Welcome to our blog about life as a palaeontologist – or trainee palaeontologist – working on fossil colour.
22nd of February 2021
This week the group met with fellow melanin lovers in Sweden to talk about their recent paper on the impact of maturation on melanin preservation in fossils!
15th of February 2021
Maria is doing FTIR of fossil samples in the lab. After a year of lockdown, finally collecting some new data.
8th of February 2021
Daniel has been grinding sediment samples that he took from the Geiseltal specimens. This future material analysis will reveal the depositional environment of the Geiseltal Lagerstätte.
1st of February 2021
After her holidays, Aude has started working on a new paper and has wrapped up her decay experiments. The latest decayed samples (in the pink sample holder on the photo) will soon be ready for analysis. Exciting!
25th of January 2021
Restrictions might still be in place but that doesn’t stop the group meeting virtually for Palaeo Discussion Group every week!
18th of January 2021
Hannah is back in the home office, and while she is waiting for the ground to no longer be frozen and for COVID-cases to go down to be able to continue her fieldwork, she is working on her review paper on metal contamination of urban soils in Europe using many, MANY spreadsheets – it’s a good thing she loves analysing data!
11th of January 2021
Ninon was able to attend the inauguration of the first online PalAss Annual Conference this year, and also delivered a talk about the Irish Devonian crustacean Oxyuropoda. This all happened live from her bedroom in France, due to the conference proximity with Christmas time! This allowed her to make great contact with people abroad planning to work further on fossils from county Kilkenny!
4th of January 2021
Tiffany recently hosted a virtual taphonomy conference aimed at early career researchers. With over 50 speakers from 15 different countries, the meeting covered a variety of topics – from modern tar seep taphonomy to the taphonomy of vertebrate consumulites!
14th of December 2020
Fabulous Silurian chondrites in an offshore sequence near Clogher Strand, Dingle. Maria came across these during fieldwork at the weekend.
7th of December 2020
Daniel recently received an EAVP Research Grant worth €1000! His project (“An exceptional middle to late Permian tetrapod track fauna of Pangean Euramerica (Hornburg Formation, Germany)”) will involve him leading an excavation in cooperation with local museums, universities and the regional authorities in central Germany in summer of 2021. The photos show the preliminary excavation site from 2013 (Daniel’s MSc thesis) not far from the planned excavation site and some trace fossils (tetrapod tracks, arthropod tracks, jellyfish imprints) from the local area. Congratulations Daniel!
30th of November 2020
In the past weeks, Aude has been working on her decay and maturation experiments. She collected the decayed and / or matured samples, took photos and then prepared the samples for electron microscopy. The photo on the left shows a sample of decayed and matured lizard skin in tree resin and the one on the right shows a tiny piece of decayed lizard skin embedded in artificial resin in silicone moulds for transmission electron microscopy. Aude will now have to trim and section all the samples before imaging them.
23rd of November 2020
Naomi has all her meetings with Maria now that most people are working from home – this one was a good opportunity to congratulate Maria on being recently promoted to Professor!!
16th of November 2020
Hannah has collected more soil samples from parks around Cork city, come rain or shine, with the auger (pictured below). The colour differences between the soil samples are obvious, but for more detailed analysis she is continuing to conduct lab experiments. While sieving her soil samples she also found some plastic fragments.
9th of November 2020
Ninon started her experimental work on the decay and mineralization of vertebrate skins. For this, she is using three species of frogs that she is dissecting on the belly side. The skin fragments are then placed in jars with water enriched with sediments and bacterial loads. She then samples each skin fragment every 10 days to analyse the structures preserved within those skins using histological and TEM thin sections.
2nd of November 2020
Shengyu took some photos when she joined Palaeo Discussion Group last week outside our SEM lab!
26th of October 2020
Tiffany’s back in full swing in the lab – resin embedding samples, preparing glass knives and cutting ultrathin sections, oh my!
20th of October 2020
Chris and Maria just published a new paper in Palaeontology! https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/pala.12506.
12th of October 2020
Daniel and Maria recently completed two days of teaching and demonstrating in the field with 3rd year students in Dingle last week. They saw beautiful rocks as part of the stunning landscape along the cliffs of Inch Beach, Wine Strand and Clogher Strand. The students learned in which environment the rocks were formed hundreds of millions of years ago and how to map those rocks. The weather was quite sunny without any rain, but the Atlantic Sea was wild!
Daniel also noted that his favourite rock of the trip was a very pretty welded tuff; an igneous rock formed by the compaction and cementation of volcanic ash or dust. It outcrops not far from Ferriter’s Cove.
5th of October 2020
Last week Aude (and Ninon too!) went to The Gearagh in County Cork to collect sediment and water that she will soon use for experiments. The Gearagh, also called the Wooden River, is a nature reserve displaying hundreds of stumps from ancient trees, today submerged by the River Lee. Aude will use sediment and water from that beautiful place to recreate natural conditions for the decay of vertebrate soft tissues. The same week, Aude also went to the lab to prepare amber samples for imaging and molecular analyses. She embedded the samples in resin to facilitate their analysis.
28th of September 2020
Fleur recently updated the lab’s inventory. Lots of organisation!
21st of September 2020
Hannah has started collecting her soil samples in the field using an auger. She then analysed her samples in the lab for soil pH (pictured below), bulk density, Loss-on-ignition and for any traces of heavy metals using the handheld XRF. Exciting times!
