Sculpting a fossil hunter

|Sculpting a fossil hunter

This past week in paleontology, the students spent time in lab learning how to identify bones of mammalian species found in the Turkana Basin and understanding differences in functional morphology. This is an important skill set because when we go into the field next week, the students will be able to identify any fossils they find. On Saturday, the students also spent a morning with the collections in the research labs to familiarize themselves with some of the fossils they might come across in the field!

The students loved the hands on experience with original fossil material, and they were able to practice what they have already learned in identifying fossil bones. Two of TBI’s most experienced fossil hunters, Sale and Apolo, were available to answer all of the students questions. It was a great first week in vertebrate paleontology and students were now ready for fossil hunting in the field!


Toby, Millie and Esther try to figure out what animal this is.


Yvette examines the mandible, trying to figure out what this animal may have been eating given its dental morphology.


Sale describes to Max the characteristic features of this fossil.


Jon and Dr. Miller discuss dental formulas.


Sale, Carla, and Kathryn get a closer look at these tiny specimens!


Esther, Apolo, and Toby discuss this mandible. Clearly it is an interesting specimen by the looks on all of their faces!


Morgan is amazed by the size of these bovid’s horns.

The students next headed over to the preparation labs to see what happens to a fossil after it is brought back from the field. Sometimes sediment matrix needs to be removed from around a fossil and other times a specimen is extremely fragile and the bone needs to be hardened.  After trying it out themselves, the students quickly learned that being a fossil preparator requires amazing patience.

The students loved preparing fossils so much, it was hard to get them to leave for lunch!


Max has a steady hand


Fossil preparator, William, gives Morgan some advice on how to proceed


Emily tackles a crocodile specimen

At the end of the first week of vertebrate paleontology, students are now experienced with identifying fossil fauna from the Turkana Basin. Next week, the students head to the field for prospecting, excavating and maybe even sieving if we find a fossil rich area! Check in soon to see what our students find in the field!

By | 2017-01-04T18:04:32+00:00 October 17th, 2016|Fall 2016, Field Schools|Comments Off on Sculpting a fossil hunter

About the Author:

Hi I'm Jayde and I am the TBI Origins field school teaching assistant for Fall 2016. I recently graduated from Rutgers University and am applying to graduate schools to study geoarchaeology. I am mainly interested in reconstructing past environments and its influence on hominin populations.