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How to Become an Archeologist

"20091105 Belfort (0013)" by Donar Reiskoffer - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“20091105 Belfort (0013)” by Donar Reiskoffer – via Wikimedia Commons

Even before the Indiana Jones movies came out, archeology had broad popular appeal. The tools of the trade seemed simple, and the possibilities it held out (Maybe I’ll find a fortune in treasure! Maybe I will make a famous discovery!) were seductive. Add to the mix the allure of exotic destinations, and you have a hard-to-resist package. I am sure that archeology departments worldwide were inundated with calls from Jones wannabes after that first movie hit the silver screen.

Of course, in this now Internet-connected day and age, we (should) know that the reality is a lot different. Genuine archeology involves a lot of slow, painstaking work, and it is far more likely to yield potsherds than it is gold and gems. That said, archeology remains fascinating because it involves the discovery and telling of our favourite story: our own.

So, if you’ve always been interested in archeology, there are several ways you can get involved, even if you haven’t yet been formally trained.

Learn about archeology

A site called Archeology Expert is a great place to start. A good, concise, all-around resource on the field, it explains the history and types of archeology, and has a section on theory and terminology. There is even has a section on how to get into archeology as a hobby.

Meanwhile, Coursera is offering a MOOC on archeology called Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets, which talks about the field, what’s involved, and dispels some myths. And this portal lists a number of other free archeology courses, some broad, some very specific.

If you really want to get serious about your archeology education, there are a number of accredited distance learning options available. The Council for British Archeology lists several options here.

Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few popular magazines solely devoted to archeology. There’s Archeology Magazine, World Archeology, Popular Archeology, British Archeology, and even one for kids called Dig Magazine.

In the US, there’s an organization called the American Society for Amateur Archeologists, which offers a journal in which you could be published, occasional expeditions for fieldwork, and several books of interest laymen scholars. You can even get amateur certification via a National Park Service program.

Go on an archeology dig

Once you’ve worked your way through the material above, it might be time to participate in real expeditions as a volunteer.  For example, the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin (AFOB)  is one of the largest fieldwork resources in the world, and has hundreds of listings for archaeological projects.

Of course, amateur archeology is not for the faint of heart or the arachnophobe, as digging often means disturbing large and possibly venomous creatures, as this post suggests. If you would prefer to contribute to the field without getting bitten or dirty, you might consider some of the history related Zooniverse projects like Ancient Lives.



Citizen Science Funding

citizen_science_fundingFunding agencies are slowly catching up with the citizen science movement. In today’s post, I round up some sources for citizen science grants and other funding sites to help you or your organization get a project off the ground. If you have additional US grant sources, or grants available in other regions around the world, please contact me and I’ll add them here!

Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grants

Community Development Block Grant Program – CDBG

Community Funded

The Conservation Fund

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation

The Environmental Protection Agency

The Heinz Endowments


The Knight Foundation

The Kresge Foundation

The National Science Foundation

Rocket Hub

The Sloan Foundation

The Takagi Fund for Citizen Science

The Verizon Foundation

August is For the Birds

for_the_birdsBirdwatchers are kind of the original citizen scientists, at least as far as the Audubon Society is concerned: the Annual Christmas Bird Count, a grassroots effort to monitor bird populations, has been going on since the early 1900s. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to note that there are several citizen science initiatives that focus on birds. This week, I round up several taking place across the US this month. Grab your binoculars!

Vaux’s Happening
Named after Sir William Vaux, this bird is a member of the swift species, and is primarily found in Washington State. The Vaux’s Happening is an Audubon citizen science project that tries to locate and document the chimneys that are used as communal roosts by the bird during migration.

Urban Ecology Center/Milwaukee Biome Project
The Urban Ecology Center’s field sites are stopover locations for migrating birds. Organizers need your help to document what birds are coming and what time, and need help with banding the wee, feathered visitors.

Nesting Bald Eagles
Eagles nest at this time of year, rather than in the spring. Researchers want to know the locations and numbers of adult and immature Bald Eagles, behavior, and learn more about their nesting activity.

Wild Turkey Survey
Sorry, this is the bird, not the drink. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wants to know the sex and age composition of flocks of Wild Turkeys observed in New York.

Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and Project Safe Flight,,
Put your first aid skills to use by helping birds injured after striking buildings in Chicago or New York. Recover dead birds for study and counting as well.

Shorebird Monitoring
The La Purisma Audubon Society wants you to help survey shorebirds along the Lower Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara County, California.


Photo By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia (Bird Spotting Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons