Our Field Program

Since 2016, Badlands Dinosaur Museum has established one of the largest summer field research programs in the northern Great Plains. Led by Dr. Denver Fowler and Dr. Elizabeth Freedman Fowler, each year we spend ~2-3 months collecting primarily vertebrate fossils from Mesozoic rocks of the region.

We accept dedicated, hardworking volunteers to join us typically for a minimum of two weeks (negotiable depending on experience & transport). Longer stays are welcome - many volunteers like to stay the whole summer if they have the time. The field program is typically beneficial to college students interested in biological or geological research, although other ages are welcome; indeed, in 2019 and 2020 we were mostly crewed by volunteers older than college-age, including retirees.

Our field program kicks off in early to mid June and runs to end August (or beyond). Usually we start getting applications in January or so. We generally aim to have two crews of 5 operating out of camp at any given time. This can be flexible if we have a few extra people, but it is dependent upon seating space in vehicles. We generally need more people from July-Aug (prefer 10 people) than in June (6-10 people).

2023: We are currently mostly working in the Judith River Formation of Northern Montana. We spend June to mid July at one camp, then move to another for July-August. In 2023 we expect to be digging a multi-taxic bonebed (ceratopsid, pterosaur, lambeosaur, various theropod); finishing a juvenile duckbill site and a tyrannosaur site; the "Bighorn bonebed" (mass death assemblage of hadrosaurs); and probably a Leptoceratops bonebed in the Hell Creek. We will also prospect a little for new sites. Please email for further details.


Work & Camping Conditions

Our campsites vary, but mostly we expect to camp in a field with no provided amenities. We have a small trailer that we use for cooking, but we spend most of our camp time relaxing outside and enjoying the scenery and wildlife. We also have a wall tent for the crew to sit in. We have a generator for occasional high-power needs, and a couple of small solar panels that can recharge cellphones or batteries. Usually we have only a very basic outhouse system, although sometimes we stay in campgrounds with park-style outhouses. We have solar showers and these work really well, so you can take a hot shower every few days if you really need to (once or twice a week is typical; our only real limit is containers of water). Cellphone reception varies by site, but all our current sites can take voice calls with limited data (good data reception can be found quite nearby, or next to the actual digsites).

We provide all of your food except on town days. We typically work a six day week, with a trip into town once a week for supplies and laundry. Occasionally, we might lose a workday to rain, in which case we stay in camp.

The exact schedule of a workday varies, but generally you can expect to wake up at about 7 am, eat breakfast, and head out to the site by 8 am. We generally work in the quarry until maybe 5:30pm or so, then head back to camp and make dinner. In the evenings there is plenty of time for playing games, reading, and just hanging out. If you have a favorite game, bring it along!

How To Apply To Be Field Crew Volunteer

All new fieldwork volunteers are asked to fill out our application form, and provide a reference.

(click here to view the forms as HTML which can be copied and pasted into MS word)

For an MS word format version of the application form, reference form, and to request updated details of our current field schedule, availability, further information and packing list, please send an email to: denver.fowler [at]

For legal reasons, volunteers must be aged 16 or older. Volunteers are expected to carry health insurance which is not provided. Volunteers will however be registered for Workman's Comp. which provides some workplace-related coverage.

Note that this is NOT a summer camp or vacation; applicants are expected to work hard all day in typically hot weather with excavation and camp duties. Furthermore, paleontological fieldwork involves many potentially dangerous activities (hiking in steep terrain, carrying heavy objects, using sharp tools, encountering dangerous animals), although accidents rarely occur. Local medical care is at least an hour’s drive from most sites, with fully-capable hospitals farther away (~4 hours). We need to ensure that all volunteers are responsible, and will not endanger other crew members. Something as simple as forgetting to drink enough water can lead to heatstroke or severe injuries.

Places on our field crews are limited so the application process can be competitive and acceptance is not guaranteed. Acceptance depends on a combination of availability of places, ability of the applicant, length of time spent with us, and coordination of arrival/departure (self-driving volunteers are much easier to coordinate, although airport pickups are arranged if needed). Sadly, there are sometimes negative experiences with inappropriate volunteers, who may have had different expectations of what fieldwork involved, or lacked the life experience to deal with living outdoors with a team in rustic conditions for several weeks. It is disappointing both for the applicant and us if they have to be sent home early, as has happened several times in the past (although not recently) at previous institutions. Please be sure when applying that this is the right program for you.


2022 field report poster

Since 2016, Badlands Dinosaur Museum has established one of the largest summer field research programs in the northern Great Plains. Led by Dr. Denver Fowler and Dr. Elizabeth Freedman Fowler, each year we spend ~2-3 months collecting primarily vertebrate fossils from Mesozoic rocks of the region.

In November or December each year we host our Annual Field Report. From 2020 to 2022 these have been livestreamed and archived on YouTube. Please follow this link to see reports from the past few years.

Please Consider Donating!

Many institutions are downgrading their fieldwork programs, favoring the purchase of commercial specimens, or even limiting or closing their collections.

Badlands Dinosaur Museum is committed to fieldwork; to make the discoveries that are needed to keep science moving forward; to fill our museum with new dinosaurs and other fossils to inspire new generations.

Our experienced field crew has identified many new dinosaur sites. However, the amount of time we can spend collecting new dinosaurs is directly related to how much money we can raise for the field program. Don't believe what you read in the news: dinosaurs do not cost millions of dollars to dig up! Our fieldwork is streamlined, and cost effective. In 2017 we spent less than $3000 on fieldwork, yet made many important discoveries.

Even if you can't offer financial support, we are ever in need of supplies and equipment.