The Division of Vertebrate Paleontology has at least one fossil collecting session per year that uses volunteer assistance. This will generally be during the drier and cooler times of the year; spring and/or fall. Age limits and physical requirements will vary depending on the conditions at the particular fossil site we are working.
We are currently working on a large-scale, extensive excavation at the Montbrook fossil site. The Hemphillian Montbrook Site is about a 40-minute drive south of Gainesville, near the town of Williston in Levy County.
Montbrook is very productive, and almost all volunteers will find some fossil specimens on their first day. The most commonly found fossils are bones from the shell of freshwater turtles and vertebrae, spines, scales, and skull bones of fish, including gar, catfish, snook, and drum. Fossils of alligator, birds, and mammals are also found, but less frequently. Our most common mammal is the gomphothere, an elephant relative.
The Spring 2018 digging season has ended but check back in mid-late Septemeber for a Fall 2018 season update. If you are interested in volunteering over the summer, please navigate to our volunteering 'In the Collection' webpage.
Want more info about Montbrook? Follow the 'Montbrook Fossil Dig' Museum Voices Blog to join in on the fun! (Photo galleries, videos, updates, featured fossils, etc.)
There is no cost to volunteer. However, if you wish to contribute money to help us maintain our annual volunteer fossil digs and to process and store the collected fossils, you can use this secure link https://www.uff.ufl.edu/OnlineGiving/FundDetail.asp?FundCode=008465. Donations through the UF Foundation are tax deductible.
In-situ, articulated, alligator vertebrae at Montbrook
Fall 2016 Fall Season Summary
Thanks to our unusually dry weather, we only had 3 days rained out, two of those because of Hurricane Matthew early in October. Therefore, we had even more possible days to excavate fossils than anticipated. Collectively 168 different volunteers participated in the dig this season, contributing over 1,800 hours of work at the site and finding many thousands of fossils, including the first skull from a carnivore found at Montbrook. We thank again all those who came out and worked with us, in good weather or bad, to make this dig another great success.
Twenty volunteers worked at the site for 20 or more hours (some much more), and we want to especially acknowledge their efforts. They are William Buhi, Suzanne Conner, Ella Cooney, Jerry Donaldson, David Evans, Alexander Gerasimov, Mackenzie Goode, Kara Ericson, John Helling, Cindy Lockner, Sheila Lucas, Mary Lynch, Amanda Ploener, Peter Roode, Sharon Shears, Karen Stansell, Dean Warner, Lee Williams, Nancy Williams, and Patricia Williams.
The Montbrook crew after moving a heavy plaster jacket containing a gomphothere jaw out of the site (Spring 2017). Photo courtesy of Susan Swartz.
Spring 2017 Season Summary
Top volunteers at Montbrook between 10/1/16 and 5/21/17, each with 50 or more hours volunteered are: Bill Buhi, Ella Cooney, Jerry Donaldson, David Evans, Sherry Harmon, John Helling, Cindy Lockner, Sharon Lord, Mary Lynch, Amanda Ploener, Carol Sewell, Bill Sewell, Sharon Shears, Bob Tarnuzzer, Terry Tydings, Dean Warner, Michele Wilbanks, and Patricia Williams. The honor for most hours worked is shared by Carol and Bill Sewell, both with 293 hours.
Total number of volunteers who worked at the site between 10/1/16 and 5/21/17 is 380, who collectively visited the site a total of 1139 times and worked a total of 5,428 hours.This is 59% of the total hours put into the excavation at Montbrook. The effort by volunteers, FLMNH staff, students, and teachers during the season resulted in a total of 9,221 hours worked.
Fall 2017 Season Summary:
From October 5th to December 18th, Montbrook has seen 177 volunteers digging 5 days per week, for a grand total of 2,170 person-hours in 53 days!
Our top volunteers, putting in over 30 hours and uncovering the most fossils, include William Buhi, David Cox, Joshua Doby, Sherry Harmon, Susan Harris, John Helling, Cindy Lockner, Sharon Lord, Christopher McAleer, Margaret Messineo, Carol Sewell, William Sewell, Sharon Shears, and Michele Wilbanks. Carol Sewell, William Sewell, and Susan Harris volunteered over 100 hours each!
Thank you all so much for your dedication to the fossil site and to the property landowner for allowing us such access!
Some highlights from this season:
The very first day of digging following the summer break, a baby gomphothere skeleton was exposed.Since then it’s been Gomph-A-Palooza.
We celebrated our two-year anniversary, expanded the pit, prepared plaster jackets for the public in the Florida Museum’s 100-Year Anniversary exhibit, cataloged our 10,000th specimen, and hosted a tour of the site for our youngest group yet, the Earth Sciences class of East Marion Elementary.
We plan to dig 84 days for the Spring 2018 season. Imagine the possibilities!
Spring 2018 Season Summary:
208 volunteers, 51 students for course credit, 14 teachers for professional development, and 38 Florida Museum staff devoted a grand total of 4,977 hours to Montbrook this season! The Spring 2018 digging season ran for 90 days, from Friday, January 19th until Sunday, May 13th. Many different groups joined us, including students from St. Olaf College in Minnesota, UF students enrolled in Jonathan Bloch’s Florida Vertebrate Paleontology course and Laura Cotton’s Invertebrate Paleontology course, exhibits staff of the Florida Museum, High school students of the Gainesville Youth Fossil Club, and members of the Florida Paleontological Society.
Check out our Museum Voices blog for Florida Vertebrate Paleontology student content from their experiences digging at Montbrook this season: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/montbrook/blog/spring-2018-fl-vert-paleo-course/
Drawing of our Montbrook gomphotheres by FL Vertebrate Paleontology student, Rachel Keefe
We removed around 90 plaster jackets just this Spring and the close of the season brings us to around 30,000 identifiable fossil specimens total for Montbrook. During the final 7 days of digging this season, Montbrook gifted us with rare and abundant mammal specimens. These include 2 mandibles, 1 skull, and 1 palate of our gomphothere (Rhynchotherium) and 2 rhino (Teleoceras) skeletons, one a juvenile and the other a young adult, both with associated mandibles!
Thanks so much to everyone who has volunteered their time at Montbrook! None of this would’ve happened without your help. A special thanks to those volunteers who helped with the final push to remove those last large specimens and who worked over 30 hours this season. These people include (in alphabetical order): William Buhi, David Cox, Joshua Doby, David Evans, Joseph Fulco, Ben Grubbs, Susan Harris, John Helling, Daniel Ibison, Maya Ibison, James Kendrick, Sharon Lord, Margaret Messineo, Paula Mitchell, Robert Mitchell, Garrett Munger, Steven Munger, Andrew Puckett, Carol Sewell, William Sewell, Sharon, Shears, Emily Sonnenberg, Maryan Stubbs, , Dean Warner, and Judith Wilbanks. Susan Harris wins the award for most volunteer hours at 152.25 this season; this is not including the hours she also spends preparing fossils back at the museum! Thank you Susan! Second place goes to Garrett Munger at 123.25 hours this season, which is also incredible because he is in high school and plans to volunteer in the collection this Summer! Also a huge thank you to all Florida Museum vertebrate paleontology staff and students who make this possible!
Spring 2018 top volunteer, Susan Harris, with the baby rhino skeleton on May 3rd, 2018. Florida Museum photo by Cindy Lockner.
Garrett Munger with a complete alligator humerus on May 12th, 2018. Florida Museum photo by Jonathan Bloch.