Welcome to our blog about life as a palaeontologist – or trainee palaeontologist – working on fossil colour.

Previous Years

Browse our past blog entries

11 Jul 2022

Last week Ireland's Fossil Heritage visited Hook Head, Co. Wexford with the winner of the 2022 National Fossil Art Contest - Braden McDonnell and his family. The day was spent inspecting the Carboniferous limestone on the peninsula and all it's incredible fossils. Braden said it was the best day out ever!

5 Jul 2022

Big congratulations to Daniel, whose first paper is published today in Special Papers in Palaeontology!

27 Jun 2022

Getting ready for conference season! Time to look at some awesome Irish dragons and their preserved soft tissues.

20 Jun 2022

Dan and Aaron are in Dublin this week to do some animal dissections at UCD veterinary hospital for our research.

15 Jun 2022

This week Bea, Dan and Aaron have been attending Progpal! It’s been great to attend an in-person conference for the first time and to get to know all about the research that’s currently going on as well as sharing their own!

9 Jun 2022

Jess got a quick photo taken just before the busy launch of the new children’s art exhibition on the 9th of June in the Glucksman Gallery! The exhibition will celebrate the artwork of Irish schoolchildren – and fossils – in two exciting new collections as part of the Ireland's Fossil Heritage project, FOSSIL FREAKS and IRISH FOSSILS ALIVE.

30 May 2022

Here is Zixiao in the Lough collecting water and sediment samples for decay experiments.

23 May 2022

Hannah's PhD on urban soils has transformed her gardening. Alongside growing vegetables, testing the soil quality and making sure the growing conditions are just right, Smudge (cat) acts as natural weed control by rolling in the soil and knocking down any weeds that are coming up. Excuse the mess - the picture was taken during 'No Mow May'.

16 May 2022

Bea recently got back from her first synchrotron trips to Soleil in Paris. She got a chance work with X-ray fluorescence at the Nanoscopium beamline and infrareds at the SMIS beamline. It was very tough work but she had fun and she learned a lot! She also got to use liquid nitrogen, which was scary but very cool.

10 May 2022

Maria awarded SFI Frontiers for the Future grant! In this project Maria plus PhD student Aaron Quigley and colleagues will investigate how, and why, melanin evolved in vertebrates, by better understanding the biology of melanin in modern-day vertebrates and how this is impacted by aspects of the fossilization process.

3 May 2022

Jess was recently on holiday along the Yorkshire coast. This coastline is famous for its geology and incredible fossils found in the Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks. Jess found some amazing fossils including belemnites, bivalves and partial ammonites!

25 Apr 2022

Daniel wants to do statistics on his data. But which is the most suitable program for his analysis? Let’s try and find out!

20 Apr 2022

Paper in Nature + front cover next week = happy PI!

11 Apr 2022

After two long years of restricted travel, it feels so nice to be back in action. Here is Valentina visiting the beamline Nanoscopium at the Soleil synchrotron near Paris.

4 Apr 2022

Valentina is teaching Dan and Bea how to extract melanin from tissue samples: here they are working on some seabass!

28 Mar 2022

Having only recently started his PhD, Aaron has been heavily involved in reading the literature, keeping himself up to date with the latest information and techniques. He'll be getting started on some lab work soon!

21 Mar 2022

Maria is busy preparing samples for an upcoming visit to the synchrotron facility at Soleil in France!

14 Mar 2022

Zixiao was at the Lough lake testing the presence of sulfate-reducing bacteria, a key agent in the formation of phosphatized fossils. The result was positive, so he will go back and collect water and sediments from the lake for coming fossilization experiments!

7 Mar 2022

Mental health is incredibly important! And minding your mental health while doing a PhD is even more important - so Hannah is sharing two things that are making all the difference: her cat Smudge and some little seedlings growing into homegrown food in the window (which is definitely related to her research on soils!).

28 Feb 2022

This week Jess and Maria visited Ballyvongane National School in County Cork to deliver an interactive workshop. The students learned all about trace fossils, mass extinctions and environmental change.

21 Feb 2022

Bea is finally ready to get started in the lab! She is very excited to learn new techniques from her amazing lab mates!

14 Feb 2022

Jess has been busy preparing the materials for Ireland's Fossil Heritage school workshops starting very soon. The workshops will involve lots of fun fossil activities, including experimenting with various sediment to see what preserves the best dinosaur footprint! For more information on the school workshops check out the Ireland's Fossil Heritage website:

7 Feb 2022

Daniel prepares samples for his upcoming analysis. He embedded a tiny piece of a fossil frog in liquid resin. To solidify the viscous resin, he “baked” it at 60 degrees for 24 hours in a special oven. Once that’s done, Maria will put the sample under a microscope, slice it into very thin and flat sections and transfer them to a glass slide. Only then can Daniel analyse his samples with different techniques.

31 Jan 2022

Aude has been working in the lab recently, using the scanning electron microscope to image decayed and matured skin and feathers.

24 Jan 2022

How lovely is this little Irish dragon? Keraterpeton galvani is an amphibian from Jarrow, Co Kilkenny, and lived around 310 million years ago!

17 Jan 2022

Getting under a dinosaur’s skin -  Zixiao has been examining skin samples from a Psittacosaurus, a weird-looking dinosaur that had both scales and feathers.

10 Jan 2022

Done and dusted! Just before the break over the holidays, Hannah finished all 20 sites of her fieldwork. One of the last few sites proved quite a challenge once the days were starting to get shorter and it was sampled by the light of a flashlight - but all is well that ends well! The very last site was even sampled in some glorious sunshine.

Maria McNamara Research Group

Experimental and analytical taphonomy

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES), University College Cork (UCC), Butler Building, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, T23 TK30, Ireland