New palaeontology dig at World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves sees PhD student living her dream


It is a tight capture, however scientists hope the very first palaeontological dig in a narrow cavern chamber will clarify how animals that wandered Earth 100,000 to 200,000 years back altered through time.

The dig, at South Australia’s World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves National Park, is a dream come to life for the Adelaide University PhD student in charge, Tiah Bampton.

Ms Bampton has an uncommon commute to her work space — a narrow 10-metre long tunnel to a little underground chamber in the Alexandra Cave.

“I have to take basically all of the material, the bags, all of the digging equipment, down into the hole with me, which is quite difficult because the hole is not very large,” Ms Bampton stated.

Only about a lots individuals are understood to have actually crawled into the space prior to Ms Bampton.

To enter into the tunnel, Ms Bampton crawls through a narrow, dark hole.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

She has actually worked there for hours in the dark, utilizing her headtorch to thoroughly draw out layer upon layer of ancient earth and bone.

“What we’re hoping to find in here is a group of animals and we’re trying to understand how these animals have actually changed through time,” Ms Bampton stated.

“So each of these layers will represent a time period relatively much, or a unit of layers may reveal a time period.

“Knowing how the animals has actually altered through this time can assist us comprehend the effects of things such as environment and other elements such as fire occasions.”

A dental pick being used to point out layers of sediment
Researchers utilize great badger the sediment in the cavern.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

The confined chamber has to do with 15 metres listed below the surface area and it is so peaceful Ms Bampton can hear when she scrapes various kinds of sediment with a fine, oral choice.

Good factor to excavate new website

The excavation at Alexandra Cave is the most recent in a choose variety of active digs at Naracoorte Caves, which ended up being well-known after discoveries of megafauna fossils.

A woman wearing a University of Adelaide jacket stands in a cave
Dr Liz Reed is the motivation for PhD student Tiah Bampton.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Ms Bampton’s PhD manager, palaeontologist Dr Liz Reed, stated modern-day research study methods suggested palaeontologists often did not require to really excavate a great deal of product from new websites.

“We do not excavate as much — however when we do excavate a new website, it’s for a great factor.”

Researchers are wishing to complete a space in the historic record at the website, covering the 100,000 to 200,000-year timespan.

Dr Reed stated Ms Bampton was likewise taking a various technique to research study.

“She’s looking at the teeth of the animals, looking at isotopes in their teeth, which inform us about their diet plan in ancient times, in addition to what animals they are,” she stated.

“So she’ll have the ability to do the timeless palaeontology research study of the various animal types.’

She will likewise have the ability to inform what the water resembled in the location, how damp it was, what the animals consumed and what sort of greenery there was, Dr Reed stated.

A red bucket full of earth sits next to a wall of layered soil
Buckets of sediment and bone need to be thoroughly moved into bags and carried out of the little chamber.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Dr Reed stated handling the research study capacity of a website like the Naracoorte Caves was a balancing act.

“It’s not about digging the site up and doing excavations everywhere, it’s about preserving this for the future,” she stated.

Dig a dream come to life

A woman wearing a helmet and a head torch holds a bone and a ziplock bag in a small cave
Ms Bampton drawing out bones at the dig.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

Ms Bampton initially fulfilled Dr Reed when she checked out the Naracoorte Caves as an eight-year-old.

“I just decided that I was going to be a palaeontologist, and I was going to work down at the Naracoorte Caves with Liz Reed”, she stated.

“So fortunately enough, I pressed it and I truly strove to arrive … and now I’m here, which is truly interesting.

“I’ve worked down here for my honours in addition to my PhD now and I simply like the work.”

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