Dig With The Experts

Join us for our signature fossil dig — Dig with the Experts! This is our very popular, once yearly opportunity to unearth the best, most complete, and most unexpected fossils at Penn Dixie. We’ll have equipment do the heavy lifting and scientific experts on site to help with locating and identifying the best fossils. You’ll have to do your share of splitting and digging, of course, but you’re guaranteed to find something cool and interesting.

Tickets – Select date to purchase
Saturday August 29: Members $35, non-members $40
Sunday August 30: Members $20, non-members $25, under 18 $15
Weekend Pass: Members $45, non-members $55 – SAVE $10

Expert volunteers — including scientists, leading fossil collectors, and experts on local geology — will lead the dig in a freshly excavated section of the Lower Windom Shale and will demonstrate how to find Devonian Period trilobites, cephalopods, fish remains, brachiopods, corals, wood, and a range of other marine invertebrates. Thanks to our experts — all volunteer collectors and paleontologists who travel to Penn Dixie to share their time and knowledge — we are celebrating our 16th dig in 2020! Saturday participants will receive a special commemorative gift.

Dig Times
Saturday August 29 – 8:00 am to 3:00 pm
Sunday August 30 – 8:00 am to 3:00 pm

Want to stick around a few more days? Dig With The Experts guests are welcome to continue collecting fossils at Penn Dixie for no additional charge during the week of August 31 to September 4. Just show your wrist band at the entrance and you’ll be all set.

But, wait — there’s more! Superstar paleontologist ‘Paleo’ Joe Kchodl and Executive Director Dr. Phil Stokes will join us for special science talks the evening before the dig in the Gateway Building Auditorium, 3556 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell, NY.

On Friday August 28, Dr. Stokes will present his overview of Penn Dixie’s rocks and fossils, titled Britain to Buffalo: The Fossil Connection, at 6:30 pm. Keynote speaker PaleoJoe will present Devonian: The Age of Fish at 7:00 pm. PaleoJoe will also display some of his fossils and will host a book signing following his talk.

These family-friendly presentations are FREE for Penn Dixie members AND registered dig guests, or $4 for the public. Refreshments included. No reservations needed. Talks begin at 6:30 pm.

Director’s Notes: This program will sell out — please reserve in advance to guarantee a spot. By popular demand, we offer Child (under age 18) tickets for Sunday’s dig at $15 each. Children must be accompanied at all times. We do not recommend that children under age 7 attend this program due to the technical and safety requirements of splitting rocks. Children are welcome to attend on Saturday at the regular rate. During Dig With The Experts, other areas of Penn Dixie will be open to fossil collectors of all ages and regular tours will be available. Tickets are electronic and will not be mailed.

International Guests: If the Square Store cannot process your transaction, please email Dr. Phil Stokes at phil@penndixie.org with your name, order info (i.e., dates, numbers and types of tickets), and membership status. We’ll send you a PayPal invoice directly. When you arrive, please request special documentation to help at customs.


Dig with the Experts draws collectors from around the globe for this unique opportunity, which was developed and is currently co-led by our friends from the Cincinnati Dry Dredgers. Bring a hammer, chisel, safety glasses, newspaper, and paper towels to wrap your fossils. Extra water is recommended, plus bring rain gear just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Food trucks will be on site Saturday and Sunday to serve lunch. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages, as well as a small cart to transport personal items and specimens. Chairs and umbrellas are okay, too. We thank Zoladz Construction Co., Inc. for their help to get Penn Dixie ready for this big event.

Additional information:

Penn Dixie Frequently asked questions

Buffalo ranked America’s favorite city to visit, upstaging all competitors

An Eyecatching Trilobite

By Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director

I’m always elated when a guest finds a really neat fossil and 2019 Dig With The Experts provided enough excitement to carry me forward for a long while! Many collectors uncovered large, excellently preserved specimens from the newly-excavated portion of Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve. Complete trilobites were on the menu, and the dig did not disappoint hundreds of enthusiastic diggers like Jimmy Cyrus from Kentucky.

Jimmy large phacops 1
The unprepared trilobite as found by Jimmy Cyrus at Dig With The Experts.
Jimmy large phacops 2
Preparation a little further along.

Jimmy submitted these photos of this beautifully-prepared Eldredgeops (Phacops) rana trilobite. As you can see, the carapace is entirely intact and all of the distinctive Eldredgeops features are visible. Malcolm Thornley — one of Penn Dixie’s amazing volunteer experts — did an incredible job preparing this specimen.

Finished 1
Ta-da! Great job, Malcolm!

My most favorite attribute of our trilobites is the eyes. Once prepared, you can — with a magnifier — count the dozens of eyelets on each compound eye. But, that’s not the weirdest thing. Did you know that the eyes were located on turret-like organs which could swivel? Trilobites could rotate their eyes in nearly 360 degrees!

