Who are we?

The Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) is a privately funded, non-profit initiative, founded by Richard Leakey and Stony Brook University. It is a collaborative, international, multi-disciplinary enterprise that seeks to facilitate fieldwork within the Lake Turkana Basin by providing logistical support to researchers. The primary research focus is human prehistory and related earth and natural science studies. As the most important repository of fossil evidence for human evolution, a major commitment of TBI is to safeguard the extensive fossil deposits in the region through engagement with the local communities.

Recently constructed laboratory at TBI’s Turkwel research facility.

Over the past four decades, inter-disciplinary field research in the Turkana Basin has been focused almost exclusively on prehistory. With the establishment of TBI, the research has broadened considerably in scope to include modern studies such as botany, limnology, entomology, alternative energy, linguistics, development studies and health care. Historically, it has been difficult to study or address these projects due to the formidable logistics entailed. TBI provides the physical and human infrastructure to enable scientists to conduct research in this challenging environment, in much the same way that creation of Antarctic research stations opened that region to the scientific community at large.

In 2005, Richard Leakey outlined to Stony Brook University his concept for an institute that could provide permanent infrastructure to enable year-round research in this remote region of sub-Saharan Africa. The university enthusiastically endorsed the idea of TBI, committing funds for the Stony Brook end of the project. Additional fundraising began in 2006; construction of basic facilities for a long-term field camp at Ileret commenced in 2007, the camp was fully operational by year-end, and was the site for the first Kenya-based Human Evolution Workshop in 2008. Construction of the first full field centre at Turkwel began in May 2008, and a permanent scientific facility designed to house up to 60 visiting scholars and researchers has now been completed. TBI-Turkwel has hosted international workshops every year since 2009. A comparable permanent facility is now under construction at Ileret.

Our international offices and faculty are centered at Stony Brook University (TBI-Stony Brook). TBI has three facilities in Kenya: two field centers in the Turkana Basin (TBI-Turkwel and TBI-Ileret) and administrative offices in Kenya’s capital city (TBI-Nairobi).

Our affiliates

TBI works in affiliation with Stony Brook University and the National Museums of Kenya. Additional scientific institutional partnerships are expected to be developed in the next few years.