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Dr Valentina Rossi

I am a post-doctoral researcher in palaeobiology working on the preservation of pigments and soft tissues like skin and internal organs in fossil vertebrates. With a bachelor and master degree in geology, I have been always fascinated by how our planet works and in particular about its history, a story that only rocks and fossils can tell! During my PhD at University College Cork, I have expanded my interests in biology, molecular biology and chemistry. My work so far has focused on the preservation of melanosomes (melanin granules) in animal soft tissues using synchrotron-based chemical analysis. Currently, I am investigating the preservation of melanins at the molecular level. My research interest also includes the investigation of the taphonomic processes that lead to the preservation of soft tissues and biomolecules using taphonomic experiments at high pressure and temperature.
Do you want to know about what I do? Follow me on Instagram @she_paleo.


  • McNamara, M.E, Rossi, V., Slater, T., Rogers, C., Ducrest, A.-L., Dubey, S., Roulin, A., 2021. Decoding the evolution of melanin in vertebrates. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. DOI:
  • Rossi, V., Webb, S., McNamara, M.E., 2021. Maturation experiments reveal bias in the chemistry of fossil melanosomes. Geology, 49. DOI:
  • Rossi, V., Webb, S., McNamara, M.E., 2020. Hierarchical biota-level and taxonomic controls on the chemistry of fossil melanosomes revealed using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence. Scientific Reports, 10, 8970. DOI:
  • Rossi, V., McNamara, M.E., Webb, S., Ito, S., Wakamatsu, K., 2019. Tissue-specific geometry and chemistry of modern and fossilized melanosomes reveal internal anatomy of extinct vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, 116 (36) 17880-17889. DOI:
  • McNamara, M.E., Kaye, J.S., Benton, M.J., Orr, P.J., Rossi, V., Ito, S., Wakamatsu, K., 2018. Non-integumentary melanosomes bias reconstructions of the colours of fossil vertebrate skin. Nature Communications, 9, 2878. DOI:
  • Mears, E., Rossi, V., MacDonald, E., Coleman, G., Davies, T., Arias-Riesgo, C., Hildebrandt, C., Thiel, H., Duffin, C.J., Whiteside, D.I., Benton, M.J., 2016. The Rhaetian (Late Triassic) vertebrates of Hampstead Farm Quarry, Gloucestershire, UK. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. DOI: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2016.05.003.
  • 2021. Co-author for The Conversation: “Prehistoric pigments reveal how melanin has shaped bird and mammal evolution”
  • 2016-2020. PhD thesis title: “The taphonomy of vertebrate melanosomes”; Supervisor: Maria McNamara.


  • Feb 2022 – present: ERC Postdoctoral researcher in Palaeobiology. Project “The taphonomy of melanin”. University Collee Cork, School of BEES.
  • Jan 2021 – Jan 2022: Palaeozoologist, Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Alto Adige, Bolzano, Italy.
  • Nov 2021: Visiting Lecturer. University College Cork, School of BEES. Module GL4024 “Exceptional glimpses of ancient life”. This module aims at exploring the factors that control and promote the preservation of soft tissues and how palaeobiologists study such exceptionally preserved fossils.
  • May – Sept 2020: Research Assistant, University College Cork, School of BEES.
  • 2016-2020: PhD in Geology, University College Cork, Cork, Republic of Ireland. PhD thesis title: “The taphonomy of vertebrate melanosomes”; Supervisor: Maria McNamara.
  • 2015: Project: “At the feet of Dinosaurs”, University of Bristol. Supervisor: Michael J. Benton.
  • 2014: MSc Geology of Exploration, “La Sapienza”, University of Rome, Italy. Grade: 1:1 with honour (110/110 cum laude). “The Permian of Richard Spur (Ok, USA) and analysis of Captorhinus aguti (Cope, 1882)”. Topic: Palaeontology. Supervisors: Prof Umberto Nicosia and Dr Marco Romano.
  • 2012: BSc Geological Sciences, “La Sapienza”, University of Rome, Italy. Grade: 1:1 with honour (110/110 cum laude). “Analysis and validation of a fossil specimen belonging to the family Spheniscidae”. Topic: Palaeontology. Supervisor: Prof Umberto Nicosia.

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