Even the trilobite name — ‘Rana’ — refers to the eyes. In Latin, it means ‘frog’ due to the frog-like nature of the eyes! But, maybe there’s one more language connection to make. In Arabic, Rana is a somewhat common name. The meaning? Eyecatching. 

Spring Homeschool Day

Monday May 4, 10 am to 1 pm

Rain date: Wednesday May 6, 10 am to 1 pm

Learn about the geological history of Western New York at Penn Dixie! This special program for homeschoolers includes a complete educational tour of Penn Dixie led by our trained educators. All participants are welcome to take home all the fossils they find!

Registration opens late March and is $6 per student — save $1 per student with early registration. Children must be accompanied by an adult. There is no charge for children aged two and under. Program is for grades 1-12; please specify your child’s grade when registering. Register by Monday April 27 to receive $1 off admission. Registration closes at 5 pm on Friday May 1.

The program begins promptly at 10 am; check-in at 9:30. Please arrive 10-15 minutes early to allow for check-in, bathroom use, other preparations. Younger siblings of students are welcome. One free adult/chaperone is included with every registered student. Siblings and additional adults are welcome at $6 per person.

Fossil hunting tools are provided to all attendees. We encourage you to bring your own bucket or bags to store fossils.

If you are unable to register online, please contact Dr. Holly Schreiber at holly@penndixie.org or 716-627-4560 to reserve a space. For these guests we will accept cash and credit card payments at the start of the program. Unfortunately we are not able to accommodate registrations made after May 1.

Refund policy: In the event of light to moderate rain, the program will take still place as scheduled. Guests are advised to wear boots and rain gear. If there is heavy rain or we detect lightning on site, the program will be rescheduled to the rain date. We will make this announcement via email and over our social media. If both programs are canceled by Penn Dixie due to weather, all guests will receive a refund. Otherwise, our usual cancellation policy applies.

2019 Schedule

By Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director and Dr. Holly Schreiber, Director of Education

Hello, again! Memories of our 2018 season, including the World’s Largest Fossil Dig, are still fresh in our minds as we plan our 2019 campaign. Our upcoming season is loaded with science programming including old favorites and new offerings. Please note that the schedule is subject to change and that more programs will be added as the season approaches.

Wednesday, February 13, 7:00 pm
Science Talk: Tales of Mastodons (and Others) from the Hiscock Site
By Dr. Richard S. Laub

Wednesday, March 20, 7:00 pm
Science Talk: An Archeologist’s Perspective
By Dr. Caitlin Chaves Yates

Saturday March 23 and Sunday March 24
Penn Dixie Exhibit at the Buffalo Gem & Mineral Show at the Erie County Fairgrounds, Hamburg, NY

Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 pm
Science Talk TBA
By Don Williams, President of the Steel Plant Museum of WNY

Saturday April 20, 10 am to 2 pm
Earth Day at Penn Dixie
Join our team of volunteers as we perform the annual cleanup of Penn Dixie and prepare to reopen to the public. No registration needed. FREE admission and pizza for all of our helpers!

Saturday April 27
Penn Dixie reopens to the public
Saturdays, 9am to 5pm and Sundays, 10 am to 5 pm

Saturday April 27, 7:45 pm
April Astronomy Night

Saturday May 4, 9 am to 11 am
Penn Dixie Volunteer Orientation
Penn Dixie would not exist without our volunteers! To keep growing, we’re always on the lookout for help with programming, school visits, community engagement, site maintenance, and administration. No experience necessary. We will provide all the training needed! Learn about Penn Dixie from our staff and experienced volunteers and receive the tools that you will need to make a difference. Refreshments included.
In the auditorium of the Gateway Executive Office Building, 3556 Lake Shore Rd. Blasdell, NY. Contact Dr. Holly Schreiber at holly@penndixie.org to register.

Monday May 6, 10 am to 1 pm
Homeschool Day at Penn Dixie
Learn about the geological history of Western New York at Penn Dixie. This special tour for homeschoolers includes a complete educational tour of Penn Dixie led by our trained educators. Students can take home all the fossils they find! Admission is $5 per student. Students must be accompanied by an adult. No experience necessary. Program is for grades 1-12. Pre-registration is required. To register email Holly at holly@penndixie.org. Register by April 29 and receive $1 off admission. Rain date: May 8.

Friday May 17, 6:30 pm
The Fossil Adventures of PaleoJoe
By Joe ‘PaleoJoe’ Kchodl, Paleontologist, from Midland, MI
An illustrated presentation with specimens in the auditorium of the Gateway Executive Office Building, 3556 Lake Shore Rd. Blasdell, NY. Admission $4, FREE to Penn Dixie members and their guests, or FREE to registered Dig w/ Experts guests. No registration needed.

