Christine A.M. France

Physical Scientist


Phone: 301-238-1261
Fax: 301-238-3709
E-mail Address: FranceC [at]

Museum Conservation Institute
Smithsonian Institution
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746


B.S. University of Maryland, College Park (2001)
M.S. North Carolina State University (2004)
Ph.D. University of Maryland, College Park (2008)

Research Specialties and Interests

My primary field of interest is stable isotopic applications to vertebrate paleontology and archeology.  I utilize stable isotopes in well preserved bones and teeth as proxies for ecological influences, diet, climate, and physiologic mechanisms.  To this end I also study the preservation of vertebrate fossil material with an emphasis on the potential diagenetic alteration of original isotopic values.

In addition to my personal research I manage the Smithsonian OUSS/MCI Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry Laboratory which performs stable isotope analyses (C, N, O, H, S) for all Smithsonian units.  I oversee all users of the facility, provide technical support, and consult on a variety of projects.

Recent Research Activities

My most current research focuses on dietary reconstruction of Pleistocene ecosystems in North America.  I am specifically interested in the changing structure of food webs and the role this may play in the end-Pleistocene megafaunal extinction.  As a corollary to this research, I have been using my sample sets from a variety of different aged Pleistocene sites to examine the biogeochemical diagenesis of bones with time and in differing environments.

In addition to these diagenetic studies, I am analyzing the preservation of isotopic signals in museum collections.  I am currently examining the effect of different chemical preservation treatments on the isotopic signals in bones and teeth.  I am attempting to determine which treatments result in isotopic exchange between applied chemicals and the original bones/teeth.

I am also collaborating on projects involving the use of stable isotopes in dendrochronology and the use of stable isotopes in determining thermoregulatory mechanisms of dinosaurs.

Professional Activities

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (member)
The Paleontological Society (member)
Geologic Society of America (member)
American Geophysical Union (member)

Recent Publications

Marra, P.P., Dove, C.J., Dolbeer, R., Dahlan, N.F., Heacker, M., Whatton, J.F., Diggs, N.E., France, C., and Henkes, G.A., 2009.  Migratory Canada geese cause crash of US Airways Flight 1549.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7(6):  297-301.

France, C.A.M., Zelanko, P.M., Kaufman, A.J., and Holtz, T.R., 2007.  Carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis of Pleistocene mammals from the Saltville Quarry (Virginia, USA):  Implications for trophic relationships.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 249:  271-282.

France, C., Zelanko, P., Kaufman, A., and Holtz, T., 2006.  Carbon and nitrogen isotopic reconstruction of trophic relationships between herbivorous mammals from Saltville, Virginia.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26 (3-supplemental):  63A.

Recent talks

Poster:  France, C.A.M., Sheppard, P.R., Cano, N.J., and Speakman, R.J., 2009.  Stable isotopic and chemical indicators of volcanic eruptions in tree rings from Paricutin, Mexico.  American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, Dec. 14-18.

Presentation:  France, C.A.M., 2006.  Carbon and nitrogen isotopic reconstruction of trophic relationships between herbivorous mammals from Saltville, Virginia.  Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting.  Ottowa, Canada.