14th of September 2020
A summer day spent in the beautiful and romantic city of Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, in the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale for Valentina to take some samples of the famous Mene rhombea, a 50 million-year-old fish preserving traces of skin, eyespot and (hopefully) internal organs.
7th of September 2020
Ninon is in Ireland after spending the last few months in France and remembered she could use dead woodlice from her place to assist with her studies on some of the Devonian Irish fossils she is working on! Back in the lab soon!
31st of August 2020
Tiffany found some lovely fossil corals while camping in Mayo (pictured left, with her partner doing all the labour in the background) and hiking in the Burren (pictured right, with her titchy feet for scale).
24th of August 2020
First day back in the lab for Shengyu!
17th of August 2020
Not having much access to our office and lab does not mean that we can’t fossil-hunt in Cork City! Here are some that Naomi found!
10th of August 2020
A first for Maria – a plenary lecture via Zoom for the recent Microscopy and Microanalysis virtual meeting (originally planned for Milwaukee, Illinois).
4th of August 2020
Back from holidays: Daniel is catching up with the Geiseltal frogs!
27th of July 2020
Chris using SMAK to look at XRF data from the synchrotron.
20th of July 2020
Continuing on with the trend of showing our home office spaces, Naomi is back to work this week after a few days off and is catching up on emails, orders, invoices… The usual suspects!
13th of July 2020
Hannah is working on her first PhD publication and is busy reviewing literature on heavy metals in urban soils.
6th of July 2020
Before lockdown, Ninon got trapped out of Ireland (closing of borders) while she was visiting collaborators in Switzerland to study a Devonian Irish fossil arthropod. She had to reach her family in France, where she has been now for 4 months.
She introduced Oxyuropoda to its supposed modern cousins – woodlice – that she found during her gardening. The meeting went along pretty well, despite a little disappointment on the side of Oxyuropoda finding out about the reality of its terrestrial grandchildrens’ size… (!) In the meantime Ninon’s paper-writing is progressing and she’ll finally be back to Cork in August.
29th of June 2020
When she’s not writing up during lockdown, Tiffany has been finding more feathers from birds of prey than usual on her morning jogs!
23rd of June 2020
Maria was featured on the iCRAGorama podcast today! Click here for the link.
22nd of June 2020
Dr Valentina Rossi successfully defended her PhD thesis last week. Big congratulations to Dr Rossi on her great achievements!
15th of June 2020
Shengyu’s insect specimens for her experiments!
8th of June 2020
Fleur is working from home and setting up a lab space to work on her feather samples!
2nd of June 2020
Grant writing lockdown heatwave-style!
25th of May 2020
Chris is working on the revisions for his next paper.
19th of May 2020
Daniel has just been awarded Postgraduate Research Grant by the International Association of Sedimentologists (IAS) for a project entitled “Sedimentological controls on the taphonomy of the Eocene Geiseltal Konservat-Lagerstätte, Germany”.
Well done Daniel!
(fossil specimen shown is GMH CeII 4949-1930 from the collections of the Geiseltal Museum, Halle (Saale), Germany)
15th of May 2020
Valentina has just been awarded a grant (Borsa di studio SPI 2020) from the Società Paleontologica Italiana! She will be studying the fossil Mene rhombea from “La Pesciara” Bolca Biota in Italy.
Well done Valentina!
4th of May 2020
Virtual PDG time!
27th of April 2020
Valentina is working on digitising the sedimentary log in Illustrator from the first locality (Jianchengou, China) during her fieldwork in 2018.
9th of March 2020
Maria, Naomi and Fleur attended the Irish Laboratory Awards 2020 in Dublin last week! Maria had a nomination for “Best Research Laboratory” and Naomi was a short-listed nominee for “Best Laboratory Staff Member”. Unfortunately we didn’t win this year but we still had a great night at the awards ceremony!
2nd of March 2020
Hannah and Daniel were at the IGRM in Athlone last week – here’s what they had to say!
H: Hannah joined the team in January 2020. She presented her PhD research plan and proposed methods at the 63rd Irish Geological Research Meeting in Athlone this weekend with her poster entitled “The impact of organic matter on heavy metal bioavailability: experimental and field-based approaches”.
D: It was Daniel’s first IGRM. He gave a talk about the skeletal taphonomy of fossil anurans from the Geiseltal Collection (Germany) which won a Highly Commended award! The 63rd IGRM was a great meeting of not-only Irish scientists spanning all fields of geosciences.
24th of February 2020
Maria spoke to Dr Naomi Lavelle at the Irish Examiner about gender balance in STEM – see article below!
17th of February 2020
Maria was working on a post for RTÉ’s Brainstorm platform – the link is now available! Just click here or the image below.
10th of February 2020
Ninon obtained a 2019 Sylvester-Bradley Award from the Palaeontological Association for £1,500. Her project is entitled ‘Investigating the enigmatic Devonian arthropod Oxyuropoda’. With this grant, Ninon aims at discovering the actual lineage of this 370 Myo freshwater animal, found in County Kilkenny at the end of the nineteenth century. Here she is, posing with the fossil, loaned from the National Museum of Ireland, before starting to study it in March with Swiss colleagues!
3rd of February 2020
Fleur was training at UCC’s Bioscience Institute, with a cryostat for cutting tissues using the free-floating technique!
27th of January 2020
The Swiss Light Source have chosen images of Luke’s fossil insect scales to form part of their annual calendar!
20th of January 2020
Tiffany received a commendation for her poster on fossil feathers at the Palaeontological Association Annual Meeting in Spain!