Saturday May 18 and Sunday May 19, 9 am to 4 pm
Dig with the Experts
Join us for our signature event — Dig with the Experts! This is our very popular, once yearly opportunity to unearth the best, most complete, and most unexpected fossils at Penn Dixie. We’ll have equipment do the heavy lifting and scientific experts on site to help with locating and identifying the best fossils. You’ll have to do your share of splitting and digging, of course, but you’re guaranteed to find something cool and interesting.
Tickets limited.

May 25, 8:15 pm
May Astronomy Night

Monday May 27 (Memorial Day), 9 am to 3 pm
Penn Dixie open for Memorial Day holiday! Come and dig for fossils!

Saturday June 15, 10 am to 12 pm
Fossil Hunting for Beginners
New to fossil hunting? Learn the tricks of the trade from paleontologist Dr. Holly Schreiber. Tour the site and learn all the best spots to hunt for fossils. Dr. Schreiber will teach you how to find, dig, and preserve all the fossil treasures you find. No experience necessary. All ages welcome. Bring your own tools or borrow from our limited supply. Included with admission or FREE for members.

Monday June 17
Penn Dixie open seven days/week until September 6. Our hours will be Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.

Saturday June 29, 10 am to 12 pm
Fossil Hunting for Beginners

Saturday June 29, 8:30 pm
June Astronomy Night

Thursday July 4 (Independence Day), 9 am to 3 pm
Penn Dixie open for the 4th of July holiday! Come and celebrate our nation’s independence by digging for fossils!

Friday July 5, 9 am to 7 pm
Fossil Friday!
Penn Dixie will stay open late for after hours fossil collecting until 7 pm. Admission is $5 for children and adults ALL DAY; Penn Dixie members attend for FREE. No reservations needed.

Friday July 12, 9 am to 7 pm
Fossil Friday!

Friday July 19, 9 am to 7 pm
Fossil Friday!

Saturday July 20
It’s burger time! Penn Dixie’s free fossil dig and exhibit booth will be setup in the Village of Hamburg as we celebrate the birthplace of the hamburger at BurgerFest. This community event is a great place to share our mission with the public and we hope to see you there!

Friday July 26, 9 am to 7 pm
Fossil Friday!

Saturday July 27, 5 to 11 pm
A Midsummer Night’s Adventure
A different program this year!

Sunday August 11, 10 am to 12 pm
Fossil Hunting for Beginners

Saturday August 24, Time: TBD
A special Penn Dixie program: Stay tuned for details!!

August 31, 7:30 pm
August Astronomy Night

Monday September 2 (Labor Day), 9 am to 3 pm
Penn Dixie open for Labor Day holiday! Come and dig for fossils!

Friday September 6
Penn Dixie returns to weekend hours: Saturday 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm

Sunday September 8, 10 am to 4 pm
Grandparent’s Day
In recognition of Grandparent’s day, all grandparents accompanied by grandchildren are admitted for free. Our experts will also be on site to help identify your fossils, rocks and minerals. Our telescopes for viewing sunspots and solar flares will be available as well.
Adults: $9, Children 3-12: $7, Children 2 and Under & Penn Dixie Members: FREE
No pre-registrations required.

Saturday, September 21, 9 am to 4 pm
Scouting Rocks!
Penn Dixie is excited to offer a FREE day of fossil collecting, sunspot viewing, nature walks, and other hands-on science activities for ANY scout in uniform. More info to follow.

Tuesday September 24, 10 am to 1 pm
Homeschool Day at Penn Dixie
Learn about the geological history of Western New York at Penn Dixie. This special tour for homeschoolers includes a complete educational tour of Penn Dixie led by our trained educators. Students can take home all the fossils they find! Admission is $5 per student. Students must be accompanied by an adult. No experience necessary. Program is for grades 1-12. Pre-registration is required. To register email Holly at holly@penndixie.org. Register by September 16 and receive $1 off admission. Rain date: September 26.

September 28, 6:30 pm
Astronomy Night

Saturday October 5, 9 am to 4 pm
22nd Annual Erie County Earth Science Day
Come talk to earth scientists and watch as they exhibit and demonstrate various aspects of their professions. Learn about drill rigs and watch a demonstration on rock coring and drilling operations. Sunspots and solar flares will also be visible through our telescopes along with fossil collecting and a wide variety of other activities.

October 19, 6 pm
October Astronomy Night

Sunday October 20
Penn Dixie closes to the public

Thursday November 7, 6 to 9 pm
24th Annual HNHS/Penn Dixie Fundraiser