Rachel Laker studies marine vertebrate taphonomy, seeking to understand the relationship between taphonomic and diagenetic features in the context of their depositional origin.
She focuses on marine taphonomy because shallow marine settings have predictable variations in sedimentation (burial rate) with the context of sequence stratigraphy. She examines fossils across a sequence, sampling the sequence boundary, surface of maximum transgression, within system tracts, as well as other surfaces, to compare the potential variation in fossil preservation, as each of these sequence subsets have different rates of deposition.
She studies fossils at the microscopic level, searching for characters such as cracking, microbial tunneling, infilling mineral composition, and apatite alteration, to understand how the bone has interacted with its pre- and post-burial environment. She uses a variety of tools to examine these fossils, including SEM, XRF, Raman spectroscopy, and petrography.
Some of her preliminary work includes realizing that some taphonomic features in marine bones appear similar to those of terrestrial bones, although they arise from different causes. She’s also noticed significant variation in fossil preservation within sequences.
Rachel earned a BS and BM from Miami University of Ohio, where she gained research experience in paleoclimate, ichnology, and stratigraphy, and earned a MS from the University of Wyoming, where she researched early diagenesis of fossils using Raman spectroscopy.