OPs Ben Thomas and Doug James are helping raise money to enable some of the most disadvantaged students at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, to carry out fieldwork in the Karoo Basin this summer, described by some as a palaeontological wonderland. Dr Julien Benoit, Senior Researcher in Palaeontology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute of Johannesburg, expects these students to become the next generation of African palaeontologists, yet they receive no funding of their own to carry out this essential part of their degree experience.
Dr Benoit approached Ben and Doug after finding their successful YouTube channel for dinosaur and fossil enthusiasts. Ben started YouTubing when he was 12, producing videos about his passion for natural history, evolution and especially dinosaurs. His videos now have a total of over 65 million views and this number increases by several hundred thousand every week. Whilst Ben produces main feature videos on Sundays, his younger brother, a current PGS pupil, produces the Animal of the Week feature every Monday and PGS friend Doug James co-hosts Seven Days of Science on Wednesdays, both racking up considerable viewing figures in their own right.
The expedition will take place in August 2021 with Ben and Doug hoping to fly out to join the expedition and to make a complete video record of their experience for a future You Tube series. Dr Benoit said “During this field trip into the South African Karoo, the students, as well as Ben and Doug, will be taught how to prospect for fossils, excavate, make a plaster jacket, log, map and GPS mark fossils before transporting them back to our collections where they will be stored and catalogued. This will be a unique opportunity to discover the amazing richness of the Karoo extinct fauna and flora, and learn how much sweat, tears, but also comradery is hidden behind every fossil discovery”. The expedition’s Crowdfunding Page is now open, do click here.