Finding Fossils and Digging Dinosaurs

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Where to Look

Rocks are all around you. Keep your eyes open for specimens wherever you go. Trips are a great opportunity for finding something that may not be found in your neighbourhood. Fossils can be found where sedimentary rock (clay, shale, sandstone, and limestone, for example) has been exposed. Quarries and places where rock has been cut to put in roads are good places to look. Also look by rivers and sea cliffs.

Be careful when looking for specimens, especially when you're near water or a rock overhang where rocks could fall on your head! Don't forget to wear jeans, a helmet and good sturdy running shoes to protect yourself.

Other collectors can help you find the best places in your area, so contact your local natural history society or rock club. You will also need to get permission to collect rocks or fossils from the landowner.

What to Bring

  • Notebook and pencil or waterproof pen to record your findings
  • Heavy gloves (gardening gloves are good)
  • Camera to take a picture of the site
  • Trowel (a garden trowel is fine)
  • Magnifying glass to examine details closely
  • Plastic bags for specimens
  • Knapsack to carry home specimens

What to Do with Your Specimens

Photograph of a geological specimen tray from the Natural Resources Canada collection

Geological specimen tray from the Natural Resources Canada collection

  1. Once home, clean your specimens with water and a soft brush.
  2. Examine your specimens closely under a good light. You can visit a bookstore or your school or public library to find books (identification guides) that will help you identify your specimens.
  3. Identify and label your specimens with the following information:
    • where and when you found it
    • its name (for fossils, list the type of rock formation you found it in and its geological age).
  4. Store your labelled specimens in individual boxes or in trays. (You can either label your specimen with a sticky label, or use a slip of paper that you keep with the specimen.)