Volunteer program

The Dino Lab has continued to utilize the efforts of volunteers in the preparation of dinosaur fossils collected in Alberta. Each year, hundreds of specimens are collected from various localities within the province. Without the added workforce of volunteers, most of these specimens would go unprepared and inaccessible to scientific study. In order to reach the broadest range of volunteers, we offer daytime and evening opportunities for academics and enthusiasts alike!

How to come prepared

The Dino Lab (Daytime or Evening) is just like other science labs on campus. Accordingly, you must wear close-toed shoes and ankle-length pants or a long skirt that covers your legs. A long-sleeved shirt is recommended. We also recommend wearing clothing you do not particularly care for as you can expect to get quite dusty working with specimens. Food and drinks, other than water in a sealable container, should not be brought into the lab but rather kept somewhere accessible outside the lab workspace.

Normally, you will work exclusively with hand tools and will not need to wear a respirator. Use of pneumatic tools, such as air scribes, are restricted to volunteers with experience or in a supervised setting. Regardless of experience, use of pneumatic tools must be arranged with one of the supervisors prior to beginning preparation. The use of other power tools is restricted to the use of paid staff, and graduate students under Occupational Health and Safety guidelines.


What you should expect:

When coming to the Dino Lab, you can expect to aid in the preparation of some of Alberta’s vertebrate fossil specimens. You will be instructed in current techniques of preparation that range from removing rock from fossil specimens to creating support jackets for their long-term storage. All the tools you will need will be provided and supervisors will be available to offer guidance and answer questions.

Fossil Preparation Guidelines (PDF)

What we expect:

  • Waiver: Upon your first drop-in visit, you will need to complete a Volunteer Waiver Form. A new waiver must be completed each calendar year that you continue to attend the Dino Lab.
  • Attendance: We do not hold our volunteers to a fixed schedule, but we encourage recurring visits so that each fossil specimen can be worked on by a single volunteer from start to finish. Of course, we understand that Dino Lab is not for everyone, and there is no mandatory commitment. In the event that you decide this opportunity is not for you, then please let us know so that we can reassign your specimen to another person.
  • Honesty: Accidents happen and can usually be fixed. If something goes wrong, please tell one of the supervisors immediately so they can help you repair the specimen or clean up the spilled glue. We have all been there.
  • Respect: This applies both to the fossils and other volunteers. Fossils are unique, irreplaceable objects. Please treat them accordingly! The Dino Lab is also intended to be a welcoming environment for any, and all volunteers, so please keep conversation appropriate and be respectful of all others participating. Failure to do so may result in being asked to leave at the discretion of the supervisor(s).

Using Galaxy Digital

Due to current restrictions and limited capacity, volunteers must book a shift in advance to partake in fossil preparation. You can register for the volunteer program on the Galaxy Digital system via the University of Alberta Alumni page. Our Dino Lab page is located here.

Volunteers also use this system to track hours and record progress. Once you have created your account, logging your hours is easy! Additionally, University of Alberta Alumni volunteers may use volunteer hours to apply for “Bookstore Bucks”, accessible through the linked portal.

Volunteer appreciation nights are held occasionally, and are used as an opportunity to award certificates to outstanding volunteers who have completed at least 100 (bronze), 250 (silver), and 500 (gold) hours in the Dino Lab. Depending on availability, attendees are treated to pizza and presentations by lab supervisors.


Sound up! Ahhh, the soothing sounds of scraping rock from a fossilized dinosaur bone (so much more therapeutic than the constant roaring we hear on Jurassic Park, right?). Here, Clive Coy, UAlberta’s chief technician for vertebrate paleontology, works on a new, rare specimen. Thanks to donor generosity, faculty, students and volunteers in the Dino Lab at the University of Alberta prepare and preserve real dinosaur fossils used in the teaching and research of UAlberta’s world-renowned palaeontology program. Posted by UAlberta Alumni on January 21, 2019.


Preparation of an Aspideretoides splendidus known as “Evil Turtle” due to having shattered during removal from the field. Because it was initially worked on only during volunteer hours and later as a side project, it took about four years to complete. In any case, the carapace you see in this video took over 176 hours to complete and plastron and other postcrania seen at the end of the video took many hours as well. Posted by Dino Lab at the University of Alberta on December 18, 2013.