At the Gray Fossil Site & Museum, volunteers are our Most Valuable People! By joining our team, you become part of a group of dedicated individuals who can be found in nearly every area of the museum. Together with staff and students, volunteers are crucial to our field work, laboratory processing, fossil preparation, and collections management.

We are now accepting volunteers for the 2023 field season!

Who can volunteer? Volunteers must be 16 years old or older and must have their own vehicle. No prior experience is necessary.

To become a volunteerdownload a volunteer application (click here) or pick one up at the museum. Send your completed application as an attached file on an email to Shawn Haugrud at

What do volunteers do?

In the Preparation Lab, volunteers participate in picking through sediment to find microfossils, and cleaning and reassembling larger fossils. These tasks take patience and a keen eye. New volunteers are trained thoroughly in basic techniques before advancing to more complex tasks.

Out on the Fossil Site, volunteers assist in wet-screening of sediments and fossil excavation. These volunteers are often the first to see new and exciting findings before they even go into the lab!

In Collections, volunteers assist staff and students in cataloging and organizing the fossils and data in our collection. Volunteer opportunities in collections are very limited.

Frequently Asked Questions:

You don't need to have any prior experience, just a willingness to learn. Extensive training is provided.

Volunteers usually start with lab work or sediment screening, but digging opportunities are sometimes available for more experienced volunteers.

No. While many of our laboratory volunteers only come in one or two days a week, a minimum commitment of one-hundred (100) hours is required to volunteer in the lab. Laboratory training is extensive and it takes time to learn the skills you'll need to help us find microfossils and properly care for fossils brought in from the field. We need laboratory volunteers who are willing to invest time in gaining and practicing these skills.

New volunteers are trained on-site in the Preparation Laboratory. If you are also learning how to wet screen, this training will take place in the back of the fossil site which is just a short walk from the museum.

Lab volunteers must be age 16 or older. Our volunteers range from high school students to retired engineers and professors and from artists to medical doctors. Without this dedicated group we would not be able to retain our high level of productivity. You will need to fill out a volunteer application, provide references, and go through a training session to become a volunteer.

Sometimes you will work on your own project, but on other occasions you may work with a group of volunteers on a complex project. You'll be able to learn from the other volunteers by working with them as well.

You can volunteer in the lab Tuesday-Saturday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The lab may occasionally be closed in the event that preparation lab staff are needed elsewhere in the museum or are out of town. Lab volunteers will be notified any time the lab must be closed during normal volunteer hours.

Shawn Haugrud is the Lab and Field Manager and head preparator. Shawn oversees all of the staff and volunteers who participate in excavations, screenwashing, and fossil preparation work.

Not right away! Before you work on research-sensitive or rare fossils, you will be asked to learn how to pick through microfossils, clean fossils, and reassemble small projects. Unless you have previous, extensive experience with fossil preparation techniques in a laboratory setting, you won't be able to jump right into a big project.