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Help Scientists Find Hominin Fossils Before They're Lost Forever

Illustration for article titled Help Scientists Find Hominin Fossils Before Theyre Lost Forever

From the first moment a fossil is weathered out of its stony tomb, its days are sadly numbered. Wind, rain, the heat of day and cold of night relentlessly chip away at exposed fossils until they crumble to dust . . . unless a human happens to stumble across them first.


Meave and Louise Leakey, a mother-daughter paleontology team specializing in human origins, are no longer leaving fossil-finding to chance. The Leakeys have taken high-resolution aerial photos of a fossil-rich site at Lake Turkana, Kenya, and they need your help sifting through the photos, from the comfort of your own chair.

Humans and hominins have lived around Turkana for at least 4.2 million years, and the site has yielded important hominin fossils in the past: specimens of Homo erectus, Homo habilus, and Australopithecus anamensis. Because Lake Turkana’s rocks cover such a broad swath of human evolution, additional fossil finds could be particularly important. And the shell, algae, and fish fossils abundant in the area (and which they’d also like you to help find) offer necessary clues about the geology of the area today, and the ecology of the area across time.


The Leakeys have added their project to Zooniverse, a citizen-science platform that also has people scouring photos of Mars looking for impact craters, and old Coast Guard weather reports for help understanding the effects of warming and climate change. Everything you record will help scientists’ understanding of the area, and any particularly interesting finds will be personally investigated by the Leakeys and/or members of their team, making the best possible use of their time, and recovering as many fossils as possible before it’s too late.

Help out at zooniverse.org.

via New Scientist.

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