Project Description


Join us in the Appalachian Highlands of northeastern Tennessee as we excavate the Gray Fossil Site (GFS), a ~5 million year old locality known for its abundance of well-preserved plants and animals. Fossils range from pollen, seeds, and leaves to red pandas, alligators, tapirs, salamanders, rhinos, mastodons, turtles, and sabertooth cats! The preservation of this relatively complete ecosystem gives us a unique opportunity to study a forested environment during a time when most of North America was covered in grasslands. Because GFS preserves a unique habitat for this time frame, we often find species new to science, expand the geographic range of known fossil species, and build a foundation for better understanding the development of modern forest ecosystems in eastern North America. Students in this course will be trained in paleontological excavation, field mapping, skeletal anatomy, fossil preparation, paleobiological techniques, and museum curation.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: TBA

  • Enrollment Status: CLOSED

  • Total Cost: $2,945

  • Course Type: Paleontological Excavation

  • Payment Deadline: TBA

  • Instructors: Dr. Blaine W. Schubert

  • Orientation:  TBA
  • Academic Credit: 8 Semester Credit Units (equivalent to 12 Quarter Units)

Field School Interest Form


The directors welcome emails and inquiries about the research elements of this project. More general information (tuition, health insurance, and payment schedule) can be found under the ‘Students’ tab above. Any further questions may be addressed to IFR staff. Additional details about research, course schedule, travel, accommodation, and safety can be found on the syllabus. Contacting the directors or the IFR office is encouraged and appreciated. It may help you determine if this field school is a good fit for you.

Dr. Blaine W. Schubert
Dr. Blaine W. Schubert
Dr. Schubert is the Executive Director of the Center of Excellence in Paleontology and a Professor at the Department of Geosciences, East Tennessee State University.


This is a new IFR field school and no testimonials are available

Tuition Includes:

  • Cost of Instruction
  • Cost of Academic Credit Units
  • All local transportation

Student Fees

Important note: This program requires an application – no fee is required. Only admitted students should pay the nonrefundable deposit fee. The balance of the tuition (total cost minus the deposit fee) must be paid prior to the tuition deadline as listed above under “Course Details”.

Early Decision (Nov 1, 2019 through Jan 10, 2020): A nonrefundable $300 deposit is required to secure a seat in the program. This deposit is part of the total tuition and NOT in addition to it.

Regular Enrollment (Jan 11, 2020 through payment deadline): A nonrefundable $500 deposit is required to secure a seat in the program. This deposit is part of the total tuition and NOT in addition to it.

Late Enrollment: (payment deadline forward): A nonrefundable $500 deposit is required to secure a seat in the program. In addition, a $200 Late Fee will be added to all accounts not paid in full by the Tuition deadline.

Important Note: If you were accepted (paid deposit) to this program but did not cancel your participation by the tuition payment deadline, you are legally responsible for the full tuition regardless of attendance in this program. Please carefully read the IFR Withdrawal & Cancellation Policy for further information.

  • A 2.5% Processing Fee is automatically assessed for all credit/debit card/online payments
  • A $200 Late Fee will be assessed if full tuition payment is not completed by the deadline
  • Students who wishes to take an IFR field schools without the credit units may receive the following discounts: (1) $300 off a full program; (2) $200 of a short (2-3 weeks) program
  • Look at the field school syllabus above for room & board details
  • Students should explore purchasing trip cancellation insurance on their own. Insure My Trip or Travel Guard are two possible resources you may wish to explore. See this Wall Street Journal article about travel insurance that may help you with to help to decide whether to purchase such insurance.


Students are responsible for their own accommodations but one option is staying in student housing on the East Tennessee State University main campus. Price varies depending on the dorm, but sharing a room with one other person typically ranges from $19 to $22 per person (per night). A limited number of housing stipends will be available to help defray housing costs.

Students are also responsible for providing their own food, including lunches. One option is to set up a meal plan with ETSU. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available. If you decide to do this it may be best to start out with one week of meals, and then add more if needed. This will allow some flexibility and variety to your meal planning. Students should plan to bring their lunch to the Museum (refrigerator and microwave are available in the staff kitchen). There are not any food options at the Museum, and very few in the town of Gray. However, the van will travel to local restaurants once per week, and it will be optional to go on these outings.

Travel Info

We suggest you hold off on purchasing your airline ticket until six (6) weeks prior to departure date. Natural disasters, political changes, weather conditions and a range of other factors may require the cancelation of a field school. The IFR typically takes a close look at local conditions 6-7 weeks prior to program beginning and make Go/No Go decisions by then. Such time frame still allows the purchase deeply discounted airline tickets while protecting students from potential loss if airline ticket costs if we decide to cancel a program.

Students are responsible for their own travel to Johnson City and should plan to arrive no later than June 28th. Students are expected to arrive at Ross Hall on the ETSU campus by 8:15 am each morning, Monday – Friday. We will meet in the second-floor lobby at 8:00 AM and leave for the Gray Fossil Site at 8:10 AM. Our daily transportation to and from the Gray Fossil Site will be a 15 passenger van.

If your travel plans change unexpectedly or you are delayed, please call, text or email the Project Director immediately. A local emergency cell phone number will be provided to all enrolled students.

Student Safety

The IFR primary concern is with education. Traveling and conducting field research involve risk. Students interested in participating in IFR programs must weigh whether the potential risk is worth the value of education provided. While risk is inherent in everything we do, we do not take risk lightly. The IFR engages in intensive review of each field school location prior to approval. Once a program is accepted, the IFR reviews each program annually to make sure it complies with all our standards and policies, including student safety.

Students attending IFR international programs are covered by a comprehensive Health Insurance policy that includes physical illness or injury, mental or chronic conditions. No deductible and 100% of costs are covered up to $250,000. In addition, we provide Political and Natural Disaster Evacuation policy, which allow us to remove students from field school location if local conditions change. Our field school directors are scholars that know field school locations and cultures well and are plugged in into local communities and state institution structures.

Students attending IFR domestic programs (within the US) must have their own health insurance and provide proof upon enrollment. IFR field school directors are familiar with local authorities and if in need of evacuation, local emergency services and/or law enforcement will be notified and activated.

The IFR has strong, explicit and robust policy towards discrimination and harassment in the field. If students feel they cannot discuss personal safety issues with field school staff, the IFR operates an emergency hotline where students may contact IFR personnel directly.

Call us at 877-839-4374 or email us at if you have questions about the safety of any particular program.