13th of January 2020
The research team had a stand at this year’s BT Young Scientist Exhibition in Dublin again – and they even met Micheál Martin TD!
6th of January 2020
Naomi helped to prepare Tiffany’s feather samples for analysis in Japan!
16th of December 2019
Daniel is having a wonderful time at Palass 2019 – here is a photo of his poster presentation and one of him and Ninon getting a selfie with some dinosaurs!
9th of December 2019
Here’s a crinoid artfully reconstructed by pupils from Ballyvongane N.S. on one of our outreach visits!
2nd of December 2019
Naomi is keeping all of the paperwork for the new microbeam lab in check!
24th of November 2019
Ninon recently had the opportunity to visit Cork schools with Chris and Maria! She was happy to help pupils to learn more about Irish fossils, and to work out the problems faced by palaeontologists when finding fossilized organisms.
18th of November 2019
As part of the Palaeogroup’s new fossil CSI public engagement project, here’s Luke speaking to local children at Mayfield Library in Cork about how UV light and X-rays can be used to reveal the hidden chemical fingerprints of fossilized soft tissues.
11th of November 2019
Crinoid puppet made with fleece fabric and feathers for the new SFI outreach project ‘Fossil Crime Scene’, handmade by Fleur!
4th of November 2019
Chris is preparing materials for the rollout of the fossil CSI public engagement project into local schools!
29th of October 2019
Valentina organised this group photo of Maria, Tiffany and herself during their trip to Paris for the advance synchrotron imaging workshop!
21st of October 2019
Tiffany just returned from a workshop on the use of synchrotron based techniques on cultural heritage and ancient materials at the SOLEIL light source in Paris, France. It was ‘brilliant’!
14th of October 2019
Yesterday was the premiere of the SFI Discover programme project “Ireland’s Fossil Heritage – unlocking our palaeontological heritage”. Daniel, Ninon, Chris and Luke presented the exhibition at Munster Science Fair!
7th of October 2019
A selection of coprolites ready for our upcoming public outreach events!
30th of September 2019
Happy palaeos at SVPCA 2019 on the Isle of Wight, where Tiffany, Valentina and Maria presented and where Valentina won best talk!
23rd of September 2019
The team out in force at Culture Night 2019 (last Friday) at the School of BEES’ annual interactive event!
16th of September 2019
This week Luke has started preparing new fossil beetle scales for electron microscopy. The fossils have been stored in glycerin and so need to be washed in a series of ethanol baths before experiments can begin.
9th of September 2019
Ninon, Fleur and Dr Paddy Orr (UCD) have been leading experiments this summer at the Diamond synchrotron in Oxford for Ninon’s research project. They have been scanning minute fragments of skin from 40 Ma old frogs and snakes for high resolution tomography and ran ~100 different scans.
2nd of September 2019
Here is Fleur preparing play dough for a visit from RTÉ to film a documentary! The play dough was modeled and spread out into layers and put at the bottom of a plastic bucket. Children could then kids apply different pressures on on the play dough with dinosaur-shaped toys and feet to make their own dinosaur footprints!
26th of August 2019
Chris and a very cute contingent of helpers for our outreach events!
19th of August 2019
Valentina is ready to present her work at the SVPCA conference this September!
12th of August 2019
Thomas is currently analysing synchrotron data investigating the chemistry of fossil insects.
6th of August 2019
Aude recently gave an oral presentation, “Taphonomy of Middle Jurassic dinosaur bone beds (Kulinda, Russia)” at the meeting of the EAVP in Belgium.
29th of July 2019
Here is Tiffany preparing to sample a 55 million year old fossil feather from Denmark for analysis at the synchrotron.
22nd of July 2019
Here are some lower Cretaceous critters from the Crato Formation in Brazil!
15th of July 2019
James and research assistant Lisa recently visited Prof. Dong Ren’s lab at the Capital Normal University Beijing, China, to study and photograph the colour patterns on the wings of Jurassic insects.
8th of July 2019
Daniel and Aude attended the 17th meeting of the EAVP (European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontologists) held at the Royal Belgian Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels last week. This museum is famous for exhibiting eight complete Iguanodon skeletons in a glass cage. These herbivorous dinosaurs lived in what is now the Mons region (western Belgium) during the Early Cretaceous. Daniel presented his poster entitled ” Taphonomy of anurans from the Eocene Geiseltal Konservat-Lagerstätte (Germany)” – see photo below!
1st of July 2019
Preparing fossils for the journey into the hutch at SSRL to catch some X-rays!
24th of June 2019
Ninon joined the team in April, for a duration of two years. She is working on the integument of phosphatised Eocene amphibians and reptiles from France. She has been studying the fossils of Quercy frogs, salamander and snakes “mummies” at the Poitiers CT-scan to look at some of their scales and skin inner preservation. Some of the fossils look like they might be still alive although they are more than 30 million years old, with eyes preserved in original direction! After selecting the most promising skin areas, Ninon and Maria went to Paris to sample them for upcoming analyses of synchrotron microtomography early July.
17th of June 2019
As part of the Pint of Science festival, where scientists present their research to the general public in cities around the globe, Luke delivered a talk highlighting the potential of the light-scattering nanostructures found in extant insects, cephalopods and even fruits to inspire novel optical technologies, examples of which include non-pigmented, chemical free cosmetics, colour-changing textile sensors, and octopus-inspired adaptive camouflage!
