Galactic Paleontology: Living Fossils in the Milky Way and surroundings

I will talk about how the study of the chemical elements measured in stars throughout the Milky Way and nearby galaxies allows us to access the historical record of galaxy formation and evolution back to the earliest times from the comfort of the nearby Universe. Low mass stars, if they formed at the earliest times, will still be around today, and their photospheres remain a time capsule, a sample of the gas out of which the star was formed. If we can unlock the information in the photospheres we can effectively read out the physical conditions of the gas from which the star was formed. Our galaxy contains hundreds of millions of stars, and from this we can obtain forensic detail about the formation and evolution of our own Galaxy, the Milky Way and its surroundings. I will talk about the results from recent large surveys of the properties of individual stars in the context of galaxy formation and evolution, and also look to the future.