Welcome to the website of the ETSU Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology! The Center is composed of a large group of researchers, staff, students, technicians, and volunteers from around the globe. All Center members are united by shared objectives and a mission.

The Center and its ETSU and General Shale Natural History Museum and Visitors Center at Gray Fossil Site serve as a gateway to the University through recruiting students, educating the public, raising funds, and producing high-quality research. As part of the educational and research enterprise of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center, Museum, and Fossil Site provide accurate and current information about paleontology and natural history research through excavations, discovery, exhibits, and outreach programs. The Center's Museum is the repository for the college's paleontology collections and is responsible for their care and preservation into perpetuity. The collections are used for exhibits, programming and research.

The Center oversees scientific research at the 4.5 - 7 million year old Gray Fossil Site (GFS), an extraordinary fossil locality located in the heart of the Appalachians. While this site serves as the foundation of the Center's research activities, our projects are highly diverse, ranging from Mio-Pliocene floras and faunas of eastern North America and Eurasia to Ice Age faunas of the Appalachians and Mexico, to the paleobiology and evolutionary relationships of Neogene mammals, reptiles, and amphibians worldwide. Center researchers are highly active in reporting scientific results to local, national, and international audiences through public events, scientific meetings, local news outlets, magazines, and leading peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Over the past few years Center members have applied for over $2 million dollars annually for research and education initiatives. Two major projects are currently funded, one that targets GFS plants and paleoclimatic reconstructions (Christopher Liu), and another that focuses on systematic excavations and exploration of the GFS (Steven Wallace and Blaine Schubert). Many smaller grants have also been obtained, including student research grants.

The Center has been instrumental in developing a paleontology program for ETSU students. This includes a number of undergraduate and graduate level classes (in the departments of Geosciences and Biological Sciences), annual field trips, excavation experiences, and research opportunities. Further, the current graduate paleontology program has fifteen students from all over the country, making it one of the largest and most diverse paleontology programs in existence.


Visit our Natural History Museum website

Frequently Asked Questions :

When do excavations take place at the Gray Fossil Site?

Excavations take place from May-August, and sometimes extend into the fall. For more details contact Dr. Steven Wallace, the Site Manager.

Besides the Gray Fossil Site, are there other ETSU excavations?

Yes, excavations also occur in Saltville, Virginia, and last for 2-3 weeks each summer. For details contact Dr. Blaine Schubert.

Are there opportunities to travel and learn about paleontological sites in other countries?

Yes, Dr. Yusheng (Christopher) Liu has a summer paleontology course that travels to China. Follow this link or contact him for more information.

How does someone become a paleontologist?

There is a lot of useful information online about pursuing careers in paleontology. We recommend this site.


Gray Fossil Site exhibit at Museum