11th of June 2019
Some of the research group went to the JEOL UK headquarters in Hertfordshire for a workshop as an introduction to SEM and related analytical techniques.
4th of June 2019
The School of BEES Research Day was held last week. Here are some of our group presenting their work!
27th of May 2019
Valentina was in Benvento, Italy last week where the Italian Palaeontological Society held their annual conference. She presented her work via an oral presentation. “Ciro” the famous dinosaur (Scipionyx samniticus) was the special guest of the conference! It was found together with plenty of exceptionally preserved vertebrates in Pietra Roja. Today the site is one Italy’s most famous fossil Lagerstätten.
22th of May 2019
Thomas and Maria took part in this year’s highly successful Pint of Science event in Cork city – bringing science to the people over a pint.
13th of May 2019
Tiffany recently visited Hook Head Lighthouse to photograph fossils for our new outreach program. To the right is a lovely coral she found!
7th of May 2019
Chris is dissecting the eyes from a sturgeon!
29th of April 2019
Aude is making some cuttings on the bark of a conifer to get some resin samples for analysis!
24th of April 2019
Daniel took the opportunity during our Palaeo-Discussion Group meeting to tell us all about his previous work and his current PhD!
15th of April 2019
James recently attended the Care and Conservation of Insect Collections course at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
8th of April 2019
Spotted on the second year undergrad fieldtrip to Dingle – Pseudorhizocretes from Wine Strand.
1st of April 2019
The group is after getting a new 3D printer for outreach materials!
25th of March 2019
Luke spent this week at the Swiss Light Source (SLS) at the Paul Scherrer Institute. The X12SA beamline at SLS specialises in several techniques including ptychographic nanotomography which Luke is using to create detailed 3D images of fossilised beetle scales. This technique is very similar to CT scanning used by hospitals to image patients – X-ray images are taken from many different angles surrounding the beetle scales and the cross-sectional ‘slices’ through the scale are reconstructed to create a 3D image. The setup at SLS is optimised to create scans with nanometre-scale resolution which will elucidate the light scattering structures within Luke’s samples.
18th of March 2019
Members of palaeogroup went to visit one of our laboratory equipment suppliers last week at Perkin-Elmer in London, as part of the 223rd IRDG (Infrared & Raman Discussion Group). Maria, Fleur and Tiffany were also offered the opportunity to visit the demonstration laboratory which houses numerous high-tech medical and laboratory equipment and still proudly displays one of their first manufactured Infrared Spectrophotometers: ”the Infracord” (see below)!
11th of March 2019
Chris is helping Tiffany work through some XAS data!
4th of March 2019
Congratulations to Tiffany who won the prize for Young Researcher Best Oral Presentation at the Irish Geological Research Meeting last weekend!
Also, Maria, Tiffany and Valentina were chosen to feature in UCC’s campaign to promote Women in Science!
25th of February 2019
Thomas graduated and received his PhD last month! He is pictured here with his supervisor Prof. Sarah Gabbott.
18th February 2019
Paulina is currently doing preliminary studies of Glen River Park in Cork!
11th of February 2019
Aude travelled to France last month to investigate a specimen collection of fossilised tree resin (amber). She will study the structure and composition of their organic inclusions. She is pictured below examining some of this Burmese amber, containing a section of feather, which happens to be 100 million years old!
4th of February 2019
Tiffany is beavering away in the lab! This week she is tracking the degradation of feather keratin using immunohistochemistry.
28th of January 2019
Maria and Daniel were using our brand new SEM during the week!
21st of January 2019
Last week James and Chris taught the undergraduates about phylogenetics using a variety of different biscuits!
14th of January 2019
Daniel, along with other geology students from BEES, represented the UCC stand at the BT Young Scientist exhibition last week!
7th of January 2019
New screens and a preliminary data analysis for the New Year using lots of colours and stats at SSRL!
17th of December 2018
Valentina and Thomas were both Highly Commended for their talks at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Palaeontological Association in Bristol over the weekend, receiving two runners-up places for the President’s Prize!
10th of December 2018
The research team was in Stanford this week, at the SSRL facility.
3rd of December 2018
Valentina was working with the welder last week, preparing tiny gold capsules for maturation experiments!
26th of November 2018
Thomas is compiling his notes and photos from the research group’s recent expedition to China – see Maria, Valentina and Chris below!
19th of November 2018
Maria, Thomas, Tiffany, Valentina, Daniel and Paulina from the research group travelled to Lough Hyne in West Cork last week to shoot a promotional outreach geovideo. Paulina took this photo of the sea-water lake!
12th of November 2018
Colour patterns in various fossil true bugs (Hemiptera) from the Eocene of Messel pit, Germany – photos from James!
5th of November 2018
Valentina and Tiffany delivered an interactive workshop on palaeontology to teenagers at Dublin Zoo last week!
29th of October 2018
The atmospheric (but chilly) setting enjoyed by Maria, Valentina, Chris and Thomas from above our field site at ca. 1400 m in Hebei for the last few weeks!
22nd of October 2018
Reading, reading, reading… All good science starts with extensive reading! We recently welcomed Daniel to the research group – he will be working on a new PhD project about preservation processes at the German Geiseltal Fossil Konservat Lagerstätte.
15th of October 2018
Happy International Fossil Day! Look at this cute Dapalis macrurus specimen from the Oligocene Alpes de Haute-Provence locality, France!
8th of October 2018
Valentina was awarded the Outstanding Poster Award by Prof. Joe Wong at the SSRL User’s Conference in Stanford, California.
