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New process by Temple grad student can place loose fossils back into the strata or determine fakes

nts, where in the earths strata the bone had been sitting, she says.

Since presenting her initial findings at the Geological Society of Americas national meeting last November, Patrick has received requests to test bones for fossil provenience from universities and museums in Arizona, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

Its important to know where in the earths strata these fossils came from, says Patrick, who will receive her masters degree in May. Otherwise, its just a bone sitting in a museum.

Patricks new technique, which uses only one-fifth of a gram or less of bone material for analysis, can potentially be valuable in detecting fakes, in which composite creatures or species are made from different fossils.

As an example, Patrick points to the archeoraptor, which was put on display a few years ago.

Someone took dinosaur bones and put them together with the bones of a newer species of bird and tried to pass it off as a very important new species, says Patrick, a native of Northeast Philadelphia.

The archeoraptor would have been considered a major find, but it happens more frequently with smaller fossils, she adds. It happens on a daily basis with things like dinosaur eggs, where people are trying to create eggs and say theyre original. In actuality, the pieces are coming from very different spots.

Using her new technique, Patrick would be able to compare the rare earth signatures of the bones or pieces to see if they matched. If theyre not all from the same strata, they will not have the same signature.

Patrick, who taught chemistry, math, and physics for 15 years, became interested in geology when she accompanied her oldest son on a dig in Utah a few years ago.

When the paleontologist at the site found out I had a degree in chemistry, he suggested I pursue geochemistry, since theres a shortage of geochemists working in paleontology, she says.

She returned
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Contact: Preston M. Moretz
pmoretz@temple.edu
215-204-7476
Temple University
25-Mar-2002


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