build museum exhibits. Julie started her career as an illustrator at the University of Minnesota and then transitioned to freelance, working for museums and educational institutions.

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Jon Kramer

Received his Bachelor of Science degree in geology at the University of Maryland and has pursued his passion for geology and paleontology ever since.  His research interests are quite varied and span the entire geologic time scale.  Jon has published on critters as ancient and weird as 2 billion-year-old bacteria and as young as 12,000 year old Ice Age mammoths.  In addition to prowling the globe in search of unusual fossils and minerals, he has worked in several museums around the world including the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Ireland.

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Julie Martinez

Has has been a renowned scientific illustrator for over 40 years. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point with a degree in Fine Arts and Biology. Julie began her career in Scientific Illustration at the University of Minnesota creating graphics and illustrations for the medical field. In the late 1980s she began a freelance career as a Natural Science Illustrator working with studios, museums, universities and publishing companies. Her work has been shown in museums and galleries across the country. She has been a featured artist at shows in The Smithsonian and Kew Gardens, London. Julie has also been an instructor at the Minnesota School of Botanical Art.

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Vernon Morris

Is a Native American (Anishinaabe) artist whose work has been featured in museums and traveling exhibits across North America.  He is equally at home working in pencils and paints as well as sculpting in stone and clay.  Vern has been part of our staff since 1989 and is one of the authors – with Julie and Jon – of the Journey Guide series.  For many years he mined pipestone in a traditional Native quarry in Pipestone, Minnesota and carved the material into elaborate ceremonial pipes.  He has assisted us in digging dinosaurs, fossil fish, trilobites and many other exciting specimens across the country.

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Stephen Gallagher

Stephen has a long standing association with Jon Kramer dating back to the early 80’s Potomac Museum Group (PMG), a renowned Minnesota education and research company that thrived for thirty years.

Aside from being an web developer and media designer, Stephen has a talent for architectural design and 3d illustration. His most notable 3D illustrations were the concepts designed by Ara “Corky” Normart that helped to depict the new decorating scheme for the Great Cupola for Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.