The Smithsonian's Human Origins Program began this project in 2013 to obtain a long climate record from ancient lake deposits in Olorgesailie, Kenya, which is about 40 miles south of Nairobi. The goal is to understand the climate in a regions where human evolution and adaptation took place over the last million years. Olorgesailie is important for several reasons: 

  1. There are important transitions in stone tool technologies in the last 500,000 years
  2. The origin of our humans occurred around 200,000 years ago in East Africa
  3. Humans began migrating out of Africa ~75,000 years ago
  4. The emergence of the modern East Africa ecosystem

My role on the project is understand the more than 30 paleosols (fossil soils) identified in the core. There are very abrupt climate shifts with laminated lake deposits directly overlying paleosols. This pattern is repeated throughout the core and I am using both soil features and bulk geochemistry to characterize these soils, which represent prolonged dry periods. 

1) The Olorgesailie Drilling Project in 2013, with Mt. Olorgesailie in the distance 2) Discussing the paleosols with Kay Behrensmyer (Smithsonian) and Jenni Scott (Mount Royal). The cores are stored at the LacCore facility at the University of Minnesota. 3) Abrupt transition from dry period (paleosol on right) to wet period (laminated lacustrine on left).