Paleoanthropology and Paleontology of Rusinga Island, Kenya

  1. Program Details

    Aimed at reconstructing past environments that shaped the evolution of our ancestors, this field course will teach students excavation techniques, paleontological survey methods, field geology, and fossil identification.

    Location Rusinga Island, Kenya
    Term Summer Session
    Housing Hotel
    Credit Type Resident Credit
    Sponsor College of Liberal Arts

    Program Eligibility

    GPA No Requirement
    Student Type UofM Students, Non UofM Students
    Student Year Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors
    Language No Language Prerequisite
  2. About Paleoanthropology and Paleontology of Rusinga Island, Kenya

    Study paleoanthropology at one of the richest fossil sites in the world! Students will develop skills to conduct paleontological field work while contributing to ongoing research on the origin of apes and humans. We begin at the National Museums of Kenya where students study among historic collections of Kenya's fossils. Next, students spend four days observing wildlife to better understand mammal communities and their habitats. Finally, student spend 18 days on Rusinga Island learning fossil survey, excavation, and field geology. This course is not just for students who want to become paleontologists, but for anyone interested in natural history.

    Housing & Meals

    All housing and meals are covered by the program fee. In Nairobi, students will stay in a budget hotel. During ecological tour, students will stay in semi-permanent tents. On Rusinga, students will stay in their own tents. Field meals are prepared by the camp cook.

    Program Dates

    June 28, 2020 through July 26, 2020

    Program Leader

    Kieran McNulty
    Professor McNulty has directed research on Rusinga Island for 14 years. Recent discoveries by his teams, including discoveries during this field course, have helped change our understanding of early ape evolution. His work on Rusinga extends beyond science, however, and includes efforts to improve education and health on the island. 
    Lauren Michel
    Professor Michel conducted much of her PhD research on Rusinga Island and now helps lead the geological team there. Her expertise in stratigraphy and paleosol (fossil soil) composition has led to new ideas about the chronological and ecological contexts of ape evolution.


    Hell's Gate National Park
    Gatamaiyo Forest
    Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site
    Uyoma fossil sites
    Karungu fossil sites

    Program Fee

    he estimated program fee ($4098) includes tuition and registration fees, orientation, international health insurance, entry and permit fees in Kenya, excavation and education supplies, plus all travel, housing, and meals associated with the course. It does not cover airfare to Kenya, entry visa, or medical expenses (e.g., vaccinations) associated with international travel. Students are expected to bring their own basic camping gear: tent, sleeping bag, water bottles, backpack, flashlight, etc. A few tents may be provided by the program on a first-come first-served basis.

  3. Prepare

    Be aware: All programs require a $50 application fee. This fee will be charged to your student account upon submission of an online application.
    Center Name TC Learning Abroad Ctr
    Education Abroad Term Summer 2020
    Program Name Paleoanthropology and Paleontology of Rusinga Island, Kenya
    Country Kenya


    University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Use your University of Minnesota internet ID and password to log into the Education Abroad application system. Your student account will be charged a $50 application fee.

    Non-University of Minnesota Student—apply

    Once you submit your application, Learning Abroad Center staff will create a University of Minnesota student internet account for you. You will use this account to access the Education Abroad Application System, and other University of Minnesota services. You will be charged a $50 application fee for this program.

    Our staff will contact you within 2–3 business days with your internet account information, and additional application instructions.


    When you submit your online application, you will be assigned an application checklist that includes:

    • First Step session
    • University of Minnesota Student Release and Waiver Form

    Detailed descriptions and instructions for submitting each checklist item are included on the application checklist.

    Next Steps

    1. Upon submitting the online application, you will receive an automated email message indicating your application was received.
    2. Follow the instructions on your application checklist to submit all of the items. Your application is not considered complete until all items on your application checklist are either received or waived.
    3. Complete the affiliate program's application requirements as applicable.
    4. Your completed application is reviewed by our program team. If nominated for participation, the Learning Abroad Center contacts the affiliate's staff to notify them of your status.
    5. You will be notified of an acceptance decision by email. If accepted, you will be assigned a confirmation checklist. Log in to the online application to review the confirmation checklist and submit the required items.
    6. Do not pay the affiliate’s confirmation deposit. The affiliate accepts the Learning Abroad Center’s deposit as indication of confirmation. The Learning Abroad Center deposit is submitted by completing the Confirmation and Payment Agreement found on the confirmation checklist assigned to you.
    7. If you decide not to continue with the application process, log in to the online application and submit a Cancel Request. You must also notify your affiliate of your cancellation.