Museum of North launches Adopt a Mammoth program

Matthew Wooller kneels among the mammoth tusk collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.
UAF photo by JR Ancheta
Matthew Wooller kneels among the mammoth tusk collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in 2021. Wooller is leading the museum's Adopt a Mammoth program, which will date and identify specimens at the museum.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is inviting the public to go woolly mammoth hunting.

The newly launched Adopt a Mammoth program encourages sponsorship of each of the roughly 1,500 teeth, tusks and bones in the University of Alaska Museum of the North’s collection. A $350 donation will pay for radiocarbon testing to date the fossil, and a lab in Sweden will offer free DNA analysis for each adopted specimen to determine its sex and other genetic characteristics.

The larger goal is to find the “youngest” mammoth — a specimen from 10,000 years ago or more recent. This would extend the date of extinction on the mainland to a period well after the earliest people arrived in Interior Alaska.

“That would be a real change in understanding how these animals existed,” said Patrick Druckenmiller, the museum’s director. “It would be pretty amazing to have this huge and unique data set.”

Only a small number of mammoth specimens in the museum’s collection are currently dated.

The “youngest” dated mammoth in mainland Alaska so far is about 11,600 years old, but there are reasons to believe the massive animals were around more recently. A remnant population on neighboring St. Paul Island survived until about 5,600 years ago.

Participants in the Adopt a Mammoth program will receive a photo of their specimen, updates on testing and a chance to name the fossil. When testing is complete, the donor with the youngest fossil will receive a trophy. The winner also can appear in a photo with their specimen in the museum during the announcement period.

“It’s a fun philanthropic project, but it’s also rooted in solid science,” said Matthew Wooller, the director of UAF’s Alaska Stable Isotope Facility and the leader of the Adopt a Mammoth project. “If we find a young mammoth fossil on the mainland, that’s big news.”

Find more information about the program on the Adopt a Mammoth program website

ADDITIONAL CONTACT: Matthew Wooller, 907-474-6738,