Want to be a fossil hunter? FossilFinder.org can get you started

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Did you ever dream of walking a pre-historic site hunting for fossils? Did you ever wish to be a part of an initiative that is looking to broaden our understanding of life of our ancestors and their surroundings? Do you fancy image inspection by sifting through lots of photos? If answers to all these questions are a yes, you could help out as a volunteer at FossilFinder.org.

This “citizen science project” is looking to recruit an army of volunteers with keen interest in fossils. Volunteers will be provided with a unique and interactive website to spot undiscovered fossils in a prehistoric, fossil-rich region of the Turkana Basin in northern Kenya. You will not be required to travel to Africa or sift through mountains of soil to make these groundbreaking discoveries. You can be a part of this major project right from the comfort of your home with a computer.

Fossilfinder is a platform using which citizens and amateur scientists can report new discoveries as well as make a direct contribution to developing knowledge about prehistory. Experts at the University of Bradford, using a range of novel aerial imaging platforms, including specialized cameras mounted on drones, kites, and other devices have already collected high-resolution aerial imagery of a series of locations across the Turkana Basin. The images were then fed to an interactive website and they are waiting there to be analysed and examined by citizen scientists.

The project expects the army of citizen scientists to mark any possible objects of interest including fossil fragments or stone tools. These findings will then be submitted to experts to use in the reconstruction of past environments and landscapes.

Project Manager Dr Adrian Evans, of the University of Bradford, said: “This is a really exciting project that will allow enthusiasts who can’t get to these remote places to be fully involved as ‘citizen scientists’ to find new fossils as primary research data.

Dr Louise Leakey, of the Turkana Basin Institute and National Geographic Explorer in Residence, said: “In this exciting new approach, we are asking for help to document the fossil-bearing landscapes, which will assist us in the reconstruction of past environments. This partnership between the public and the scientific team will be transformative to our research – more eyes, more information, more discoveries.”

Searching through thousands of high definition images on Fossilfinder, a citizen scientist is engaged directly in research and is provided with an experience and an understanding of the difficulties and challenges of finding fossil evidence used to interpret the past.

The move comes after a new trend has emerged wherein members of general public, students and amateur scientists around the world are involved in a spate of new discoveries.