1st of October 2018
Thomas recently returned from the SVPCA2018 conference in Manchester, where he won the Best Talk Prize for his presentation of using taphonomic models to understanding the influence of palaeogeography in Lagerstätten.
24th of September 2018
Luke discussed some of his research with visitors to this year’s BEES Culture Night event. Members of the public were able to use microscopes to reveal the surface structures of different insects, for example, the brilliant white scales of the Cyphochilus sp. beetle. In addition, the use of circularly polarised light by certain beetles such as the green-coloured Chalcothea smaragdina was shown using 3D glasses, whilst ‘sellotape mosaics’ where used to illustrate both polarisation and interference colours.
Chris helping out UCC’s Geological Society at an event last week for this year’s new undergraduate intake where he talked about dinosaur footprints and fossil colour!
Maria also came across an interesting article on gender bias in the geosciences! https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-018-0154-0
17th of September 2018
Maria and the PalAss crew speaking to the public about fossils at the Yorkshire Fossil Festival 2018 (and meeting the moon!)
A video of the festival can be accessed here: https://vimeo.com/291929764
10th of September 2018
The Annual Dinner, held in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, at the Annual Meeting of the EMAS – European Microbeam Analysis Society. Maria attended this meeting last week!
See also attended GeoBonn 2018 in Germany last week, during which she managed to give an interview to Deutschlandfunk Radio about her work! The report (in German!) is available here:
(click on the main image in the article to listen to Maria’s interview!)
3rd of September 2018
Maria’s work on dino feather colour was mentioned during the visit of Minister John Halligan (Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research & Development – with responsibility for the SFI) to the School of BEES today!
Maria, meanwhile, was actually delivering a plenary lecture at the GeoBonn 2018 meeting in Germany! (photo credit: Gregor Oleschinski)
20th of August 2018
This week, Tiffany is analysing data gathered at the particle accelerator in San Francisco to understand the chemistry of fossil feathers.
20th of August 2018
James and fellow neuropterologists looking for extant lacewings during a light-trapping session at the International Symposium of Neuropterology (Germany) earlier this summer. Photo credit: J. Jones.
13th of August 2018
“From Sketch to Reality”: Valentina is working on her next paper on the use of melanin to interpret fossil vertebrate soft tissue. She is using chemical mapping to reconstruct the anatomy of diverse fossil vertebrates (the top fossil is an early amphibian of 290 Ma and the bottom is a lizard of 180 Ma).
7th of August 2018
Luke has been preparing scale-bearing insect cuticle for cutting ultra-thin section ahead of TEM imaging.
30th of July 2018
Here are some of Chaofan’s specimens from her maturation experiments during her time here with us at UCC! Clockwise from top left: Chrysochroa corbetti, Colotis vesta, Hypolimnas monteironis, and some of her maturation samples.
23rd of July 2018
Geo-film in progress! Thanks ValeMedia!
16th of July 2018
Chris and James getting into the swing of their talks in the first Konservat-Lagerstätten session in the Grand Amphitheatre du Museum at the IPC5 meeting.
9th of July 2018
Valentina, Tiffany and Giliane at the start of 5th International Palaeontological Congress in Paris!
2nd of July 2018
Tiffany is using our custom-made maturation rig to simulate the high heat and pressure that fossil feathers experience while buried under sediment.
25th of June 2018
James and Chaofan with the other fossil Neuropterida researchers at the symposium last week.
18th of June 2018
James presenting his work on colour patterns in fossil Neuroptera at the 13th International Symposium of Neuropterology in Laufen, Germany.
11th of June 2018
Looking into the eyes of 65 million years-old insects preserved in amber!
5th of June 2018
Here is Valentina preparing samples (from the Triassic marine reptile Neusticosaurus peyeri) to bring to SSRL next week and performing a preliminary analysis of a Permian amphibian (from the Saar-Nahe deposit in Germany).
28th of May 2018
Thomas’ army of ladybirds have arrived! The wing cases (elytra) will be used in a temperature/pressure experiment to replicate the fossilisation process.
21st of May 2018
Luke and Maria painstakingly transferred fossil insect scales from cuticle onto special tape. The scales are now being analysed with X-rays using the synchrotron at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago in order to characterise their internal structure.
14th of May 2018
Here is Chris after setting up the lab last week for a visit from a group of transition year students!
8th of May 2018
Maria helping to man the PalAss stand at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival in the UK. Lots of exciting activities relating to fossil preservation and fossils of the Jurassic!
30th of April 2018
Last week, Tiffany presented a poster at London’s County Hall on her undergraduate research project titled ‘Intra-relationships of bullhead sharks: implications for the extinction of Paracestracion‘. She then received her Top Project Award at the House of Commons from the Royal Society of Biology.
23rd of April 2018
Our new postdoc Thomas is starting his project investigating how being buried and fossilised effects the pigments of beetles.
16th of April 2018
Maria, Giliane and Luke attended the Living Light 2018 conference in Cambridge last week!
9th of April 2018
A selection of fossil lacewings (Neuroptera) from the Jurassic of Daohugou, China, showing some of the diversity of wing patterns that James is analyzing as part of his project.
3rd of April 2018
Maria and Valentina are busy in Dingle, County Kerry at the moment, as they are providing the Easter field course to third year geology students. As part of the work, they were looking at the Devonian conglomerates, measuring clasts and analysing features to investigate different potential clastic spire regions.
