Immersive Paleontology Lab Techniques

Immersive Paleontology Lab Techniques


The Basics

This experience is the behind-the-scenes work that takes fossils from the field and turns them into the specimens we see in museums. This 12-day experience housed in Craig, Colorado will walk you through the basics of lab preparation techniques, including everything from data collection to scientific illustration. At the end of the experience, you will have the opportunity to design an exhibit for Colorado Northwestern Field Museum’s dinosaur hall. Housing is provided through partnering hotels. This experience is available for 3-college credits through CNCC.

Two sessions are available with a maximum of 8 students per session allowed. Slots are assigned on a first come, first served basis so get your application in early to guarantee your spot!

               Session 1: Tuesday, July 9th 2024 – Saturday, July 20th, 2024

               Session 2: Thursday, July 25th 2024 – Monday, August 5th, 2024



The Cost

CNCC prides itself on offering unique experiences at low costs to provide accessible, affordable and quality education to all our students. The basic fee of $1,800 accounts for food, lodging, and supplies. Our prices as a non-profit college breaks it down to the slimmest of margins to give you the lowest cost possible for maximum return. Student tuition can be added in addition to the $1,800 base and depends on financial aid and residency factors.

Base Cost: $1,800 (includes lodging at partnering hotel, breakfast and lunch)

Add 3 college credits for additional cost

(estimates are approximate given financial aid and residency factors)

  • In-State = $913
  • In-State W/COF = $565
  • WUE* = $811
  • Out-of-State = $894

The student is responsible for their travel to and from Craig, Colorado. The closest airport is the Hayden International Airport approximately 40 minutes away. The Denver and Grand Junction airports require a 3-4 hour driving time either by rental car or greyhound bus.

The fee can be waived for Moffat County residents who are providing their own housing.


The Lab

Paleontology Lab Techniques operates within Colorado Northwestern Field Museum on the CNCC Craig campus. The federal and state repository status permits the collection and storage of fossils found on public lands. It is the responsibility of the Museum to ensure fossils found and data collected in the field are communicated back into the scientific community and public.

The ‘Prep Lab’ is where you will be spending your time in the basement of CNCC. Here you will be cleaning, piecing, and gluing fossils found in the field to get them ready for display. Depending on the fossil you will be working on, you may be using Air Scribes (little jack hammers), hammer and chisel, small pin vices and other assorted tools to remove the rock (matrix) around fossils. A dust collection system ensures you are breathing clean air during your stay.

CNCC’s Craig campus boasts a modern and new building with classrooms, computer labs, science labs, lounges, study areas, and library. You will have access to the college during summer working hours including access to free Wi-fi. Dinosaur Hall is a dedicated area of the college where the work we do in the prep lab is able to be displayed. You may find yourself designing an exhibit or helping to complete an exhibit during your time with us!



The base fee of $1499 includes housing at a local hotel. To help lower costs, we have placed reservations for a block of hotel rooms adjacent to each other at a lower cost compared to if you were to book your own reservation. All the standard amenities will be included. More information to come on the specific hotel with their amenities. Transportation to and from CNCC is the student’s responsibility, however the hotel is within walking distance (approximately 1.5 miles).



Itineraries are flexible as tasks vary widely depending on the fossil you will be working on or opportunities that arise. The course content during information sessions includes information about history of paleontology, geology and biology of the area, exhibit design and instruction on the use of tools. There will also be hands-on preparation sessions where you work on your dedicated fossil project. The rough outline of a 12-day experience is below.

Day 0 : Check into hotel

Day 1 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Welcome and orientation to the experience
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Tool identification, procedures, fossil and project selection

Day 2 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Introduction to paleontology and identification of fossils
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Begin working on fossil project

Day 3 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Tour of Museum of Northwest Colorado, museum exhibits 101
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Continue fossil prep

Day 4 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Interacting with the public, working on fossils
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Interacting with the public, working on fossils

Day 5  – DAY OFF                    

Day 6 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Continue fossil prep
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Continue fossil prep

Day 7 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Continue fossil prep
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Continue fossil prep

Day 8 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Continue fossil prep
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Continue fossil prep

Day 9 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Continue fossil prep
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Continue fossil prep

Day 10 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Continue fossil prep
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Continue fossil prep

Day 11 

  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Interacting with the public, working on fossils
  • 1:00am – 5:00pm Interacting with the public, working on fossils

Day 12 

  • 7:00am Check out of hotel
  • 8:00am – 12:00pm Clean, Welcome field crew back
  • 12:00 – 1:00pm Celebration BBQ Lunch
  • 1:00am Departure


The Course

This is your opportunity to obtain 3 college credits through CNCC. CNCC prides itself on its outdoor experience and low tuition rates. Obtaining 3 geology credits that you can apply towards your college degree in 12 days is impressive. Keep in mind that this course do go on transcripts and have grading criteria associated with them. Your instructors will be with you to help you day in and day out.

  • Paleontology Lab Techniques (GEY 229) – 3 credits

Provides laboratory experience in paleontology, covering: training in fossil preparation, identification of specimens, documentation (photographic and scientific illustration), cataloging, molding and casting, and specimen curation. If you have additional suggestions on what will be taught, visit

So you want college credit? Follow the steps below:

  1. Fill out your paleo application to reserve your spot on the dig and indicate you wish to register for college credit HERE 
  2. Apply for admission to CNCC HERE 
  3. Complete your admission checklist, including financial aid and residency questions
  4. You will be automatically be registered into the courses after March 13, when summer registration begins.

You can always unregister from courses if you change your mind online or by calling one of CNCC’s dedicated advisors. Visit for more information.


Paleontology Contact Information

Craig Rangely

Email:  Garrett Scofield
Phone: (970) 824-1118

About CNCC

Colorado Northwestern is one college in two Colorado communities. Depending on what you want to study, CNCC has the perfect surroundings and facilities to meet your needs. Founded in 1962 as “Rangely College,” CNCC now serves nearly 1,600 students on two campuses, two service centers and online. Our two campuses are located in Craig and Rangely and are 90 miles apart in the mountains and canyons of Northwestern Colorado.