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"I think I found a fossil!"

Awesome! If you are reaching out because you think you may have found an interesting fossil, that is great. I really love to hear from people about their cool fossil discoveries. Before reaching out though, give this article a read. It may help you figure out exactly what you have before you reach out to anyone. 

Rock Face

What should I do if I find a fossil?

  • If they are vertebrate fossils, such as dinosaurs, please leave them in place. Handling them can lead to irreparable damage.

  • Document the fossils with photos and a GPS reading, if possible, so that they can be found by land managers and scientists, or so you can help us back to the discovery.

  • Take notes about the area—what the rocks look like, any distinguishing landmarks, proximity to roads, and other useful information. Keeping field notes is really important! 

  • Contact the appropriate land management agency (in the US - BLM, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, state land agency, etc., especially if you live in the western US), local museum, or Geology Department at your local college or university.

  • Do not make replicas, molds, or casts in the field. These activities can damage the fossils and may require a permit.

  • Taking photos can help protect your find! Using a technique called photogrammetry, which involves taking over lapping photos, allows one to later make a 3D model of the discovery, and can be very helpful to researchers who may want to work on the find. Learn how here.

  • If you are unsure whether a fossil is from a dinosaur, a good rule of thumb is to not remove or disturb it without seeking advice from a professional or knowledgeable individual. This ensures these resources are managed for the benefit of future scientific work and for the enjoyment of all peoples. Unauthorized fossil collection from public lands in the United States is a violation of federal law. You are responsible to know what and where it is legal to collect fossils, and to know these rules and regulations before collecting fossils.

  • Reach out to other fossil enthusiast in your area. Check out the myFOSSIL page for a list of groups that may be near you, and for other fossil identification opportunities. 

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