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Lions, zebras and geography, oh my!

Environmental geoscience student explores Tanzania through Eberly College Academic Enrichment Fund

Among the lions and zebras in Tanzania in the summer heat, a West Virginia University environmental geoscience student explored the geography of the land.

Francesca Basil on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Francesca Basil on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Weirton, West Virginia, native Francesca Basil (BA Environmental Geoscience, 2018) traveled to the East African country in summer 2018 with support from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences’ Academic Enrichment Program.

Basil lived among a group of Masai farmers and workers in a community referred to as a boma and studied at the world famous Leaky Camp at Olduvai Gorge. There, she examined the land’s volcanic ash, learned the Swahili language, studied Tanzanian history and participated in archaeological digs. She also experienced animal safaris, visited the famous Laetoli footprint site and hiked the world’s only active sodium-carbonatite-producing volcano.  

Basil and her team sighted giraffes, amongst other animals.
A giraffe sighting in Tanzania.

“The funds I received from the Academic Enrichment Program greatly helped me to afford my study abroad program,” Basil said. “It is important for students to realize that there is financial assistance available for academic programs, such as study abroad.”

One of her favorite memories from the trip included participating in real-life archaeological digs that she has dreamed about since childhood, where she found bones, teeth and ancient stone tools in the materials her team excavated. Basil also enjoyed seeing beautiful African mammals and summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, or the ‘Roof of Africa.’

“We created stone tools from scratch and used those tools to cut meat and learn exactly how our hominid ancestors lived and survived millions of years ago,” Basil said. “It was a very interesting and challenging process. All-in-all, this field school was an incredible, worthwhile educational and life experience.”  

Basil spent many late nights in the bone lab.
She spent many nights in the bone lab.

Basil graduated in August 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental geoscience and a minor in geographic information science. While at WVU, Basil also studied abroad for a semester in Melbourne, Australia.

“Every Eberly College student should be aware of this fund and consider applying if they are participating in any educational opportunities outside of the university,” Basil said. “This fund will provide opportunities for future students to benefit from all sorts of educational experiences.”