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Palaeontology in the Field

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Planning a fossil hunting trip requires more than just a sunny day and a nice trip to the coast. Research into the rock types in the area and using scientific literature to see if any previous finds have been made in an area saves time and gives the fossil hunter a search image to work to.

Students will learn how to find fossils and how to record their finds properly using a field notebook. They will also learn how to package and transport their finds for correct labelling back in the lab or home.

Students will be expected to make their own way to the meeting point for the field trip either privately or by public transport. Both localities are accessible by public transport: Pentland Hills – Meet at Carlops car park. Public transport: take the Stagecoach 101 or 102 bus from Edinburgh to Carlops. Wardie shore – Meet at Wardie shore. Public transport: take Lothian buses number 47 and disembark at Granton Square or the number 16 and disembark on Lower Granton Road. NO TRANSPORT IS PROVIDED.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students should have a level of fitness that will allow them to undertake a day walking in hilly and uneven terrain.

Special Information

Students are required to bring their own waterproof and warm clothing and appropriate footwear and packed lunch. Notebook.


Content of Course

Depending on the weather and tides at the time of year this course takes place, we will either visit Wardie Shore in the north of the city of Edinburgh or the Pentland Hills near Carlops. The former locality offers the opportunity to find plant fossils, fish fossils, microfossils and even fossil fish poo! The Pentland hills locality records historic exposures of an ancient lagoon that preserves a variety of shelly organisms (brachiopods, trilobites, crinoids) from a time before animals occupied the land.

Prior to the excursion students will be introduced to the locality to be visited through in the preceding lesson in the short course, “Introduction to Palaeontology: The History of Life”. This will include reviewing a selection of geological maps to become familiar with the geological context of the locality as well as some literature and actual fossils from the sites. Students who are not attending the 10 week course will be provided with online material beforehand.

A health and safety briefing will be given beforehand and all students will be asked to confirm that they have read and understand the risk assessment for the fieldtrip.

Teaching method(s)

The course will be delivered exclusively in the field but will link with activities that take place in the course, “Introduction to Palaeontology”

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to;

  1. Read and interpret a geological map
  2. Identify the most likely site for fossil formation.
  3. Identify fossil finds within the context of the field location
  4. Under guidance, conduct a field study safely and using the scientific method


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.