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Australian National University, Canberra

Report by Kirstin Ward

Kirstin Ward archaeology placement student (1) I spent my nine month placement at Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra. I was working under the supervision of Prof. Rainer Grün dating fossil tooth specimens by electron spin resonance. The specimens were from South Africa and the aim was to provide data relating to the change to a more open and savannah environment.

The majority of the work involved the preparation, irradiation and measurement of teeth. I also undertook solution ICP-MS work to determine the uranium and thorium contents of the enamel, dentine and sediment; LA-ICP-MS scans to profile the uranium uptake through the tooth and processing of the raw data generated.

An unexpected opportunity arose halfway through the placement to visit some of the sites in South Africa to collect more samples and field data. This was a fantastic experience and allows me to place the material I had been working on in the laboratory into context.

The opportunity to work at such a well respected institution and on original research is unusual at undergraduate level. I have gained more practical laboratory experience of these techniques than many others, even at postgraduate level, may have the opportunity to gain.

Australia is a welcoming country and everyone was very helpful and friendly. I am hoping to build on the contacts I made out there last year when I return to ANU for further study.

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