Broken, disarticulated fossils record by their preservation state the physical history of transport, reworking, and length of exposure before final burial and preservation of the organisms. Thus, taphonomic data (e.g., patterns of breakage and wear) are used as paleoecological indicators of physical factors such as relative environmental energy and sedimentation rate. Taphonomic data have a second, separate significance for paleobiologists: they also reflect underlying paleobiologic control (e.g., the mechanical strength of the skeleton). This second aspect of taphonomic information is only beginning to be studied in a systematic way. The purpose of this research is to document patterns in: (1) breakage/wear/damage of exoskeletons and (2) the distribution of epibionts on fossil marine invertebrates. The goal of this work is to interpret these patterns in terms of underlying paleobiological factors such as the mechanical strength of the skeleton, predator/prey relationships, and life orientation of the organism. Understanding the biological basis of taphonomic patterns is necessary to accurately interpret the history (e.g., the mode of formation) of fossiliferous assemblages. This type of research is a prerequisite for taphonomic studies that consider fossils as sedimentary particles. This initial study will examine several genera of Late Ordovician trilobites from the Cincinnati arch region. Subsequent studies will focus on different taxonomic groups, and the long-term goal is to compare the taphonomic patterns of this fauna with faunas from other depositional settings and geologic periods. The interactive component of this project includes the following: a) primary teaching responsibility for an undergraduate course in geology, b) participation in a graduate seminar in paleontology, c) departmental guest lecture, d) a "Women in Geoscience" guest lecture series, and e) various mentor/counseling activities. This project furthers VPW program objectives which are (1) to provide opportunities for women to advance their careers in engineering and in the disciplines of science supported by NSF and (2) to encourage women to pursue careers in science and engineering by providing greater visibility for women scientists and engineers employed in industry, government, and academic institutions. By encouraging the participation of women in science, it is a valuable investment in the Nation's future scientific vitality.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
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Lola E. Rogers
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University of Cincinnati
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