For the more information about the geologic resources of the National Park Service, please visit

Paleontology in the National Parks

Fossil diorama
Fossil diorama at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, an omnivorous entelodont (Daeodon or Dinohyus) stands over a chalicothere (Moropus).

The principal mission of the National Park Service is the preservation, protection, and stewardship of natural and historic resources "in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Fossils and the natural geologic processes which form, preserve, and expose them are included in this mission.

Paleontological resources, or fossils, are any remains of past life preserved in geologic context. There are two main types of fossils: body fossils and trace fossils. Body fossils arethe physical remains of ancient organisms (shells, bones, teeth, plant leaves, etc.) while trace fossils preserve evidence of an organism's activity or behavior (footprints, trackways, burrows, coprolites, etc.). Fossils are non-renewable natural resources that possess great scientific, educational, and interpretive value.

260 National Park Service areas are known to contain fossils either in the rocks of the park, in the park's museum collections, or in cultural contexts (such as petrified wood projectile points). Only 13 of these parks were established specifically to preserve fossils. Fossils from parks collectively span every period of geologic history from stromatolites one billion years old at Glacier National Park to Ice Age fossils in various Alaskan parks. Many of these fossils represent rare, specimens and assemblages which are often nationally or globally significant..

Featured Programs

Fossil Parks

NPS Fossil Sticker

260 National Park Service areas preserve fossils. Learn about the fossil parks and the NPS fossils through geologic time. Learn more...

NPS Paleontology Program

Oregon Caves fossil display

The NPS Paleontology Program's core function is to provide parks the guidance and tools necessary to understand and manage their paleontological resources. Learn more...

Education Resources

Permian Reef sponge activity

Learn about our nation's fossils and fossil parks at home or in the classroom with lessons, activities, and graphics developed by education specialists in the National Park Service. Learn more...

National Fossil Day™

National Fossil Day

National Fossil Day is a celebration organized by the National Park Service and the American Geosciences Institute to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values. Learn more...


NPS Paleo logo

The NPS Paleontology Publications page compiles research volumes, articles, park surveys, thematic surveys, and network surveys relating to NPS paleontological resources. Learn more...

Paleontology Interns

Intern preparing sediment in lab

NPS Paleontology Interns have a unique opportunity to contribute to a variety of important research, resource management, interpretation and education projects. Learn more...


Related Links

Key Contacts

Vincent SantucciVincent Santucci
Senior Geologist / Paleontology Program Coordinator
Geologic Resources Division
1201 Eye Street, NW (Room 1146)
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 513-7186 (NPS office)
(703) 648-6941 (USGS office)
(202) 359-4124 (cell)
Contact - Vincent Santucci

Harold (Hal) PrangerHarold (Hal) Pranger
Geologic Features and Systems Branch Chief
Geologic Resources Division
12795 West Alameda Parkway
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
(303) 969-2018 (office)
Contact - Hal Pranger

Geologic Resources Division Mailing Address
National Park Service
Geologic Resources Division
P.O. Box 25287
Denver, Colorado 80225-0287


Last Updated: March 11, 2014