Be a real part in ongoing research exploring fossil bearing landscapes in the Turkana Basin in northern Kenya. Here we ask you to help us document what is seen on surface images, including fossil fragments and other artifacts, to assist us in reconstructing past landscapes and environments. More eyes, more information, more discoveries.
Helping with the search and classification of fossils
The University of Bradford has teamed up with the Turkana Basin Institute to bring Fossil Finder to you. We need your help and keen eye to assist in the identification of surface geology including fossils and cultural remains from the fossil bearing deposits at Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. Everybody involved will be a meaningful and valuable member of the team.
Why it is important?
Fossil Finder is about interpreting the environments of the past in which our human ancestors evolved. Modern humans (you and I), are just the most recent species in a long evolutionary trail with many dead ends. Our ancestors existed alongside many other animals living by the swamps and rivers flowing into the ancestral lake Turkana. This lake basin grew and shrank over past times and sediments preserved the bones of animals that lived here. By identifying the sandstones and snails, fossils and other features on the surface we can piece together the palaeoenvironment going back in time. We traditionally do this by sending teams of fossil hunters out on foot to these same areas that are captured in these images. You can help the team document the features in these images in more detail than we would normally document. If you find something of great significance in these images, the ground team can get back to the exact place and collect it following the collection procedures.
Why Lake Turkana?
There are numerous fossil sites throughout the great Rift Valley. As water flows down in rivers from the highlands either side it forms numerous lake basins, which gradually accumulate sediment. These conditions preserve the remains of animals that lived here in the past. These older sediments are brought up to the surface through tectonic movements in the rift through faulting and uplift. Gradual erosion of these surfaces exposes fossil and geological artifacts. The lake Turkana Basin is one such lake basin in the rift valley and is particularly rich in fossil deposits going back 6 million years. Recently the oldest stone tools were revealed from deposits on the west side of lake Turkana, dated to 3.3 million years. There are many amazing new finds being discovered in the east African rift valley systems, including this recent example from Ethiopia.
What the data will tell us?
A long term and valuable research return from the data will be an interpretation of the surface geology of the sediments, some of which contain fossils and other artefacts. This will allow us to supplement the citizen science search with a more targeted ‘boots on the ground’ approach. There is the possibility that interesting specimens will be seen in our images and we can get back to these as the images are all georeferenced.
How FossilFinder began
We began our research project with broad aims in using modern digital technologies to transform scientific research in the arts and humanities. As part of this we thought about landscapes and survey methods. We were conscious of the amount of person hours that would be required to capture paleoenvironmental data in detail from the survey areas and aimed to think of ways we might enable this using digital technologies. We went on to develop an aerial imaging platforms that can capture ground surface images at high enough resolution to be able to see fossil fragments and other important paleontological and archaeological artefacts. With this imagery we are able to recreate the experience of a fossil hunter walking over these ancient landscapes and we could potentially engage an army of citizen scientists to help us with this task.
Fossil Finder forms part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Fragmented Heritage Project.