I want to be a paleontologist!

|I want to be a paleontologist!

In the past week, we have learned about a variety of animals* and how the habitat has changed in the ancient Turkana Basin.

*Note: There are many more species of animals (including hominins) that are still “waiting” to be unearthed and will help our understanding of life on the past landscape. In addition, not everything that has lived will enter the fossil record. For more information on how this works, check out “Getting into the Fossil Record” by UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology.

In our search for vertebrate fossils, we focused on an area of ~ 3.6 – 3.4 Ma rock layers near the TBI facility.

Trekking across Mid-Pliocene beds near TBI

Trekking across Mid-Pliocene beds near TBI

Anna stops to admire the landscape.

Anna stops to admire the landscape.

Jayde carefully walks across the survey area in search of fossils.

Jayde carefully walks across the survey area in search of fossils.

Can you see the fossilized bone fragments in this image?

Can you see the fossilized bone fragments in this image?

Although we were looking for fossils, Dylan could not pass up the opportunity to look at the different rocks and minerals.

Although we were looking for fossils, Dylan (a geology major) could not pass up the opportunity to look at the different rocks.

Wait a minute! That’s a bone but it is not fossilized.

Wait a minute! That’s a bone but it is not fossilized!

 

After flagging fossils, we began our field study with a fossilized humerus bone.  On this day, we practice the steps in documenting fossils without collecting any samples.

Distal humerus segment of a large mammal. Brunton compass for scale.

Distal humerus segment of a large mammal. Brunton compass for scale.

Dr. Fortelius guides students through TBI fossil documentation procedures.

Dr. Fortelius guides students through TBI fossil documentation procedures.

TBI students examine the sediment that is found around the fossil. Kate (in pink), a geology major, identifies several minerals in the sediment.

TBI students examine the sediment that is found around the fossil. Kate (in pink), a geology major, identifies several minerals in the sediment.

Aileen and Anna document another find.

Anna and Aileen document another find.

We came across this pile of fossilized bones that had been found by previous TBI field school students. Rocks were placed in a circle around the fossils in an attempt to prevent movement during the rainy season.

We came across this pile of fossilized bones that had been found by previous TBI field school students. Rocks were placed in a circle around the fossils in an attempt to prevent movement during the rainy season.

Dr. Fortelius identifies the bones and type of animals in this fossil collection.  In addition, students question Linda’s field gear ..... why would a geologist carry a machete?

Dr. Fortelius identifies the bones and type of animals in this fossil collection. 
In addition, students question Linda’s field gear ….. why would a geologist carry a machete?

Ah! Linda using her dull machete and rock hammer to clear off the weathered surface.

Ah! She sometimes uses the dull machete instead of a Geo-hammer to clear off the soft weathered surface when she is looking at rocks.

Dr. Lewis looks for fossils.

Dr. Lewis will go almost anywhere to look for fossils.

Professional fossil preparator, Chris Kiarie, directs Dr. Fortelius and Linda to a collection of XXX bones he had just found.

Fossil Preparator, Chris Kiarie, directs Dr. Fortelius and Linda to a collection of post cranial bones he had just found.

Dr. Fortelius poses for a pic with his lovely wife Asta.

Dr. Fortelius poses for a pic with his lovely wife Asta.

Sam leads the way back to TBI. Everyone was ready for lunch!

Sam leads the way back to TBI. Everyone was ready for lunch!

DAY 2-

On our second excursion to the rock beds near TBI, we were honored to have another paleontologist with us, Dr. Meave Leakey!

We began by surveying a “new” area for fossils and placed a flag near everything we could find.

John, one of TBI's fossil hunters, hands out flags for marking fossils.

John, one of TBI’s expert fossil hunters, hands out flags for marking fossils.

Mike carefully walks across the area in order to not trip and fall but also to not step on any fossils.

Mike carefully walks across the area in search of fossils.

Aileen holds what turns out to be a rock.

Aileen holds what turns out to be a rock.

Fragmented skull of a crocodile

Fragmented skull of a crocodile!

Jayde poses next to her find that Dr. Leakey pieced together.

Jayde poses next to her croc find that Dr. Leakey pieced together.

Dr. Leakey shows students a fossilized tooth of another type of crocodile.

Dr. Leakey shows students a fossilized tooth of another type of crocodile.

Sam admires the croc tooth she found.

Sam admires the croc tooth she found.

However, Aileen shows the larger croc tooth she found!

However, Aileen shows off the larger croc tooth she found!

Dr. Leakey gives Page GPS coordinates to document the location where she found a fossil.

Dr. Leakey gives Page GPS coordinates to document the location where she found a fossil.

Page found this fish bone fragment.

Page found this fish bone fragment.

Anna finds a fossil!

Anna finds a fossil!

Dr. Fortelius identifies the different types of animal bones from Dylan’s fossil discovery. In this image there is a horse tooth, croc XXX, and turtle xxx.

Dr. Fortelius identifies the different types of animal bones from Dylan’s fossil discovery. In this image there are fragments of a horse tooth, croc vertebrae, and turtle shell.

Dr. Fortelius finds a fossilized tooth fragment that belonged to a rhino.

Dr. Fortelius finds a fossilized tooth fragment that belonged to a rhinoceros.

Although it was documented, the tooth was not collected and will remain until the area can be properly excavated. In the meantime, we set up a perimeter of rocks in the hopes that a rainstorm will not move it away from where it was originally found.

Although it was documented, the rhino tooth was not collected and will remain until the area can be properly excavated. In the meantime, we set up a perimeter of rocks in the hopes that a rainstorm will not cause it to move away from where it was originally found.

Mike takes a water break and strikes a pose for the camera.

Mike takes a water break and strikes a pose for the camera.

In this field area, a complete and intact fossil skeleton, limb, or skull is not a common find (more to be discussed in the geology module).  Therefore, another paleontological field method is to sift through pebble size particles in an area in order to find the missing “puzzle” pieces.

Dr. Leakey instructs students on how to set up the area to screen for fossilized bone fragments.

Dr. Leakey instructs students on how to set up the area to screen for fossilized bone fragments.

Rachel helps measure out the perimeter.

Rachel helps measure out the perimeter.

Larisa begins sweeping up all pebbles on the surface that may contain fossil fragments.

Larisa begins sweeping up all pebbles on the surface that may contain fossil fragments.

Page and Dylan take their turn sweeping up large pieces. However, I don’t think Dylan likes this job.

Page and Dylan take their turn sweeping up large pieces. However, I don’t think Dylan likes this job.

Sam carries a pan of surface “material” to the sieve area.

Sam carries a pan of surface material to the sieve area.

John and Larisa screen out sand size grains and smaller while Mike looks on.

John and Larisa sift out sand size grains and smaller while Mike looks on.

Jayde and Rachel look for fossils within rock fragments.

Jayde and Rachel look closely for fossils within rock fragments.

Dr. Fortelius and Dr. Leakey double-check possible fossil fragments that the students find.

Dr. Fortelius and Dr. Leakey double-check possible fossil fragments that the students find.

Great days in the field! I love vertebrate Paleontology!

By | 2017-01-04T18:04:49+00:00 February 13th, 2015|Field Schools, Spring 2015|Comments Off on I want to be a paleontologist!

About the Author:

Hi I'm Linda. I'm the Resident Academic Director for the Origins Field School. In addition, I'm a geologist. I have been working in the Turkana Basin since 2011 and am interested in reconstructing the past landscape on which our ancestors evolved.