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 Rare Fossils Bequeathed to SRU by Graduate 



Nov. 11, 2003

CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine (724) 738-4854;  e-mail:


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - A Slippery Rock University graduate bequeathed a "rare and unique" collection of fossils to the university, providing outstanding opportunities for students to examine the plant life and geology of western Pennsylvania as it existed 320 million years ago.

           The late Louis Souzer, a 1977 biology graduate, and his wife, Ann, collected the 70 fossils on their property in Butler County over many years. Louis Souzer died six months ago and gave the collection through his will.

           The fossilized Carboniferous plants are in "particularly good shape," says SRU Dr. Thomas Gaither, a biology professor who remembers Souzer as a student. He says the cache is rare because the pliable nature of sand seldom preserves non-woody plants.

           "How they were preserved is a scientific study in itself," says Dr. Tamra Schiappa, assistantprofessor of geography, geology and environment. "It's a very rare and unique collection."

           Some of the sandstone rocks split, revealing the outline of plant stems. One of the plants, Calamites,  is an ancient example of a modern horsetail, a plant whose descendants still grow in the area, Schiappa says.

           Students will be able to visit the site in Mercer County to investigate how the plants were preserved. Typically, fossils form after a rapid burial of plant or animal life in layers of mud that over millions of  years harden to stone.

           "Great possibilities exist for a field location for students in our college," Dr. Jane Fulton, dean of the College of Health, Environment and Science said. "And the fossils included in this important gift to the university will become the foundation of a hands-on laboratory for students from our campus as well as students from schools across western Pennsylvania. We are grateful to acquire this collection."

Editor's note: The fossils are on campus and may be photographed.

            PN, PR, PgN

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