26th of March 2018
Luke is at the Messel Research Station in Germany to hunt for scale-bearing specimens among the insect collection which comprises over 17,000 insects.
20th of March 2018
Giliane is starting a new project on insect eyes. She is currently looking at scarab beetle eyes (below), specifically for physiological systems dedicated to the detection of polarized light.
12th of March 2018
The “Girls into Geoscience – Ireland” event took place over the weekend. Maria co-hosted the day, with over 20 attendees, 5 volunteers from iCRAG and 4 invited speakers. For more information, please click here!
5th of March 2018
Maria recently presented at the IGRM 2018 conference! Photo credit: Luke O’Reilly, School of BEES, University College Cork.
26th of February 2018
After analysing the fossils at SSRL, Tiffany returned some specimens to China!
19th of February 2018
Here are some of the samples (left to right: a wing, an amphibian and a fish) that Maria, Chris and Tiffany scanned at their recent trip to SSRL (also pictured!). Maria snapped a night-time photo of Chris and Tiffany at the facility too!
12th of February 2018
James is marking his new biscuit-based 3rd year phylogeny practical!
6th of February 2018
We had lots of help sorting our sizeable fossil collection from Nomah Sullivan last week – a Transition Year student who is interested in palaeobiology! Here is Naomi helping him out with the identification of some of the specimens.
29th of January 2018
Our research group represented UCC again at the iWish Conference in Cork City Hall last week, with our Walk Like A Dinosaur exhibit and a variety of fossils!
22nd of January 2018
Valentina, Tiffany (half-hidden!) and Maria loading up a feathered dinosaur for analysis at the new low-Z beamline at SSRL last week. Very exciting!
15th of January 2018
Chris and Luke represented UCC at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, by hosting our Walk Like A Dinosaur stall. Sensors were used to estimate visitors’ speed whilst walking / running, and we calculated an equivalent species of dinosaur on an individual basis. The team gave people an opportunity to see how different substrates affect the fidelity of dinosaur footprints. There were also theropod and amphibian footprints, a Microraptor cast, trilobite and fish fossils, and a huge bone from a mammoth!
8th of January 2018
An impressive Grallator footprint from the early Jurassic of Massachusetts!
18th of December 2017
The fossil colour research team attended the Friends of the Rotten workshop (as part of the Palaeontological Association’s 2017 Annual Meeting) at Imperial College London last weekend, where Tiffany gave a talk on the origins of mouldic melanosomes.
11th of December 2017
Here are Tim and Maria doing some elemental mapping, whilst Chris is looking at lamprey eyes on the SEM.
4th of December 2017
Luke’s search for preserved structural colour in the insect fossil record continues – he has recently been able to examine a range of insect fossils from the Crato formation under the light microscope.
27th of November 2017
James has started analysis of the images of the Chinese Jurassic Neuroptera (lacewings).
20th of November 2017
Giliane went to a bog to collect water and sediment (and inopportune crustaceans) for a pilot mineralization experiment.
13th of November 2017
Members of the Palaeo group and undergrad volunteers from the School of BEES putting on a good show at Cork Science Festival!
6th of November 2017
Here is Valentina in the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. She is looking for fossils with evidence of soft tissues!
2nd of November 2017
Graduating at the top of her class, Tiffany attended her official graduation ceremony this week in Worcester, UK. She held up the ceremony as she received five awards from the University of Worcester and the Royal Society of Biology! Congratulations Tiffany!
23rd of October 2017
Maria, Chris and Tiffany were at Diamond Light Source, a synchrotron facility in Oxfordshire last week. Here they are running some samples!
16th of October 2017
Naomi has been procuring some new fossils for outreach and research purposes – see some examples below!
Top row (L-R): Permian reptile fossil footprints from France; Jurassic Saccocoma tenella from Solnhofen (Germany)
Bottom row (L-R): Jurassic disarticulated echinoids from France; Lower Jurassic Acanthochirana from France
9th of October 2017
Luke has been working with Professor Bo Wang at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences to identify the potential for structural colours in Jurassic lepidopteran fossils. Their study aims to provide new insights into the evolution of colour producing nanostructures as well as scale morphology in insects.
2nd of October 2017
A small selection of fossil insect wings of the order Neuroptera (lacewings) from the Jurassic of China. These wings, along with hundreds more, will be used by James in a morphometric analysis. The analysis will compare the different types of colour patterns preserved on the wings of the neuropteran fauna from the Jurassic of Daohugou, China.
25th of September 2017
Fresh from Culture Night, Maria jetted off to sunny Scarborough where she joined the PalAss team at the Annual Yorkshire Fossil Festival. As well as helping visitors to the PalAss stand make DIY fossil imprints and play the fossilization game, she took part in the Festival’s Soapbox Science event, armed with a trusty trilobite sidekick.
18th of September 2017
Chemical training in the lab. Giliane has set up a (safe) experiment for us to test whether acid should be placed into water, or should water be placed into acid. We ensured it was the correct way (acid into water!) before Tiffany tried it out!
11th of September 2017
Landmarks and Lifeforms: Linking science and art at the Limerick City Gallery of Art
Maria participated in a panel discussion at the opening of the new exhibition ‘Landmarks and Lifeforms’ by Irish artists Frieda Meaney and Danny Osbourne, chaired by Newstalk’s Éanna Ní Lamhna. The exhibition features prints and installations by Frieda focusing on evolution, change, and transformation, and lava sculptures and vessels by Danny. The panel discussion was very interactive, with lots of participation by the audience, and ranged in topic from origins of the Earth, climate change, and dinosaur evolution to creativity and the common methodical process that lies at the foundation of all scientific and artistic inquiry.
