GW to Operate Renowned Koobi Fora Field School with the National Museums of Kenya

Koobi Fora
November 01, 2012

The National Museums of Kenya and Columbian College’s Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology have teamed up to provide a unique opportunity for students to train with ecologists, archeologists, and paleontologists onsite in one of the most spectacular and productive paleoanthropology field research regions in the world. Last week, GW President Steven Knapp and Director General of the National Museums of Kenya Idle Farah agreed to jointly operate and administer the Koobi Fora Field School, an international training and research program in the Republic of Kenya’s Silbiloi National Park.

“This new relationship with the National Museums of Kenya represents a groundbreaking opportunity for our students, the Anthropology Department, and GW as a whole,” said Assistant Professor of Anthropology David Braun who will serve as co-director the Koobi School with Purity Kiura of the National Museums of Kenya Archaeology Division. “Koobi Fora—the colloquial name of the region that includes the Silbiloi National Park—contains some of the earliest evidence of our human ancestors and a remarkable learning opportunity for our students.”

The Koobi Fora Field School centers around a six-week summer field course to expose students to the many facets of paleoanthropology, a sub-discipline of anthropology focused on the study of human origins and evolution. Participants are immersed in wildlife ecology; attend lectures and presentations on ecology and paleoecology of African ecosystems; receive hands-on training in field techniques associated with archaeology and paleontology; and participate in on-going discovery and analysis of archaeological and paleontological remains ranging from 4 million years ago to the present. A sampling of field projects includes:

  • studying fossilized footprints from 1.6 million years ago;
  • finding evidence of human scavenging and hunting from 2 million years ago;
  • exploring evidence of climate change and animal communities over the last 4 million years; and
  • discovering the changes associated with the appearance of domesticated animals in East Africa.

The world-renowned Koobi School has been operating as a collaborative effort between the National Museums of Kenya and various American universities for more than 25 years. To date, it has trained over 650 students, facilitated 12 doctoral degrees, and published many peer-reviewed publications, including articles in the journals Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The program represents an unparalleled learning experience for students from diverse backgrounds—including those from Kenya—to interact on and be actively engaged in the scientific process.

“The opportunity for local African students to attend the Koobi Fora Field School program through the partnership will raise the bar of excellence in this field of study,” said Kiura. “The interaction of these local students with their international peers will broaden and enhance their working relationships.”