Changing Planet

The Fossil-Hunting Expedition Begins

Emily Hughes brings us tales of adventure and discovery from the Australian Outback as she and her mother search for unbelievably ancient fossils. This is her debut blog post.

This is an image of the landscape view from our house. (Photo by Mary Droser)

My name is Emily Bronwyn Hughes, and I have spent 13 summers of my life growing up in dirt. This dirt being, of course, the Australian Outback.

I am a sixteen-year-old adventurer, photographer, writer, and lover of amazing places. The Aussie Outback amazes me, as it has been doing for 13 years. I’m hoping that through this blog, it will come to amaze you too.

My mom is a paleontologist who works on the fossils embedded in these Australian rocks. The Outback isn’t just a good place to explore, it contains a ton of information about the earliest animals on the planet: the Ediacaran biota. Our mission as a team is to excavate, document, understand and preserve the intriguing fossils that can be found on the Outback rocks.

We have just arrived in the major Australian city of Adelaide, where we annually spend thousands of dollars on food to last us a few months. Tomorrow, we will begin the eight-hour drive to the station housing the mysterious fossil creatures to which we devote our summers.

The nearest town is an hour’s drive away. We take showers as rarely as possible, we have limited cell phone service, dodgy internet, no TV and no dishwasher. And to be honest, these months are the best of our lives.

The purpose of this blog is to show what it is like to spend summer working on the earliest animals on the planet, and even the lives outside the science that we lead here. It’s to show the science behind what we do here, all from the perspective of one of the youngest members of the team. It’s to give you an understanding of the impossible beauty of the Australian Outback, and how it contains science, mystery, and absolutely astonishing adventure.

This is the trailer that we drag behind our car on the 8 hour drive to the outback. (Photo Creds: Emily Hughes)
This is the trailer that we drag behind our car on the eight-hour drive to the Outback. (Photo by Emily Hughes)

Read More by Emily Hughes

Emily Hughes is an undergraduate student at Wesleyan University, born and bred in Riverside, California. She has spent the majority of her summers exploring the Australian Outback, and finding, recording, analyzing and generally admiring the 560-million year old Ediacara fossils preserved there. She is a prospective double major in English and Earth and Environmental Science, and she works for the student newspaper as well as the sustainability office.
  • Jacki Croy

    Keep posting Emily!! David and I will continue to follow your blog! What an amazing summer you will have and through your blog we hope to learn so much about your fossil hunting. David from RAA.

  • Wendy Martinez

    So glad you are doing this Emily. I will be patiently awaiting your next blog.

  • Avika

    This is absolutely amazing! You are so talented and I can’t wait to learn more about the earliest organisms on our planet.

  • Dave Wrinkle

    I can’t wait to follow your blog! The work you and your team are carrying out is not only fascinating, it is crucial for filling in a huge gap in our understanding of the evolution of life on earth. The remoteness of the region in which you toil only adds to the romance of your undertaking!

  • Debahuti Mukherjee

    What an wonderful post! It feels great to see the enthusiasm and excitement. Keep posting, i’d like to know more about this! My good wishes for the team!

  • Judy & Charlie Tuttle

    You know we love you and will follow you anywhere! Even from beautiful downtown Dorchester(Dauchestah)

  • Laurie Graham

    Emily love your blog I look forward to your adventures now I can get more understanding on what it takes for your team to get all of the fossils.


  • Itzel Crusoe

    Emily, I love you. I’m so excited for all of your endeavors. Write on!

  • Elena Cisneros

    I remember you wrote a poem as a young child and it started off something like “When I am in Australia, the world is my back yard.” Show us the world Emily. Have a beautiful journey.
    Ms. Elena Cisneros

  • Clare Bradley

    Can’t wait to join you all up there – keep up the good work getting the word out – one small step for a savvy teenager, a giant leap for the knowledge of man

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