4th of September 2017
Valentina was at the ToF-SIMS facility in Manchester, to learn how to use the instrument as well as analyzing some melanin samples. She also visited Manchester Museum!
28th of August 2017
Tiffany, our new PhD student, is extracting feathers from a common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) (that was found dead!) for oxidation and decay experiments.
21st of August 2017
This is a histological section through a cuttlefish (Sepia officianalis) ink sack, the black-stained cells can be easily identified. Although it has been known for millennia that cuttlefish and other cephalopods produce ink, exactly how they produce melanin in their tissues is poorly known. Tim is currently looking into how and where melanosomes are produced in cephalopod tissue.
14th of August 2017
Posers with posters in Paris! Nidia, Valentina and Chris at Goldschmidt 2017.
7th of August 2017
Adrian has been splitting mudstones from the Daohugou Lagerstätte: pictured here are an abundance of conchostracans as well as some very nicely preserved plant material.
31st of July 2017
Tim’s current research aims to elucidate the nature and distribution of pigments in cephalopod molluscs. Using controlled sets of decay experiments, he is testing the robustness of these pigments to fossilization and what the preservation of these pigments could tell us about extinct taxa.
24th of July 2017
During a visit to his old lab in the physics department at the University of Exeter, Luke performed optical measurements to determine the angle-dependency of the circularly polarised reflectance from some of Giliane’s beetles.
17th of July 2017
Chris is dissecting the eye of a lamprey under the microscope, by separating the iris at the front of the eye from the choroid at the back. The long strand coming from the eye (as seen on the screen) is the lamprey’s optic nerve.
10th of July 2017
James on a visit to Beijing, China (Capital Normal University), searching the collections and imaging fossil insects with preserved colour patterns from the Middle Jurassic, Daohugou Lagerstätte.
3rd of July 2017
Giliane went to Dublin for a demo of a new high-spec, large-chamber EDS-based micro-XRF system, and tested the accuracy of the chemical analysis on a fossil cephalopod.
26th of June 2017
Some of the research group were recently in China doing fieldwork. Here is Valentina with the mountains of Inner Mongolia, and also acting as a human scale surrounded by an alternation of siltstone-mudstone and sandstone, typical of an alluvial fan deposit (age: Late Jurassic).
19th of June 2017
Nick captured this lovely shot of some Greek stratification!
12th of June 2017
The Chair of Geology, Prof. Andy Wheeler, at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences’ recent Research Day at the new MaREI Centre, speaking about the vast range of work Maria and her team accomplish at the School!
6th of June 2017
Nidia has been doing ladybird puzzles after 900 hours of tumbling!
29th of May 2017
Maria is trying out our new ultramicrotome for the first time!
22nd of May 2017
Maria, Chris and Giliane travelled to the University of Manchester recently to use the ChemiSTEM facility.
15th of May 2017
Luke has been surveying fossil beetle samples under the microscope. The goal is to find evidence for both the preservation of lepidote structures and iridescent colour indicating the presence of underlying photonic crystal morphologies.
8th of May 2017
James visiting the collections at the research station at Messel, Germany. Looking for fossil insects with preserved colour patterns.
2nd of May 2017
Maria delivering an interactive lecture to local schools as part of the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival 2017.
24th of April 2017
Angular-dependent reflection experimental setup used by Giliane for the characterization of iridescent beetles.
17th of April 2017
Valentina was recently in Dingle, Co Kerry on a fieldtrip with Maria’s second year students, and came across some Silurian trace fossil burrows and desiccation cracks.
10th of April 2017
Naomi is helping to prepare Valentina’s samples before they are sent for analysis!
3rd of April 2017
Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched?
These are the eyes of Octopus vulgaris!
27th of March 2017
Some exciting results on Nidia’s chemical analyses!
20th of March 2017
Valentina and Chris are looking exceptionally happy during dissections!
13th of March 2017
Chris has been learning how to use the TEM.
6th of March 2017
Valentina got an honourable mention for her talk at the IGRM!
27th of February 2017
Naomi and Giliane are performing sulfurization experiments.
20th of February 2017
Here is another procedure to stain histology sections – this one is automatic!
13th of February 2017
Valentina’s histology samples are undergoing the Fontana-Masson staining procedure to prepare the sections.
She will then analyse them to calculate the amount of melanin within each sample!
6th of February 2017
Maria was invited to give the first Quercus lecture of 2017, titled ‘Beyond the lab: making science accessible to all’. UCC’s Quercus students are recognised as some of the most talented in the university; the the Quercus Talented Students’ Programme aims to support and promote excellence in academia, sport, creative and performing arts, active citizenship and innovation/entrepreneurship. The goal of the Quercus lecture series is to inspire students, and staff, by presenting thought-provoking lectures by some of UCC’s most inspiring academics. Please see here for a video of the talk. Photo credit: Dr Benjamin Gearey, Department of Archaeology, University College Cork.
30th of January 2017
Saoirse has been studying the morphology of fossilized feathers with the aid of some of the artificially fossilized feathers that she has created in the lab.
23rd of January 2017
Nidia’s first tumbling experiments are done, all dried up and ready to analyse. Only a *few* hours of picking through sediment ahead!
