The Naturalist Workshop

The Naturalist Workshop at the Austin Nature & Science Center is unlike most natural history museums you've visited. Here you are encouraged to touch, investigate, and learn about the many different collections we have on display. How much does a sugar pine cone weigh?  Can you fit together a cow femur and pelvis?  How many kinds of minerals can you see in one rock?  Tables laden with rocks, minerals, fossils, bones, plants, insects, and more provide opportunities for all ages to get in touch with items straight from nature. Investigation tools and activities are available to help you learn more about what you see. Displays rotate so make sure you come back to see what new collections are out in the Naturalist Workshop. 

Additionally, there are field guides for any living organisms you might encounter as you explore the Austin Nature & Science Center.

Programs at the Naturalist Workshop

The Trade Counter

If you find yourself regularly discovering loose fossils, shells, rocks, or insect boxes clattering about in your washing machine, you or your loved one may be a naturalist. 

The Trade Counter is where naturalists of all ages are welcome to sit down and share their discoveries with our volunteer Trade Counter staff and fellow nature enthusiasts.  One can bring nature items, science reports, or scientific illustrations and art in exchange for points, which may then be used to buy a host of other things—rocks and minerals, shark teeth, insect collections, bones, shells, etc.  For a list of what is accepted for trade at the Trade Counter please refer to the Trade Counter brochure (PDF) or call 512-974-3888. Points may also be earned by reporting a nature sighting from the ANSC grounds, entries on iNaturalist (see following section) or for accomplishing the monthly puzzle (questions relating to one or more specimens, rotating monthly). 


TheTrade Counter is open

Wednesday - Friday 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Saturday 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Sunday 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Trade counter Policies

Daily Trade Limit: Traders are limited to 5 unique objects per day.

Multiples: If a trader brings in multiple of the same object these will be counted as one item. For example, 3 Devil’s toenails will be considered and awarded as a group and not individually.

Things we CANNOT accept:  

  • Anything from our site. We are a Nature Preserve and you cannot collect from preserves.   
  • Anything from birds. Many birds are under a variety of legal protections and are prohibited from being collected, so we discourage visitors from bringing any bird objects to trade. This protects us and our visitors. 
  • Anything from humans (including anthropological artifacts). Similar to birds there are many laws prohibiting the trade, sell, and collection of human artifacts. 
  • Anything purchased or endangered. 
  • Anything that was intentionally killed for bringing to trade.   

Trade Counter Points System:


Scavenger Hunt__________________________________________________ 50 

Scientific illustration or creative expression_____________________________ 20+ 

Marine & Invertebrate (shells, marine animals, etc.)______________________ 10+ 

Entomological (insects)  ___________________________________________ 30+ 

Geological (rocks, minerals)   _______________________________________ 10+ 

Botanical (plants) ________________________________________________ 10+

Paleontological (fossils) ___________________________________________ 10+

Zoological (any animal material including bones, fur, skin sheds, etc.)_______ 20+ 


Bonuses, awarded at the discretion of the Trade Counter Volunteer 

Naturalist skills (collection, identification, description, etc.) ____________ 20 - 100+ 

Partial or broken specimen ____________________________________5 - 20+

Full Specimen______________________________________________ 10 - 100+

Rarity (general or particular to Texas) ___________________________ 5 – 500+ 

WOW factor_______________________________________________ 20 - 100+


This program exists in part through volunteer effort.  If you are interested in volunteering, please visit our Volunteer With ANSC page.


 Exploring the Naturalist Workshop at ANSC

iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, biologists and citizen scientists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. The Austin Nature & Science Center's iNaturalist account is a place where our visitors, program participants and staff can share their observations of plants, animals, fungi, insects and more found on the ANSC's grounds and the adjoining Zilker Preserve.  Entries can be shown to Trade Counter volunteers for points.

Join us for a BioBlitz and try to identify as many species as you can spot around our site! ---Details to come.