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Applications of Paleontology

Applications
 Generally, the smaller the fossil (ex. microfossils), groups tend to be used more than
macrofossils
 Petroleum systems analysis and exploration
 Mineral exploration and exploitation
 Coal mining
 Engineering geology
 Environmental science
 Archaeology
 Forensic geoscience
 Museums and education centers
Petroleum geology and system analysis
 Professionals in petroleum industry (ex. oil, gas)
 Oil play/just play
o Group of hydrocarbon fields or prospects in same region that are controlled by
same set of geological settings
Petroleum source-rocks
 Those from which petroleum is derived
 Petroleum found only in sedimentary rocks (layered rocks)
 Contain kerogen (abundant organics/organic rich rock)
o Can be terrestrial or marine algal organics
 Organic matter is transformed or matured into oil and gas by heating on burial
 Nature of oil and gas will depend on nature of source-rock and degree of maturation
 Fossils can help to do this
Types of Kerogen


 stratigraphic setting of kerogen rich rock is highly variable
o know they are of economic importance but need to understand geology to
locate where they are  source, trap, reservoir, seal
Reservoir Rocks
 blue = epoxy, pinkish = fossils, black = kerogen
 thin-section of good reservoir rock  cretaceous limestone
Paleontological applications in petroleum geology
 biostratigraphy and chronostratigraphy
 paleoenvironmental interpretation
o paleobathymetry
o paleobiogeography
 lithological prediction
 source-rock depositional modelling
 thermal maturity indication
Thermal Maturation Index – Kerogen generates


Mineral Exploration
 some base metals (ex. aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, zinc) form in zones where
mineral-laden freshwater come in contact with salt water
o salinity changes caused metals to precipitate
 ability to locate such contact zones, increases ability to locate new metal-containing
deposits
o have to look for geological settings (river mouths) where you expect river flowing
from land into adjacent sea  change in freshwater to salinity water
o if river went through rocks, will have suspended load that will have base metals
o when river hits ocean, metals will precipitate out
 plots of freshwater vs. salt water fossils can do so
 famous example of bendigo gold deposits, Australia
Bendigo Gold fields
 gold found in reefs
 certain graptolites found in these reefs
 used fossils to locate gold zones

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Coal mining
 coal is ranked according to compaction
o high is anthracite coal and low is brown coal
o anthracite is high grade coal
 little smoke and ash and high heat value
o brown coal is low grade coal/”dirty coal”
 smoke and ask with lower heat value
 similar to petroleum industry, need analysis of fossils to explore and
characterize coal deposits
 more and more countries are getting away from using coal for energy
 coal derived from terrestrial environments
 underground mining methods
o drift mine, slope mine, shaft mine
 surface mining methods
o mountaintop mine, contour mine, highwall or auger mine, area mine

  coal classification
Engineering geology
 considers geotechnical characteristics of fossiliferous deposits
 particularly important in parts of Europe where there are chalk deposits (ex. Chunnel)
o know nature of rocks to know where to position Chunnel
 road and pipeline construction (ex. Quaternary age materials  peatlands/wetlands)
 and mine construction (ex. coal mines)
 soft sedimentary rocks or rocks with fossil reef formations (ex. Guelph Fm) ex. aquifers
o important for groundwater aquifers, fossil reef
Archaeology
Environmental Monitoring
 industrial pollution
 changes in salinity
Lack condition and water quality
 Spree lake, MN  Water quality assessment
o Lake sediment: long-term profile of nutrients and other indicators
o Is lake good or declining condition
o Long distance air-borne contaminants  acid raid

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Lake 979 Experiment, Experimental lakes Area, NW Ontario
 A boreal peatland complex with treed bog, open bog and open water
 Experimentally flooded in 1993 by raising water levels
 Designed to simulate large-scale flooding for mega dams
 Mercury pollution
 Flooding can diversify wetland communities
Archeological applications
 Site location and characterization
o Paleoenvironmental reconstruction
o Fires: natural and man-made
 Diet, hunting and fishing habits  tools
 Midden analysis
 Burial site analysis
Crawford Lake, Cambellville, ON 400 years old
 Site discovered by midden-lake sediment analysis
 Finding things like corn pollen indicating possibility of human occupancy at this site
 Early people using it as a plant to eat
 Led to thought that there must be occupation site near this lake
 Found large occupational site and reconstructed early longhouses as same position of
earlier one
 Crawford lake pollen diagram
o Iroquoian crops  corn, sunflower, purslane, and corn smut spores
o 500-700 years ago
Forensic Geoscience
 fossils can be used to characterize evidence both macro and microfossils
 can be traced to sites of origin primarily via soil analysis
 fossils themselves can be worth large sums of money
o industry of stolen fossils
 need paleontologists to assist law enforcement and customs officials
Forensic Palynology
 used to associate individual or object to unique crime scene or geographic region
 when 2 objects come into contact with one another there is an exchange of material
 purpose:
o criminal investigation
o location of crime  crime scene characterization
o moment in time

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Forensic Palynology: Pros
 pollen and spores are small, abundant, durable and identifiable (often to species level)
 can be magnified using light and SEM
 can be found in soils, and variety of unusual surfaces: counterfeit bank notes, grease on
guns, dusty foot impressions, lungs, stomachs, medicinal tablets, condoms, works of art
Forensic Palynology: Cons
 law enforcement unaware and/or skeptical
 requires specialized forensic training for evidence gathering and palynological sampling
 usually destructive to sample
 palynological evidence is circumstantial: may indicate where and when but not who
 use in Australia, new Zealand, parts of Europe but not NA
Diatoms and Drowning
 small, abundant, durable and identifiable to species level
 diatoms live in lakes and wetlands (freshwater and marine) and in geological rocks and
sediments
 like pollen, analyze soils and footprints, stomach contents
 case: footprints in stolen car contained ancient diatom species typical of Miocene rock
formation
o used for production of diatomaceous earth used in pool filters
 criminal was pool man
Case of Nathan Murphy, 2009
 amateur fossil-hunter and tour operator in Montana, USA
 well-known for many famous fossil species
 values at $150,000-400,000
 accused of stealing the fossil from land he did not own and tried to sell it
 murphy falsely claimed ownership
 60 days in jail and $2500 fine
Nicholas Cage, 2015
 star artifact in luxury auction in NY
o sold to anonymous buyer in 2007 Nicholas Cage
 stolen from Gobi desert in Mongolia
 fossils are cultural artifacts and represent cultural heritage of home country
o belong to people of home country
o such priceless antiquities are not souvenirs for personal collections
o science is lost if in private collections
Eric Prokopi
 florida dealer sold whole skeleton and individual bones

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 charged for smuggling over 18 dinosaurs in USA
 served 90 days in prison
 all dinosaur fossils have been repatriated and returned to Mongolia, Cage returned gis
fossil
 Prokopi still faces 17 years in prison for falsifying customs documents to import illegally
obtained fossils from Mongolia
 Many poachers exist in dinosaur-rich countries like China and Argentina
Fossil Poaching
 Fossil poaching is not only spectacular dinosaurs
o But includes all fossils
 Considered antiquities and part of cultural heritage of country
 Many national parks and heritage sites exist, recognized for fossil  esp. Lagerstatten
sites
 Need to preserve site and science
 Must have permission to collect and export
 Certain sites and countries allow exportation and amateur collecting  belemnites from
morocco
Museum and Education Centers
 Becoming more important for fossils and history of Earths life forms
o Education
o Conservation
o Research
 National, provincial/territorial and regional parks emphasize geology and fossils and
more recently have specialized geoparks