16th of January 2017
Some of the palaeontology research group went to the BT Young Scientist competition during the weekend, where we displayed our own exhibit “Walk Like A Dinosaur”. This project was created by palaeontologists in UCC’s School of BEES, UCC’s School of Engineering and UCC’s Department of Computer Science. A sensor was attached to the legs of visitors to our stand, which was used to estimate their speed whilst walking / running, and what species of dinosaur this was equivalent to! Each member of the public that participated received a personalized talk about their species. We also brought along some trilobite fossils, an ammonite fossil, a fossilized Megalodon tooth and a cast of Microraptor!
9th of January 2017
Chris is examining fossils from the Mazon Creek lagerstätte, Illinois.
3rd of January 2017
Giliane is cutting ultra-thin sections of dinosaur samples with an ultramicrotome for TEM observation!
19th of December 2016
The research group attended the Palaeontological Association’s Annual Meeting in Lyon last week.
12th of December 2016
Valentina was recently in Darmstadt (Germany), analysing Cenozoic fossils, including a reptile from the Messel Biota.
5th of December 2016
Saoirse has been busy examining the microstructures of modern feathers under the light microscope to help her gain an understanding of prehistoric feathers for her thesis.
28th of November 2016
Here are the members of the fossil colour team along with various undergraduate and postgraduate volunteers talking about insects, dinosaurs and more at the Cork Science Exhibition in Blackpool!
21st of November 2016
Nidia is in the middle of tumbling experiments! This type of procedure is used to simulate the transportation of sediment and biological matter (gravel and insect cuticle, in this instance) by water in a lake-shore environment.
14th of November 2016
Our research group was joined by a TV crew in the lab today! They were recording an upcoming documentary on prominent Irish female scientists.
7th of November 2016
Chris is dissecting a thornback ray for melanin extraction!
1st of November 2016
Here is our new technical research assistant Giliane Odin looking at the elytra of beetles through a spectrophotometer in order to characterize colours!
24th of October 2016
Our new postdoc James Jepson studying images of Jurassic fossil insects from Daohugou, China, looking at the different colour patterns preserved on their wings.
17th of October 2016
Valentina was in the Natural History Museum of London to take samples from reptile and amphibian fossils, and managed to get a photo with a stegosaur on the way!
10th of October 2016
A great afternoon visit to Cork University Hospital for outreach in the children’s ward!
3rd of October 2016
Last week Maria McNamara and PhD student Nidia Álvarez Armada presented papers at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, Colorado – see links below:
26th of September 2016
Here is Chris at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto having fun in the fossil vertebrate collections!
23rd of September 2016
“After all this waiting, this is what it must feel like to have a baby” – Nidia said at the moment of taking her samples out after 6 months of decay!
19th of September 2016
Naomi is doing lots of SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) work this week on her pollen samples!
12th of September 2016
Chris is looking happy with his recent delivery of Ciona larvae! Ciona is a genus of sea squirt, and the darkened area of the test tube contains 300 of the larvae!
5th of September 2016
Plenty of chemicals and calculations today in our lab, as Odhrán is currently undertaking enzymatic extraction of melanin experiments.
29th of August 2016
Time for Valentina to analyze her data! Let’s discover awesome things!
22nd of August 2016
72 feathers later, Saoirse is about to conduct her final experiment to examine what kind of effects simulating preservation might have on modern feathers.
16th of August 2016
Odhrán (another new intern!) has been busy preparing his decay experiment. It is finally going in!
9th of August 2016
Our new research intern Amy Muir has been busy working on several taphonomic experiments in the lab – here she is decanting solutions under a nitrogen atmosphere.
2nd of August 2016
Naomi has lots of samples to get through! The murky liquid being used is simulated peat bog water, in order to see its effect(s) on different pollen species over time.
26th of July 2016
Chris is preparing to dissect and then extract melanin from amphioxus, a basal chordate thought to be similar in appearance to some of our earliest ancestors. Amphioxus only has the pigment melanin in its ‘eye spot’, a light sensing organ near to its mouth.
18th of July 2016
“Another brick in the wall” for Valentina in the histology lab!
12th of July 2016
After twenty-four hours of waiting, Saoirse finally has removed her feather samples from the furnace. She is very eager to see the results of her first of many experiments.
8th of July 2016
Nidia is very excited with the synchrotron data of her Parnassius apollonius!
4th of July 2016
One of our undergraduates, Vitor, is preparing resin for the analysis of cephalopod specimens.
28th of June 2016
Here is our new post doc Chris Rogers helping to set up our new micro welder in the lab.
21st of June 2016
Maria is hard at work welding gold capsules for maturation experiments.
13th of June 2016
Valentina is surrounded by new technology!
5th of June 2016
Here’s Valentina getting to grips with her sample analyses in San Francisco!
23rd of May 2016
Nidia was presenting during the weekend at Progressive Palaeontology 2016, a conference hosted by Oxford University Natural History Museum.
16th of May 2016
Here we are in action loading samples at beamline 11-2 at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource facility in California.
3rd of May 2016
What’s cooking up in Valentina’s lab? Stay tuned for the next installment!
26th of April 2016
Yesterday we were at Manchester University running some samples on the ToF-SIMS with our colleague Nick Lockyer. Here you can see Nick loading up the samples. Exciting stuff!
22th of April 2016
Phew! Maria is just back from the European Geosciences Congress at Vienna, where she presented a poster with colleague Daniel Field of Yale University, titled ‘Maturation experiments reveal bias in the fossil record of feathers’. More interesting results to follow!