Russell Taragan

Senior Manager at the American Natural History Museum

Russell was born and lived most of his life in Brooklyn, New York. Despite being a life-long resident of an urban area, he spent approximately 5 years of his life on rural Shelter Island, located in the Peconic Estuary of Long Island. In fact, Russell’s first memory is scouring the beach for shells as a toddler.


His hobbies include kayaking, snorkeling, backpacking, rocketry, microscopy, and astronomy. As an amateur treasure hunter, the slightly over-the-top name for hobbyists who use metal detectors, he also has developed a taste for finding hidden things underground. This year as always, Russell is most excited about prospecting. Although the scientific value of a fossil recovered is undeniable, so excavation, lab work, and museum display are all crucial, he has to admit that he finds the initial hunt most exciting. Knowing that one will be the first human to ever see a fossil that may have been buried for ca. 65 million years is about as good as it gets! The deep history recorded in fossil beds is so visceral, you can almost taste it. (Especially on a windy day when someone is working right next to you.)


Russell attended SUNY Geneseo in Western New York focused on ecology and conservation. The Geneseo campus sits upon the highly productive, Silurian, Rochester shale. Fossils can be found easily by walking along the road cuts on each side of the campus. This was where he first developed fossil hunting as a hobby.


He has worked at the American Museum of Natural History since 2007 beginning as a museum educator and truck driver with the Moveable Museum program. Russell currently serves as Manager of Tour Guides and Explainers, a team of approximately 225 volunteers who work with visitors. Every year, more than a thousand volunteers help the American Museum of Natural History fulfill its mission statement by donating in excess of 115,000 hours. Several AMNH volunteers work with MRF as well. He would love to welcome any MRF volunteers to the Museum, free of charge, should they visit the NYC area in the future.