The Research and Collections Department at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has a strong commitment to mentoring the next generation of scientists, through grants, internships, programming, and other opportunities. 



The Natural History Museum's research and collections divisions have exciting behind-the-scenes opportunities for conscientious volunteers with special skills and aptitudes. These volunteers are key components to the Museum's future and provide invaluable support to staff and researchers.

Get started by preparing fossils, cataloguing herpetology specimens, studying gems and minerals, or assisting researchers in an assortment of other fields. 

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Student Collections Study Award



The NHMLA  Collections Study Awards were instituted to provide funding for undergraduate and graduate students to visit and study the collections of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum, and the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum (The Natural History Family of Museums). Collections visits must be arranged through the appropriate department's collections manager.



There are two award deadlines each year: April 1st and October 1st. Applications should be submitted via email to Tyler Hayden (thayden@nhm.org). Prospective applicants should contact the relevant curator and collections manager of the collections they wish to visit before assembling proposal materials.



The NHMLA Student Collections Study Award is open to all undergraduate and graduate students that are currently enrolled in an accredited degree-granting program. International undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to apply, but should contact museum curators if assistance is required to obtain a letter of invitation that could be used in a visa application.


Researchers that are within daily commuting distance of the Natural History Family of Museums are not eligible for this award.


Researchers that have had proposals not funded are encouraged to resubmit, but an individual cannot receive more than one award within a three-year timeframe.



Applicants are required to contact the relevant curator and collections manager of the collections they wish to visit prior to submission of their applications to confirm availability of collections and logistics regarding the use of museum facilities.


Applications should include information on the following:

  1. The objectives and significance of the proposed research

  2. The relevance of NHMLA collections to the project

  3. Any collaboration with NHMLA curators (if applicable)

  4. The methods used in the research.


Both the quality of the proposed research as well as the project's feasibility will be evaluated. In addition, preference will be given to proposals that do the following: 

  1. Demonstrate a critical role of NHMLA collections in the proposed research.

  2. Enhance the NHMLA collections (e.g., identifications, curation, transcription, annotation of records, generation of new data, etc.).


Any proposed research that involves digitization, molding & casting, and/or destructive sampling of NHMLA specimens, must meet the appropriate department's collections use criteria, and also be approved ahead of time by the appropriate curator and collections manager.


Awards are made in either partial or full support of travel, lodging, and incidental costs while visiting the NHMLA collections. Individual award amounts can vary, but typically range from $500–$1000, with a maximum of $1500. Reimbursement for housing is limited to a maximum $200 per day.


Awards are made in the form of a check issued by the NHMLA to the awardee. Awardees are required to complete and submit a W-9 form prior to the distribution of funds. Award funds can only be used for the awardee's qualified travel, lodging, and incidental expenses. For awards greater than $600, the NHMLA is required to report these amounts to the IRS, and recipients are responsible for paying income taxes.


As part of the visit, awardees will be expected to give a brief, "brown-bag" style presentation/discussion for the relevant collections department related to their research. In addition, as part of the submission of reimbursement expenses, awardees are also required to submit a short 1-page report describing their collections visit and research activities at the museum. This information will be kept on file, and used in museum-related outreach, e.g., the NHMLA R&C Newsletter. Any publications, conference abstracts, or similar products that utilize NHMLA collections as part of this award should acknowledge both the "NHMLA Student Collections Study Award" funding and the relevant departmental collections and staff. Copies of publications/abstracts should be submitted to Tyler Hayden (thayden@nhm.org) and the appropriate curator and collections manager.



Proposals will be reviewed by a committee composed of Natural History Family of Museums curators and collections managers. Notification of award status can be expected approximately 1 month after each submission deadline.

View full application.



Invertebrate Paleontology Collections Study Grant

The Collection Study Grant provides financial assistance for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers to study the scientific collections in the Invertebrate Paleontology Department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA). These collections are among the largest in North America, and encompass more than 7 million specimens with strengths in the Cambrian, Cretaceous, the Cenozoic of the Eastern Pacific, particularly California, Nevada, and Baja California, and mollusc, echinoderm, and crustacean fossils.
The amount of the award will be up to $1000, and will support travel and accommodation costs incurred by students while visiting the Museum. Collection visits of three days or longer are encouraged, and the grant is open to candidates outside of the United States; funding will be not be available to researchers within daily commuting distance of the NHMLA. The award committee will consist of NHMLA-affiliated paleontologists and will be judged on the merit, feasibility, and communication of the proposed research, and strength of recommendation letter by faculty advisor.
Proposals are due April 1st, with notification of successful candidates by April 15th. Funds are available for use until April 1st the next year.
Proposals are to be sent electronically to:
Austin Hendy at ahendy@nhm.org
Subject line: NHMLA IP Collections Study Grant
The application is intended to be short (limited to two pages). The application must include: title of research project; name, address, and phone number of applicant; current college status (where enrolled, major, degree program, anticipated graduation date).
Proposals must also include a description of the planned research (approx. one-page), expected deliverables and their timeline (e.g., publications), likely outreach opportunities (e.g., public presentations), anticipated visit dates (and length), and a budget justification. Proposals should demonstrate the critical role of NHMLA’s collection and how a collections visit might enhance identification, curation, digitization, or generation of new data. Please attach proposal in PDF format. We also require a letter of support from a faculty advisor.

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Proyecto Dinosaurios



Expose minority (primarily Hispanic) American students to the scientific activities of graduate students, professional paleontologists, and supporting staff, both in the field and in the lab.  Help students recognize career and schooling options within the geosciences.  Encourage students to transfer to a 4-year college and continue on to graduate studies.  Create awareness and familiarity of the process of scientific endeavor — increase understanding about the nature of science.<


Recruiting undergraduates for a summer of all aspects of paleontological research – field work, lab preparation, and curation.
Augment student experience with a series of workshops relating to fossil preparation, curation, illustration, and graduate studies.
Expose students to the diversity of geologic sites of the American West. 


“Proyecto Dinosaurios” creates awareness about the professional possibilities within the geosciences and encourages students to pursue majors and graduate programs in paleontology or other disciplines within the earth sciences. Over all, “Proyecto Dinosaurios” provides a summer of hands-on experience in most aspects of the paleontological endeavor.


“Proyecto Dinosaurios” also includes a component of fieldwork. This is designed to give participants the opportunity to experience and learn how paleontology is done in the field using appropriate tools and methodology. This includes understanding the local geology, prospecting, GPS data collection and safe recovery of fossils. An important objective is to have the participants work side by side with professional paleontologists and see how fieldwork is done. All the fossil sites will emphasize vertebrate localities from the Triassic through to the Pleistocene. An additional objective is to experience the joy of discovery. The instructors and assistants will coach the participants on what to look for and the best method for discovery, documentation and collection of fossils.

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