Tanzania Summer Research: Revelations in Olduvai Gorge

Earlhamites in Earth and Environmental Science get first-hand research experience in Tanzania

Since 2014, teams of students from Earlham have traveled to one of the richest archeological locations in the world, Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, to work side by side with scientists excavating the site.

Capturing roughly two million years of history in its layers of strata, Olduvai Gorge continues to reveal clues about how some of the earliest human ancestors lived. Earlham students collect and analyze data there under the auspices of an international group of researchers, The Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project (TOPPP).

Application information

Interested in applying for Tanzania Summer Research: Revelations in Olduvai Gorge? Apply today on the Center for Career and Global Education’s site!

The Tanzania experience for Earlhamites is a combination of fieldwork, laboratory analysis on campus, and communication of results. During the three to five weeks of summer fieldwork, students work and live in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, collecting and conducting descriptive analysis of geological materials. Traveling to and from the field, the team gets glimpses of African wildlife, like lions, giraffes and monkeys.

Back on campus, students conduct analyses such as x-ray fluorescence and x-ray diffraction of potential tool stone materials and sediments, biophysical sediment characterization and site cartography and modeling in GIS. Students who conduct this field and laboratory research then also have an opportunity to deepen their knowledge with further lab work, an experience that is typically reserved for graduate students.

Associate Professor of Geology Cynthia Fadem, the College’s geoarcheologist, leads the Earlham team each year amid an ambitious research agenda that extends to other geological sites in Armenia, Croatia and Colorado. In fact, Fadem’s zest for mentoring students on undergraduate research led her to be included on national list of faculty who inspire.


Contact Cynthia Fadem for more information.

“I gained experience actually working in the field with professional researchers. That’s something I never expected to experience during college. Flying overseas to work with people who have large grants to work on this kind of thing was an eye-opening experience.”

— Gavin Curry ‘ 17


The Tanzania experience is just one of the experiences students could have as part of the Epic Advantage.

Earlham is one of only a handful of colleges and universities in the United States to offer funded internships and research experiences to all students. These opportunities take place during the summer, prior to a student’s junior or senior year, and funding may include travel expenses

This opportunity is a key component of Epic (Earlham Program for an Integrated Curriculum) and is a permanent feature of the Earlham Experience.

We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.