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Modern dating methods

Paleomagnetic dating is based on correlation of measurements derived from oriented samples to established records of variations of the Earth's magnetic field through time.

Paleomagnetism can be used in conjunction with other correlation or dating methods to establish the age or rocks or to decipher changes in a rock's orientation through time.

With the cumulative experience of centuries of paleontological research, the chronology of many fossil species are well established in context of both geologic time and distribution.

Biostratigraphy is the science of correlation of sedimentary units base on the identifiable fossils they contain.

This web page provides an overview of selected geochronology methods used by USGS scientists.

New dating methods are invented all the time, however, most have practical limitations.

Typically, paleontological information is used in conjunction with other methods of relative or absolute age dating.

The most important tools for paleontologists are collections of fossils and paleontological reports (with fossil plates for identification) from other locations in the region or around the world.

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A geologic map or report typically is only a summary of investigations that frequently involve the collecting and processing of hundreds of rock samples, followed by the evaluation and interpretation of data from a variety of analytical techniques.Paleontologists examine fossils of all kinds, but micropaleontology (the study of microscopic organisms) is perhaps the most useful method of dating because the remains of tiny organisms tend to be better preserved, more widely distributed, and may provide more precise age determinations than larger shells or bone material.Palynologists separate pollen from sediments for correlation and paleoenvironmental reconstructions.Like fossils, the chemical and physical characteristics of rocks, minerals, and organic materials can be used for correlation.Selected examples of correlation geochronology methods used by USGS scientists include: Paleomagnetic Dating - Under certain conditions, a record of the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field is preserved in rocks and sediments.In Menlo Park, contact: Dwayne Champion for more information about the paleomagnetic lab.Tephrochronology is the study of volcanic ash deposits.The method is most effective when used in conjunction with other dating methods. Stable Isotope Records - Stable isotope data derived from mineral and biological materials can provide a variety of insights into environmental conditions (past and present), and can be used in geochronology and correlation.Oxygen isotopes (-O) are widely used in correlation of Quaternary marine sediments. This is an informational tour in which students gain a basic understanding of geologic time, the evidence for events in Earth’s history, relative and absolute dating techniques, and the significance of the Geologic Time Scale.Geochronology is the science of dating and determining the time sequence of events in the history of the Earth.

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