TBI is a research institution supporting scientific projects in the Turkana Basin, Kenya.

New scientific frontiers

TBI provides access to one of the most remarkable and remote natural landscapes in the world. Far removed from modern societies, this sparsely inhabited region is virtually unaltered by tourism or industry. Local peoples living in the region depend heavily on natural resources in and around Lake Turkana.

The initial focus of scientific work in the Turkana Basin has been on the sciences of prehistory, but the existence of an infrastructure to enable research is leading to the development of numerous projects in other disciplines including meteorology, ecology, climate studies, fisheries, and linguistics. The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook has already made initial visits to the Turkana Basin and faculty are working on grant proposals to enable them to develop projects based there. The School of Health Technology and Management at Stony Brook is spearheading a major public health program in the Turkana Basin and at Meru that offers the promise of greatly improving health status for the nomadic populations of the region. The Turkana Basin also offers great opportunities for research on large-scale solar energy and for work on drip agriculture to take advantage of the availability of fertile soil, unlimited sunshine and person power in this desert region. A team from Stony Brook’s Advanced Energy Center is looking to investigate renewable energy for the developing world at TBI.

Climatological data collected from Lodwar in northern Kenya from 1946 to 1970 show some of the highest average temperatures on earth. In recent years collection of these data has become more sporadic. Nevertheless, accurate modern climate information can provide valuable insight regarding the paleoclimate that has influenced hominid evolution. Recently, in collaboration with Thure Cerling, TBI installed two weather stations at TBI-Turkwel and TBI-Ileret, in an effort to obtain a continuous measure of these and other important climatological variables. We also aim to record changes in climate that may be occurring naturally and from anthropogenic sources.

Weathervane at TBI-Turkwel

The weather station at TBI-Turkwel collects data on temperature, wind, humidity and rainfall every fifteen minutes. A similar station operates at TBI-Ileret.

Collection of weather data and climate profiles throughout the year will add enormously to our ability to understand possible “drivers” for evolution and extinction. Dino Martins, a postdoctoral fellow at TBI and a Harvard University Ph.D. graduate, is an exceptional entomologist, writer and artist. His research is complimenting the climatic line of enquiry by establishing a collection of modern plants, insects and other small invertebrates as TBI builds a profile of the modern ecology. His research investigates the crucial role that insects play in pollinating plants.