Research projects facilitated by the Turkana Basin Institute continue to expand the boundaries of knowledge surrounding faunal evolution, prehistoric climate change, and our own origins. The following is a list of research projects currently facilitated by TBI.
Read more about individual research projects, including research highlights in our annual reports.
A new Oligo-Miocene site in Topernawi Gorge
This site, located in western Turkana County north of the Turkwel River, was discovered and mapped in 2018, and documents an important but poorly known time period for Old World primate evolution from 25-28 myr.
Project leaders: Patricia Princehouse, Isaiah Nengo
Team members: Emmanuel Aoron
Automating taxonomic classification of East African herbivore dentition through machine learning
This project deploys neural network-based learning techniques to assist in the identification of fossil herbivore teeth found in the Turkana Basin.
Project leader: Daniel Green
Buluk Research Project
The Buluk Research Project investigates faunal remains at the rich Miocene site of Buluk to document the origins of modern African mammal clades, including Old World monkeys and apes.
Project leaders: Ellen Miller, Isaiah Nengo
Team members: Ellis Locke
Comparative hyena ecology in the context of defaunation and pastoralism
This project explores the effects of human communities on hyena populations.
Project leader: Miquel Torrents-Ticó
Current rifting in the East African Rift
Using continuous GPS stations installed at TBI-Ileret and TBI-Turkwel to record frequent, precise measurements of movements in the Earth’s crust, this project focuses on the history of the formation of the East African Rift.
Project leader: Rebecca Bendick
Ecological changes in Sibiloi National Park and surroundings, Kenya: an integrated inter-disciplinary approach
Initiated in 2016, this project assesses the social and ecological status of Sibiloi National Park and surroundings, while exploring links between ecological and cultural change.
Project leader: Mar Cabeza
Team members: Visa Koiso-Kanttila, Iiris Härmä, Daniel Burgas, Sara Fraixedas
Frontier dynamics across Lake Turkana: Tracing the social lives and deaths of eastern Africa’s first herders
This project seeks to understand the life ways of early African pastoralists through examination of archaeological and bioarchaeological evidence.
Project leader: Elisabeth Sawchuk
Team members: Emmanuel Ndiema, Anneke Janzen, Dan Contreras, Katherine Grillo, Elisabeth Hildebrand
Geological Evolution of the Turkana Basin, Kenya
This project serves to further refine understanding of the complex geology in the Turkana Basin, enabling a more accurate dating of fossils and artifacts recovered there.
Project leader: Craig Feibel
History of diets of large mammals in Africa from the Miocene to present
This project utilizes the measurements of isotopes detected in faunal remains to reconstruct diets of large African mammals from the Miocene to present, to better understand the paleoecology of the terrestrial ecosystems in which these creatures lived.
Project leader: Thure Cerling
Hominin footprints in the Turkana Basin
This project focuses on new fossil footprint and skeletal fossil data, with a goal of better understanding the ecological contexts of hominins living in the Turkana Basin around 1.5 million years ago.
Project leader: Neil Roach
Team members: Anna K. Berhensmeyer, Kevin Hatala, Frederick Manthi
In Africa, which just completed its eleventh field season, is a research program investigating the origins of our species—Homo sapiens—and its diversity in Africa, and aims at making new discoveries of early human fossils and archaeological sites to test models of human origins and diversification on the continent.
Project leader: Marta Lahr
Team members: Robert Foley, Abigail Parker, Hema Achyuthan, Katrien Janin, Celine Vidal, Aurélien Mounier, Jason Head
Koobi Fora Research Project
Since 1968, members of the KFRP have unearthed many of the top significant hominin discoveries known to science, such as skull KNM-ER 1470, the Turkana Boy skeleton, Australopithecus anamnesis, and Kenyanthropus platyops.
Project leaders: Meave Leakey, Louise Leakey
Later Prehistory of West Turkana
The LPWT examines the beginnings of agriculture and herding in Africa. Ethnobotanical, archaeological, and archaeobotanical data are utilized to explore the economies, culture, and survival strategies of the earliest hunter-gatherers on the continent.
Project leader: Elisabeth Hildebrand
Team members: Elisabeth Sawchuk, Kate Grillo
Local Indicators of Climate Change Impacts
The LICCI investigates the potential of local knowledge systems to assist in generating climate research data.
Project leader: Victoria Reyes-García
Napudet Research Project
Continued exploration and excavation at Napudet has resulted in the recovery of numerous new fossils including new primate finds, such as the Alesi fossil—a remarkably complete, 13 million-year-old infant ape skull.
Project leaders: Gabrielle Russo, Isaiah Nengo
West Turkana Archaeological Project
The WTAP is a multidisciplinary scientific project that conducts archaeological fieldwork on the western shores of Lake Turkana. In 2015, leaders of the project announced their discovery of the world’s oldest stone tools, dated to 3.3 million years.
Project leaders: Sonia Harmand, Jason Lewis
Team members: Vincent Arrighi, Xavier Boes, Sandrine Prat, Nicholas Taylor, Jenna Anderson