Introduction Text

The Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology (CoEP) provides an umbrella of excellence in paleontological research, teaching, training, and public education at East Tennessee State University. 

The scope of the Center focuses on the management and care of the Gray Fossil Site & Museum, discovery and preservation of fossils, conducting and promoting paleontological research, and outreach.

The Center oversees scientific research related to the ~5 million year old Gray Fossil Site (GFS), an extraordinary fossil locality located in the heart of the Appalachian Highlands. 

This site is recognized around the globe for its significance in uniquely preserving both fauna and flora from a region and time that is otherwise unknown.  The excellent preservation of the fossils, and extensive fossil-bearing deposits, have marked GFS as one of the most significant paleontological discoveries in North America over the past 100 years. While GFS serves as the foundation of the Center's research activities, our projects are highly diverse, ranging from Mio-Pliocene faunas of North America and Eurasia to Ice Age faunas of the Appalachians and beyond. Center researchers and ETSU students are highly active in reporting scientific results to local, national, and international audiences through public events, scientific meetings, local news outlets, documentaries, magazines, and leading peer-reviewed scientific journals.  


The CoEP serves as a gateway to the region and University through educating the public, recruiting students, and producing high-quality paleontology research.

As part of the educational and research enterprise of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center’s Gray Fossil Site & Museum provides accurate and current information about paleontology and natural history research through excavations, discovery, exhibits, and outreach programs. The Center’s museum is the repository for the college's paleontology and comparative collection, and is responsible for the care and preservation of these growing collections into perpetuity. These collections are used for exhibits, programming, teaching and research. The museum’s collections are currently located in three places, the second-floor collections range at the GFS facility, in the basement of Ross Hall, and at Valleybrook.  Importantly, the museum serves as a primary repository for fossils from across the state of Tennessee.


The Center has been instrumental in developing a paleontology program for ETSU students. 

This includes a broad range of undergraduate and graduate level classes, annual field trips, assistantships, excavation experiences, training in fossil preparation and collections management, research opportunities, travel awards, and academic awards.  It is important to note that this program is the only place students can pursue a career in paleontology and have the benefit of an on-site fossil locality and museum.  Because of these benefits, we have an abundance of degree seeking paleontology students, and these students come from across the country and abroad.