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News Release 05-099

Trace Gold Reveals Tree's Past

A sample has been removed from this tree slice to examine it for traces of gold.

A sample has been removed from this tree slice to examine it for traces of gold.

June 14, 2005

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Using a new method to detect trace elements in tree rings, researchers at Cornell University and Penn State noticed elevated amounts of gold in specific rings and correlated several of the bands to a number of volcanic eruptions over the past 500 years. 

Penn State nuclear engineer Kenan Unlu, Cornell tree-ring expert Peter Kuniholm and their colleagues believe they can use the technique not only to confirm known eruptions and other phenomena, but also to detect those events when other climatic and geologic records are missing.

Full details are available in a Penn State press release:


NSF Award: SBR-9905389 The Prehistory of the Eastern Mediterranean: Dendochronological, Radiocarbon and Dendrochemical Approaches

Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:
A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Pennsylvania State University, (814) 865-9481, email:

Program Contacts
John E. Yellen, NSF, (703) 292-8759, email:

Principal Investigators
Peter Ian Kuniholm, Cornell University, (607) 255-8650, email:

Kenan Unlu, Pennsylvania State University, (814) 865-6351, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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