Three South Australian high school students have had the opportunity to take part in an outback field excursion, digging up ancient fossils, as part of the annual Flinders University James Moore Memorial Prize in Palaeontology.
The recent trip to the Alcoota megafauna fossil site, 250 kilometres northeast of Alice Springs was led by the Flinders Palaeontology Society and the Museum of Central Australia, and included the 2019 winners of the James Moore Memorial Prize: Year 10 student from St Michael’s College, Antoni Camozzato (city winner); Year 11 student from Edward John Eyre High School in Whyalla, Laluloy Bucar (rural winner); and 2018 Memorial Prize winner Tasman Dixon from Glenunga International High School.
“The feeling of bringing the ancient remains of long-gone beasts into the light for the first time in six to eight million years is almost indescribable,” said Antoni. “The first fossil I pulled from the ground, the tibia of an Ilbandornis woodburnei (giant flightless bird), was especially special, even if it was a bit fragmented. I just loved being in the central Australian desert, looking over the Mitchell grass plains, following dry riverbeds and sitting under the breathtaking night sky.”
Laluloy added that she is excited by palaeontology’s analysis and investigation of early life, the environment and geological events. “It gives us a greater understanding of earth’s history, which is vital to fixing global issues such as global warming and climate change and its impact on earth’s biodiversity and physical environment.”
The students’ participation in the Alcoota excursion has encouraged them to continue palaeontology studies.
“My intention to follow palaeontology as a career is now even stronger,” said Antoni. “I hope to remain involved with Flinders University Palaeo Society and eventually study palaeontology at Flinders University in a few years’ time.”
The school students’ passion for engaging with palaeontology underlines the ongoing success of the prize – which was established through the James Moore Memorial Fund in 2015 to honour the memory of a beloved student and technical officer in the Flinders Palaeontology Laboratory who was killed in a 2014 car crash.