Volunteering in the Field 2017

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, either spring 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.

For the Fall 2017 season, we will begin digging with volunteers on Thursday, October 5th. We will dig 5 days per week, Thursdays thru Mondays. We will not dig on Thanksgiving (Thursday, Nov. 23). Our last day of the season is scheduled for Monday, December 18th. Check back in December for the Spring 2018 digging schedule.

Volunteers from 15 to 17 years of age will be accepted but must be accompanied by an adult sibling (18+ years old), or a parent or guardian. Otherwise, volunteers must be at least 18 years old. Volunteers must be physically fit enough to work outdoors for several hours and be able to walk up and down irregular slopes. Volunteers can work just a single day, a few days, or a regular schedule one or more times a week.  There is no limit to the number of times a volunteer can work at the site.

To volunteer for the Montbrook Fossil Dig, download an application form with more information (including which days we are digging at the site) by following this link: Fall 2017 Application [PDF]. Send in the filled-out form using the directions on the back or second page of the form. If you have any questions about volunteering at the site, please email Rachel Narducci,.

Follow the 'Montbrook Fossil Dig' Museum Voices Blog to join in on all of the fun! (Photo galleries, videos, updates, featured fossils, etc.

There is no cost to volunteer. But 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

 Summary of the 2016 Fall Season at the Montbrook Site

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.

18422188_10210161276812038_6475644285967172276_o.jpgThe Montbrook crew after moving a heavy plaster jacket containing a gomphothere jaw out of the site (Spring 2017). Photo courtesy of Susan Swartz.

Summary of the 2017 Spring Season at the Montbrook Site

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.

Thanks again to everyone! Now it’s time to buckle down on the screenwashing, preparation, and curation of all of this seasons finds!

Check back in September for the updated volunteer application and digging schedule if you want to get involved with the excavation!