Our ongoing module is Vertebrate Paleontology which is instructed by Prof. Ellen Miller. Students have been learning about the evolution of various forms of life on earth. We learn from Prof. Miller that, fossils are the gold mines for paleontologists as they enable them to collect data on the extinct fauna, flora and their past ecologies. They are the trace representatives of living organisms in the geological age.
Many of the living taxa of organisms have extinct ancestors that are well represented in the fossil record. To identify the real set of evolutionary relationships through time, paleontologists use derived features that characterize a smaller group different from their ancestors to create the evolutionary tree. In the fossil record, Turkana Basin boasts of many sizes of mammalian vertebrae including megafauna, mesofauna, and microfauna. The Basin’s geological and paleontological records from the past indicate shifting environments and facies from the Cretaceous to the Holocene period. To gain a better understanding of the morphological features in relation to the habitats, Prof. Miller took the students to the lab, helped them in identifying bones, and led a discussion on the skeletal differences of the living forms that act as proxies to understanding the extinct taxa in the fossil record.
On Saturday, we had a lecture on the management of fossils by Martin who is the chief curator of TBI laboratories. Collecting fossils is not just a walk in the park, there are various rules governing the acquisition, storage, tracking and sharing with the scientific world. The students learned more about collecting fossils from the field, transporting them to the labs, cleaning and even accessioning them. They were lucky to clean some of the fossils at the TBI laboratory.
We ended our week by visiting Ileret village where we spent our time in one of the Manyattas, and later visited the mission church in the area.
This coming week we will be out hunting for fossils, stay tuned!!