As an educational and celebratory culmination to the geology module, we went on a geology-based camping trip to the Koobi Fora region, particularly close to where Richard Leakey established the Koobi Fora Base Camp in 1968. In the early 1970s Richard and Meave Leakey led a crew of hominid hunters in this area, with operations largely operating out of this camp during their incredibly successful time investigating the Koobi Fora area. Further, research in this area continues to this day under the Koobi Fora Research Project! This area has been very important for its magnificent fossil record: both hominin and other important vertebrate discoveries have been found in the greater Koobi Fora area. Though the importance of the Turkana Basin concerning paleontology had been apparent for quite a while, before 1968, no research had been conducted on the east side of Lake Turkana. It wasn’t until Richard Leakey saw the area by plane on his way back to Nairobi from research in the lower Omo River valley that he saw terrain that looked similar to other paleontological areas and decided to explore further. With his crew of hominin hunters and colleagues, they discovered the magnitude of what laid exposed in the region due to faulting and erosion. Since their pioneering excursions, an abundance of hominin fossils have been discovered: Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, and Homo rudolfensis, as well as Australopithecus boisei and Australopithecus anamensis have all been unearthed here. Further, clues to early hominin behavior have been found in the form of stone tools, of both the Oldowan and Acheulean industries.
Fortunately, Koobi Fora is only a few hours drive from TBI-Ileret! After about a week and a half of intensive geology, we were ready to spend time in the field where it all began, using our new-found talents to understand a geologic area where many of our long-lost ancestors have been found (and many more are waiting!).
In 1973, Sibiloi National Park was chartered, with the Koobi Fora area constituting a significant portion of the park. As such, our route to Koobi Fora took us through the park, wherein we made a few brief stops for both geologic and aesthetic reasons!
Our next stop was to examine ~ 1.8 Ma Lacustrine deposits from paleo-Lake Lorenyang. During this period of lacustrine deposition in the Turkana Basin, there were multiple changes in lake levels that are believed to be the result of 20,000 year changes in regional climate. This cycle, called Precession, caused greater solar insolation in the equatorial region and strengthened the African monsoon system and as a result, increased precipitation and lake levels.
Koobi Fora Area 102.
Koobi Fora Area 103.
A group picture to mark the final exposure the students had to investigate during the geology module.