Volunteering in the Field 2018

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.

For the Spring 2018 season, we will begin digging with volunteers on Friday, January 19th. The dig will continue every Wednesday through Sunday until May 13th, 2018. The digging calendar with booked dates listed will be linked here once the updated version is available. 

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 per week.  There is no limit to the number of times a volunteer can work at the site.

To volunteer, download the application form, with digging dates listed, by following this link: Montbrookdigapplication2018.pdf [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 the volunteer coordinator, Rachel Narducci (rnarducci@flmnh.ufl.edu).

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. 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.

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!