Volunteers behind the scenes: Paleontological Training Program

Every kid loves dinosaurs but if you’re still fascinated by fossils, have we got a deal for you!

While the Smithsonian has a wide variety of opportunities to get involved and volunteer, there are some pretty unique programs that aren’t often highlighted. Let’s take a look behind the scenes at one such opportunity with the National Museum of Natural History and the Paleontological Training Program.

Students working with fossils

Paleontology Training Program students engaged in a hands-on fossil identification session. (Photo by Sharon Segal, Natural Museum of Natural History Fossil Lab volunteer.)

If you are interested in a behind-the-scenes experience, to volunteer with the world’s largest collections of fossils, sign up for the Paleontological Training Program (or PTP, for short). This unique training program is designed to give interested staff and members of the public a 10-lecture introduction to geology, evolution, fossils, and the history of life. Sessions include lectures by Museum staff describing current research, new fossil discoveries and behind-the-scenes tours of the Paleobiology collections and exhibits.

Class studying fossils

Dr. Steven Stanley describing a fossil to the class during a Paleontology Training Program lecture. (Photo by Tom Jorstad, PTP Coordinator)

Graduates of this certificate program are strongly encouraged to volunteer for the Department of Paleobiology, and those who do will gain more specialized knowledge relating to research, collections management, specimen conservation or other departmental activities.

If you are interested in this unique training and volunteer opportunity, get more information here!

If you have another opportunity or program that you would like to share with the Smithsonian volunteer community, contact Kris Hamilton at and get a chance to see it in on Volunteer Voices!!

Posted: 26 September 2018
About the Author:

Kristina Hamilton has been with the Office of Visitor Services since 2016, serving as the Volunteer Recruitment and Retention assistant. Cars, football, and Great Danes take up much of Kris’ free time. Avid car enthusiasts, Kris and her husband spend their summers working on their cars or taking them to the track with their ‘road dogs’ Shadow and Brodie.