The Olduvai Vertebrate Paleontology Project

Started in 2010 as an offshoot of the Tanzania International Paleoanthropology Project, OVPP is co-directed by Drs. Jackson Njau (Department of Geology, Indiana University) and Leslea Hlusko (Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley).

Over the last 50 years, researchers have explored and conducted fieldwork on virtually all of the spatially extensive rift-bound outcrops in eastern Africa. It is reasonable to conclude that most of the large outcrops of fossiliferous sediments in the East African Rift Valley have been identified.

Consequently, paleoanthropologists need to devise ways to extract as much information as possible from already known sites and existing collections, especially from large sites with abundant fossils (as population level variation provides key insight into evolution).

OVPP is a two-pronged approach for increasing the paleontological data set from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. We are systematically recovering more fossil material from the field site, and simultaneously compiling a comprehensive database of already collected specimens.  CODI is the result of the latter aim.

Most of the prior work at Olduvai Gorge has been focused on archaeology and fossil recovery as a part of a larger archaeological question.  We are taking a specific paleontology approach.  We use high-resolution satellite imagery and closely follow geological stratigraphy in a tightly controlled systematic collection of fossils on the outcrop of Beds I-IV and the Masek, Ndutu, and Naisiusiu Beds.

We have run two field seasons, in 2011 and 2012.  Survey has been done systematically, starting from the Eastern-most edge of the Gorge.  We have collected over 350 specimens (all labelled OVPP-# in CODI), from a wide range of vertebrate taxa.

Each specimen has dgps coordinates recorded for its location, in addition to detailed stratigraphic horizon/provenience.  We wash each fossil, photograph it while in the field.  Once we return from the field, we upload these new OVPP fossils into CODI