President Stanley in Africa
President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. traveled to Madagascar and Kenya this summer to experience Stony Brook University’s commitment to improving lives around the world. During his two-week adventure, he visited three sites that feature some of Stony Brook’s most far-reaching research and development efforts.
Day Ten - Visit to Turkana Basin Institute-Turkwel
An early start at Richard Leakey's farm overlooking the great rift valley. Drove to Wilson airport to take a flight to Lodwar, the main town on the west side of Lake Turkana. A bouncy ride on unmade roads brought us to TBI-Turkwel, which is an extraordinary facility built and operated by Stony Brook University in conjunction with Stony Brook faculty members Richard, Meave and Louise Leakey under a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Museums of Kenya.
TBI (Turkana Basin Institute) stands in the middle of a desert region in northern Kenya and this area is literally the cradle of humankind. Our ancestors took their first steps as bipeds close to here. The first large-brained members of our genus were found here as well as the almost complete skeleton of 1.56 myr Turkana Boy and the first anatomically modern members of Homo sapiens. An extraordinary place for me, as the son of an anthropologist, to have the opportunity to visit.
Meave and Richard Leakey outlined their vision for TBI, which is by no means limited to completing the documentation of our evolutionary story. Already TBI has significant community outreach programs in education, health, food and renewable energy. The goal is no less than to transform the lives of people living in one of the most challenging and underserved regions in the world.
My first day at TBI left me excited by the extraordinary opportunities that TBI offers to Stony Brook faculty and students for research, education and community engagement. I am astonished by the scale of what has been accomplished already and excited about what we will do here in the future.
Returning to the human story, Meave and Richard showed me astonishing new fossil finds that promise to require rethinking many long held positions as well as archaeological and skeletal remains that offer great promise of a new era of understanding of the later stages of our evolutionary story when your ancestors and mine left this part of Africa and spread throughout the world. The past is very tangible here and the future rich with promise.