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Tue, 07 Feb


Endless Forms Seminar Series

Seminar with the Turkana Miocene Project

Drivers of mammalian evolution in the Miocene of eastern Africa

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Seminar with the Turkana Miocene Project
Seminar with the Turkana Miocene Project

Time & Location

07 Feb 2023, 17:30 GMT

Endless Forms Seminar Series

About the event

Isaiah Nengo, Stony Brook University

Catherine Beck, Hamilton College

Craig Feibel, Rutgers University

Greg Henkes, Stony Brook University

Chris Poulson, University of Michigan (now Dean of Arts and Sciences, U of Oregon)

Kevin Uno, Columbia University

The goal of this project is to apply a high-resolution, basin-focused approach to

constrain the complex relationships between tectonics, volcanism, erosion, climate, and

the long-term transformation of ecosystems and mammalian fauna in the Turkana

Basin over the entire Miocene Epoch. We proposed an ambitious integration of

fundamental and cutting-edge datasets from across for Earth, Climate, and Life

disciplines that when coupled together will significantly advance our understanding of

hominoid and African ecosystem evolution. We contend that such an integrated

approach is the future of reconstructing terrestrial environmental change worldwide and

that our proposed research will substantially accelerate our understanding of how

modern East African ecosystems came to be. Our research objectives are to collect new

geological, paleoenvironmental, and paleontological data, targeting time intervals and

sites with limited geological or fossil data, and integrate them with published data and

tectonic, landscape, and climate models to resolve the relationship between rifting and

climate change in the Turkana Basin, as well as evaluating their respective roles in

driving biotic change across the Miocene.

The project has completed two major field seasons, working with TBI. In 2021 we focused on

Lothagam with a short visit to Napudet. In 2022 we continued work at Lothagam, Napudet, as

well as Loperot and Buluk. Plans for 2023 are to continue work at Lothagam, Napudet, Loperot

and Buluk, as to also visit Topernawi, Nakwai, Locherangan, Sibilot and Kajong.

We’ve been successful in improving the stratigraphic framework for these sites, adding critical

paleomag sampling, and extensive sampling for phytoliths, isotopes and biomarkers.

Students from the Turkana University HEB Program have participated in much of the fieldwork,

as have the staff and technicians of TBI on both sides of the lake.

Beyond the fieldwork, laboratory investigation of isotopes, biomarkers, petrology and dating

have been completed, and a two-pronged approach to modelling is being pursued, with Chris

Poulson’s team working on climate models and Bill Holt’s group working on a geodynamic

model of rifting and landscape evolution.

The project interacts closely with paleontologists including Ellen Miller (Buluk), Gabrielle Russo

(Napudet) and John Rowan (Lothagam). The Life Team of co-Investigators also includes Nasser

Malit and Francis Kirera (Sibilot), Chris Campisano (Kajong), Mikael Fortelius and Indre Zliobaite

(ecomorphology), Tara Smiley (community ecology).

The project website at has additional information.

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