National Geographic has a neat story by Michael Greshko about ancient footprints near Lake Natron, in Tanzania: “Treasure Trove of Ancient Human Footprints Found Near Volcano.
Local villager Kongo Sakkae found some of the footprints prior to 2006, but the site didn’t reach scientists’ attention until 2008, when Pennsylvania-based conservationist Jim Brett happened to be staying at the Lake Natron Tented Camp, just a few hundred yards from the footprints. Stunned by what he saw, Brett snapped as many pictures as he could and resolved to pass them along to a scientist he knew he could trust: Liutkus-Pierce, whom he had met when she was a postdoctoral researcher.
The trouble was, Brett picked the worst possible day to call.
“It was April Fool’s Day, I kid you not,” says Liutkus-Price. “He called me and said, ‘I think I have found some really cool hominid footprints.’ And I said, ‘Jim, can you call me tomorrow, so I know that this is not a joke?’”
The article gives a very nice account of the realization that these are fossil footprints, notes that they had been known to some local people earlier, discusses how collaborators were brought into the project, does not avoid mentioning a big problem with one of the researchers, and generally does a great job of showing how science is done.