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France, Christine

Research Scientist


stable isotope applications to paleontology, archaeology, and ancient environments; diagenesis of ancient remains.

Professional Biography

  • My primary field of interest is stable isotope applications to vertebrate paleontology and archaeology.  I utilize stable isotopes in well preserved bones and teeth as proxies for ecological influences, diet, climate, demographics, 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 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.

    My current research focuses on reconstructing diet, mobility, and demographics in archeological populations through stable isotope data.  I have been working with several North American 18th and 19th century sites to determine the best isotope markers for dietary preferences, region of origin, and social class.  Additionally I have been collaborating on several other archaeological sites throughout the world investigating similar questions.  My isotope lab also participates in numerous Smithsonian research projects examining climate, ecology, and provenance from a variety of materials.     

    Another main area of my research analyzes the preservation of isotope signals in museum collections.  I am currently collaborating on new methods for determining quality of bone preservation, including Raman spectroscopy, FTIR spectroscopy, and proteomics.  

    I am also examining the effect of different chemical preservation treatments on isotope values in bones and teeth.  I am attempting to determine which treatments result in isotopic exchange between applied chemicals and the original bones/teeth.