Photo: Courtesy of the Mammoth Site
A DIG OF MAMMOTH PROPORTIONS: Earthwatch volunteers excavate mammoth fossils displayed in situ at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD.

This past summer, I found myself standing in an air-conditioned pit, trowel in hand, digging for mammoth bones, while tourists watched me work from behind a fence. I was helping Larry Agenbroad, whose Mammoth Site project in Hot Springs, SD, is one of the oldest affiliated with the Earthwatch Institute, an organization that supplies field investigators on tight budgets with the motivated, unpaid volunteers they need to accomplish their work.

Agenbroad knows only too well that many scientists regard the idea of doing science with people that more or less walk in off the street as absurd. "My colleagues used to give me a lot of flak about that," says the Northern Arizona University geology professor. But after "picking crews every way...

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