University of Adelaide students visit Naracoorte Caves

University of Adelaide students are busy studying the Naracoorte Caves as part of a four-day field trip this week. 

Forty-six students made the journey from the state’s capital to get a closer look at the caves for their Evolution of the Australian Biota course.

Under the guidance of the university’s research fellow and paleontologist Dr Liz Reed, students got the opportunity to tour the various caves at the world heritage listed site.

Dr Reed said the local caves were a “perfect” place for the undergraduates to study and learn from.

“It’s like an underground classroom because instead of sitting in a lecture theatre they get to go in a cave and see the stuff first-hand,” she said.

“There’s no substitute to handling real fossil material and trying to identify it yourself.”

Students worked on individual projects that involved sorting through deposit material dating back to 60,000 years to identify bones from animals.

“Some of the them have found megafuana remains which is pretty exciting,” Dr Reed said.

They also saw some of material from the Victorian fossil cave which was a hit with young researchers.

The tour group included several Phd students who were able to get teaching experience as they demonstrated some of the activities.  

Bachelor of Science undergrad James Nankivell said he was really enjoying the hands-on experience.

“We are used to sitting in lectures reading material and doing short practicals but (here) we are actually getting to sift through real fossil material,” he said.

“It’s great to be able to find all these fascinating fossils that we wouldn't otherwise have found.”

The third year student who visited the site as a tourist a few years ago explained he would love to continue studying the Naracoorte Caves in the future. 

“I’d love to continue on with honours and (working here) would be pretty great after the undergraduate course.”

The University of Adelaide is planning on launching a new major in paleontology which will include another field trip to Naracoorte.

“The opportunity to work here and look at the caves and fossils is very appealing to students and they're getting more for that,” Dr Reed said.

The course is will be offered to students from 2019 onwards.