Portsmouth YouTuber Ben Thomas looks make dinosaur fossil hunting trip a reality for disadvantaged students

PALAEONTOLOGY student and YouTuber Ben Thomas has launched a fundraising campaign to help disadvantaged students take part in an expedition to discover the fossilised remains of new species of dinosaurs.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 7:00 am
Ben Thomas (left) and his co-presenter Doug James at the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Shanklin.

Ben, 20, lives in Southsea and studies at the University of Portsmouth At the age of 12 he launched his own natural history YouTube channel which focuses on the evolution of dinosaurs and the discovery of their fossilised remains.

With 380,000 subscribers, Ben was asked by the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, to use his profile help raise funds for disadvantaged students to carry out fieldwork in the Karoo Basin – described by experts as a ‘palaeontological wonderland’.

The location’s geology dates back almost 300 million years and has been home to the discovery of new species of dinosaur such as Massospondylus, a six metre long sauropod which was a giant herbivorous reptile.

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Ben and fellow YouTuber Doug James, 20, who co-hosts on the show, are also hoping to fly out South Africa to film the expedition for their YouTube channel.

Financial hardship in the city means many of the students would not be able to fund their own participation in the expedition.

Senior researcher in palaeontology at the University of Witwatersrand, Dr Julien 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 camaraderie is hidden behind every fossil discovery.

‘Hopefully these students will become the next generation of African palaeontologists.’

The THRINAKS crowdfunding page has targeted raising 10,000 euros to cover the cost of transport, food and accommodation for 20 students.

Ben’s YouTube channel’s videos have received over 65 million views and the production is a real family affair with his biology teacher mum, Nicky Thomas, and his younger brother contributing to weekly features.

Covid restrictions permitting, it is hoped the expedition will take place in August (2021).

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