Alan Grant, a famous paleontologist, is excavating fossilized dinosaur nests at a dig site in Snakewater, Montana. The site was formerly the shoreline of a great inland sea that spanned from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians eighty million years ago. Grant and his paleobotanist colleague, Ellie Sattler, meet with Bob Morris of the Environmental Protection Agency. Morris is investigating some suspicious activities on the part of the Hammond Foundation, an important source of funding for Grant's research.
Recently, the Hammond Foundation has been sponsoring only cold-weather dinosaur digs, has built the largest stockpile of amber in the world, and has leased an island off Costa Rica, Isla Nublar, for use as a biological preserve. Morris also has learned from the Office of Technology Transfer that InGen, Hammond's company on Isla Nublar, has been gathering extremely powerful computer and gene sequencing technology. This suspicious behavior has the EPA concerned that InGen may be engaging in irresponsible genetic engineering activity in Costa Rica, and causes Morris to recall a small rabies outbreak the Biosyn Corporation had caused in Chile several years before. Grant explains that, years ago, InGen had asked him to act as a consultant regarding the eating habits of baby dinosaurs. Morris leaves and Grant and Sattler have a good laugh, not being able to imagine John Hammond, a goofy old man who likes dinosaurs, as some sort of villain.
Alice Levin, the lab technician at Columbia University, faxes Grant an x-ray of the remains of the lizard that bit Tina. Grant and Sattler are stunned to see that it is actually a dinosaur. They think it is likely a Procompsognathus but wonder whether it could be a hoax. They discuss the possibility of an animal from the Triassic period, 220 million years ago, surviving undiscovered. Just then the phone rings and it is Hammond, who tries to convince Grant to visit his biological preserve on Isla Nublar. Grant is reluctant, explaining that he wants to pursue this discovery of a living procompsognathid—which greatly interests Hammond—but gives in when Hammond offers $60,000 each to Grant and Sattler.
In San Francisco, Donald Gennaro, InGen's lawyer, is discussing John Hammond with his boss, Daniel Ross. Between the EPA investigation, workers dying in Costa Rica, and the lizard attacks, InGen's investors are getting nervous. InGen instructs Gennaro to investigate Isla Nublar along with Grant, Sattler, and another consultant, a mathematician named Ian Malcolm. Gennaro calls Grant and requests the location of the procompsognathus remains, supposedly so that he can have it sent to them while they are on the island.
Grant and Sattler receive what appear to be architectural plans for Isla Nublar. The island seems to consist of a resort and a giant zoo, which is fortified in a strangely extensive manner. They return to the dig site, where they are trying to cover up the skeleton of an infant velociraptor before leave for Costa Rica. Though a full-grown velociraptor weighed only two hundred pounds, it was a quick and intelligent predator that hunted in packs and killed its prey with a six- inch-long, single-toed claw.
As Gennaro leaves the InGen office, Ross tells him that if anything is wrong with the island he should "burn it to the ground." Gennaro gets on Hammond's plane and the two exchange pleasantries. Hammond says that his island is nearly ready and that he has fifteen species of animals. Gennaro recalls his early work with Hammond, rounding up investors for InGen. He remembers the nine-inch elephant Hammond used to carry around to fund-raising meetings. It was a mean little elephant, rodent-like in size and demeanor, but it helped them raise $870 million from people hoping to exploit the emerging technology of bioengineering.