Fossil Collecting Code of Conduct

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Statement of Purpose

This document is being created as a guideline for all field collections involving paleontology as a list of do’s and don'ts when you are on someone else's land.


Jacob Bridy


While cultivating a friendly working relationship with a landowner is an important skill, this document describes the ways in which you should behave when you are on their land. This code of conduct will encourage to both be respectful of the land and give guidelines on how to ethically engage in paleontological excavations. Remember, you are working on this land because of someone’s generosity and trust. [Note: This document does not cover legal concerns associated with fossil collecting. Know and obey your state and federal permitting laws and see Permitting for more information.]

Code of Conduct for Paleontological Collectors

  • Permits and agreements are all signed before any work begins, and should be kept on site at all times and outline all planned work.
  • Be open and honest about what your plans are with the landowner/lessee and explain your purpose.
  • Be polite and friendly during all discussions with the landowner/lessee, and make sure all agreements are in writing; an email chain is not enough, formal agreements are preferred. See Permitting for an example of a Landowner's Permission to Collect letter.
  • Carefully listen to and address any and all of the landowner/lessee’s concerns as best you can.
  • Photograph the location before any excavation begins so it can be referenced later for restoration.
  • Pack up as much equipment as possible at end of the day, leave minimal presence when not on site.
  • Do not leave expensive equipment on site unless properly secured.
  • Tell the landowner/lessee about all objects that need to remain on site (such as datum stakes or excavation grids), and politely ask them not to touch them.
  • Remember you are responsible for their actions, so brief all field workers of landowner/lessee wishes and expectations.
  • Notify the landowner/lessee of all work that may disturb or interfere with them and explain the need for the work.
  • Do not go beyond where you have been given permission to work, and go back to the landowner/lessee if exploration yields new discoveries to gain permission to work there.
  • Do not litter.
  • Be efficient as possible, do not overstay your welcome.
  • Know when to stop ⎯ if you haven’t found anything within one meter of your last significant find, move on.
  • Do not estimate monetary value of found objects or equipment under any circumstances.
  • When closing down the site, consult initial pictures and return the site to as similar a state as possible, replacing dirt.

Additional Resources