A 12-year-old girl Aswatha Biju from Chennai become the “youngest paleontologist in India”, with 74 fossils and several awards to her name. She says her interest in the subject came about through reading encyclopedias. Paleontology is a branch of earth science which deals with the study of fossils and the evolution of organisms.
“I have been collecting fossils since I was in Class V,” Aswatha said, adding, “I visit the Ariyalur riverbed near Tamil Nadu to collect them.” The fossils in her mini-museum include ammonites, belemnites, bivalvia, echinoids, gastropods, lopha, and nautilus.
Aswatha was recently recognized by the FICCO Ladies Organisation (FLO), Chennai. Additionally, she was also awarded the Youngest Paleontologist Award by the India Book of Records, Youngest Palaeontologist Award by Future Kalams Book of Awards and Youngest Palaeontologist Award by the Universal Achievers Book of Records.
Aswatha has also conducted seminars on paleontology in schools and colleges. In a recent seminar, she spoke about how the subject not only helps in understanding the environmental conditions that prevailed a billion years ago but also answers a primal question — “where do we come from?”
She also believes that more people should be involved in the subject to understand the importance and abundance of paleontological evidence in India. When asked about her next venture, she says she wants to visit the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat to find coral fossils.