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Advice for fossil hunters

Marianna Terezow from GNS Science, makes a rubber mould of a dinosaur footprint in Golden Bay

Marianna Terezow from GNS Science, makes a rubber mould of a dinosaur footprint in Golden Bay

Take with you:

  • Suitable outdoor clothing and footwear, e.g. wet-weather jacket, hat, sunnies and suncream.
  • Map, compass (or GPS), notebook and pencil, for recording locations of your finds
  • Newspaper, plastic bags and labels will allow you to pack your fossil finds and record your collecting locations
  • A camera. Include an object such as a coin, lens cap or hammer to show the scale in your photos
  • If you take a hammer and chisel, or a proper geologist’s hammer, also take protective glasses.

Safety first!

  • Even the best fossil discoveries are not worth the risk to personal safety! Use common sense to avoid accidents.
  • Will someone know where you are going, or how long you will be there?
  • Unstable cliffs and steep ground: Be aware of others around or below you. The rock may give way, especially after rainfall.
  • Beware of tides and river crossings – water level can change quickly, sometimes resulting in flash floods. Also, check the weather forecast before going and be aware of changeable weather conditions.

Take it or leave it?

  • The general rule of fossil collecting is don’t take it; but if you must take a fossil with you, try collecting from loose boulders where possible. It might be best to leave fragile fossils behind, if removing them might damage them. Take a photo instead.
  • Keep fossil collecting to a minimum – leave something for others to find.
  • Before removing any fossils from a site, always check that you have permission from the landowner to do so. Some fossil sites fall on protected land, such as reserves. Collecting form these areas is forbidden, but this should not deter you from enjoying these places and taking many photographs of the treasures you come across.
New Mangahouanga Stream find - important or not?

New Mangahouanga Stream find - important or not?

A significant find?

  • Many fossils of scientific importance have been discovered by amateurs.
  • If you think you have found a potentially significant specimen, such as a fossil bone, tooth or other well preserved plant or animal material, contact GNS Science, your local university geology department, or museum to have an expert check it out.
  • You will particularly impress the scientists if you have written down the exact location of your find! Sending an email with a photo of your specimen is a good way to make initial contact.