Interested in Volunteering in the Paleontology Research Lab?

The PRL is an active lab where both research and preparation takes place.  Specimens are collected from field sites and brought back to the lab for cleaning and conservation.  This process is detailed and time consuming but also exceptionally rewarding.  We are looking for talented and dedicated people with a strong interest in paleontology to join our volunteer team.


Preparators use a variety of tools to clean fossil bone.

Fossil Preparation

Most people have never heard the word “preparation” in relation to fossils.  This is the universal term used in paleontology to describe the process of removing rock (matrix) from the fossilized remains of an animal.  Techniques in fossil preparation vary from basic hand tool use (a pin) to specially designed pneumatic impact tools.  Various kinds of consolidants, glues, etc… have been implemented for this field as well.  Most work is done using a microscope to aid in accuracy.  Magnification of the specimen helps to better define the differences between the rock and the bone, reducing the chances for error.


It takes a lot of our time to train a person to prepare fossils. Before you contact us we ask you to consider how much time you can dedicate to volunteering in the lab. We ask that individuals are able to commit to coming in once a week either in the morning or afternoon.  Time slots are available Monday-Saturday, 9-12am or 1-5pm.

Preparation Skills

Most people do not have any experience with fossil preparation.  As an alternative prerequisite we ask that volunteers have above average fine motor skills, good eyesight and depth perception, and basic anatomical knowledge.  This all translates well to fossil preparation.  You will be trained in the lab by our staff.

An assortment of microfossils including fish vertebrae, turtle shell, eggshell, and teeth.


Like teeth?  We sure do.  Some fossil specimens such as teeth and the bones of very small animals such as frogs, lizards, fish, and even primitive mammals can be very small (sand grain size, pebbles).  These specimens are collected by gathering a large quantity of matrix, screen washing it to uniform size, and then picking out the fossils under a microscope.  This process requires a good eye for distinguishing fine fossil elements from a field of rock grains.  Many new species have been found using this technique.  It also gives a bigger picture of the biodiversity of an ancient ecosystem that we wouldn’t know about if we just collected large fossils.

Contact Us!

If you are interested and want more information contact our chief preparator Aaron Giterman (aaron.giterman@naturalsciences.org).

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Live expeditions from the ZannoLab at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences & NC State University

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