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Meet the Chennai girl who owns 130 fossils

Chennai-based school student Aswatha Biju’s interest in palaeontology has taken her to several fossil sites in India, and led her to educate other students as well

Aswatha Biju’s favourite spot in Chennai is the Egmore Museum. The 13-year-old, who lives in Pallavaram, first visited the museum with her parents when she was five years old.

She came across a picture of an ammonite fossil in an encyclopaedia her father gifted her, and was curious about it. “I thought it was a present-day marine organism,” says Aswatha. “My mother then told me it was actually a fossil, and took me to the Zoology Department of the museum where they had 10 to 15 specimens of ammonite,” she adds.

This marked Aswatha’s tryst with palaeontology. She has since visited the museum several times, and her love for the subject took her to several fossil sites such as Ariyalur near Tiruchi, Gunduperumbedu village in Sriperumbudur, and Sironcha in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district.

“I now have a collection of 130 fossil specimens from these sites,” explains Aswatha.

She has displayed them in her room at her Chennai home; it is a small version of a museum that is open to those interested in the subject. “I often travel across India to hold seminars on palaeontology for school and college students, as well as at research institutes,” she says, adding that she has so far ‘educated’ over 6,700 students. “I have been Pune, Lucknow, Madurai, Thanjavur, and Tiruchi for seminars,” she explains.

What drew her to palaeontology? According to Aswatha, it is a fascinating subject through which one can know the past and present form of an organism, through which its evolution in the future can be predicted. “This will help us realise our past mistakes and correct them in the future,” she says.

Aswatha knows that her calling lies in palaeontology. “In the future, I want to understand the genetic formulae for organisms and through this, recreate extinct organisms,” she says, adding, “I also want to create awareness on the types of fossils that I have.”

Aswatha’s story is being featured in the second episode of BYJU’s Young Genius on News 18 Network at 7 pm on January 23.

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