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SharkFinder Matrix Cleaning

citizen science

Recognized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Nature, Science, Scientific America and Voice of America.

Find a new species or first occurrence of a species. Work with unsearched fossil media to find shark, ray, and skate teeth from ocean sediments that date back millions of years. And, if you make a scientifically significant discovery, you get the credit!

When a participant of the SharkFinder® program finds a scientifically significant fossil specimen, they are acknowledged by name in the resulting professional publication. Contributors with a valuable contribution will receive a certificate of accomplishment.

Over 16,000 Classroom Citizen Scientists

Over 10,000 Lab Contributions


lab space set up for phase 1:
fossil matrix preparation

  • Triple Beam Balance

  • 150 ML beaker

  • 2 large paper plates

  • 10 mesh and 35 mesh sieves

  • Task card "Massing your matrix sample"

  • 6 (5 gallon) buckets for water (fill to first line)

  • Matrix in a bucket with scooper (matrix must be slushy and not dry otherwise, fossils will break)


lab space set up for phase 2:

  • Sieved dry material from larger sieve

  • Two small paper plates (for color separation)

  • Toothpicks

  • Hand lens

  • Digital microscope

  • Eppendorf tube

  • Ziplock bag

  • Student information sheet

  • iPad

  • Identification charts

  • Task card "Observation & Classification"


lab space set up for phase 3:
microfossil investigation

  • Sieved dry material from smaller sieve

  • Small paper plates

  • Petri dish

  • Toothpicks

  • Stereo microscope 

  • Eppendorf tube

  • Ziplock bag

  • Student information sheet

  • Identification charts


Matrix should be sieved until all gray sediment is broken down.

Black indicates fossilization.


properly sieved matrix

This sample was properly sieved as most of the sample is black material which indicates fossilization.

The more black material you have, the more you can investigate.

poorly sieved matrix

activities & ideas

All About Sharks

Grades 2-5

(Contact us to receive

the activity book)

Database of Activities

Ocean Adventures: Educator Guide

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