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Get Sedimental With La Brea Tar Pits

Help transcribe 'dig' field notes for fossils excavated since 1969

Sabertooth cat skeleton and notecard with field notes

La Brea Tar Pits offers a window into the world of the late Pleistocene (the last in a series of Ice Ages), a window that inches a little bit wider with each fossil recovered from the tar. Paleontologists have been opening that window for over a hundred years, collecting and cataloguing fossils since 1913. Now our scientists are looking for your help to digitize nearly half a century's worth of typed pages recording fossils and geology samples from the site. 

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Christopher Shaw and R.L. Reynolds excavating Pit 91 in 1969

In collaboration with the University of Michigan and Zooniverse, La Brea Tar Pits invites you to join “Sedimental Values: Digging in to La Brea’s Past”, our community science initiative to digitize 40 years of fossil field data from Pit 91. Named for being the 91st hole dug by early paleontologists, Pit 91 is an active fossil site holding thousands of specimens of extinct plants and animals jumbled together in asphalt. 

With the help of volunteers like you, “Sedimental Values” will capture 40 years of fossil field data from Pit 91 through the transcription of notes from the past. "This project makes a unique dataset available, which will allow collections staff to plan for future curatorial work – and analyze the way that the fossil deposits formed," says Dr. Regan Dunn, Assistant Curator at La Brea Tar Pits.

Field notes
A researcher takes field notes

You'll be helping the curators, researchers, and students to ask new, richer research questions about paleoecology in Southern California. “We can’t wait to share the new knowledge we will uncover and to give more people an opportunity to find out what has been excavated, but left undiscovered in closed boxes for many decades” says Aisling Farrell, Collections Manager at La Brea Tar Pits.

All it takes is a computer and web access, and you can help from anywhere in the world can help with this digitization project hosted on Zooniverse, a free community science platform. Create an account and follow instructions on how to participate in the La Brea Tar Pits project, “Sedimental Values: Digging in to La Brea’s Past” here

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Excavation work at Pit 91 in 1976