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

Who Can Volunteer? Volunteer opportunities are available for people with a wide variety of experience or no experience at all. Volunteers can be 16 or older. Volunteers must have their own vehicle. 

New volunteers are only accepted prior to orientation dates scheduled in the Spring and Fall. Please contact us to ask about upcoming orientation dates.

To become a volunteerdownload a volunteer application online or pick one up at the museum. For more information please contact Shawn Haugrud at

Preparation Lab

Volunteers in the lab pick through fossil sediment to find microfossils, clean fossils, and reassemble them. These tasks take patience and a keen eye. New volunteers are trained thoroughly in basic techniques before advancing to more complex tasks. Volunteer opportunities in the lab are offered Tuesday through Saturday.

Field Work and Excavations

Volunteers in the field assist with excavation of fossil material and wet-screening of site sediments. These volunteers are often the first to see new and exciting findings, such as rare or undocumented extinct species, before they even go into the lab!

Volunteers interested in assisting with fossil excavations and field-work are first trained in our preparation laboratory. If you would like to become a field volunteer, please begin by applying to volunteer in the lab.

Paleontology Collections

Volunteers in the Gray Fossil Site & Museum paleontology collections assist staff and students in cataloguing and re-housing fossils in our collection. 

Some FAQs:

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

Absolutely! But you'll need to hone your skills by working in the lab first.

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 15 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.

Join the Gray Fossil Site Volunteers!

Contact Shawn Haugrud at for more information.