BSc(hons) Earth Sciences, PhD in palaeobiology
2002-2006: PhD 2007-2008: postdoc 2008-2009: Geopark Geologist
Senior Lecturer in Geology
Favourite thing to do in science: use electron microscopes
About Me: I’ve got two kids and I always try to see the funny side of things – even if only retrospectively! I live in the countryside and love hiking and running – especially in the rain.
I live in County Cork with my husband and two kids. We grow lots of veg and spend our free time getting mucky and having adventures in wild places. I’m vegetarian and love Asian and Italian food, but my favourite quick meal is a toasted sandwich! I am fully committed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also like thrillers and period dramas, but I can’t stomach horror movies.
My Work: I’m a palaeobiologist: I work on the biology of ancient creatures that lived millions of years ago. I’m interested in how fossils form, what colours ancient animals were and how birds (and dinosaurs!) evolved feathers and flight.
Being a palaeontologist is like being a fossil detective. You’re trying to answer questions like: What is this creature? How did it die? Where did it live? It’s great fun but is also a serious science because we need data from fossils to understand climate change and to predict how modern ecosystems might respond to changing habitats and climate.
I work in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UCC. The School isn’t located on main campus but actually on a separate campus on North Mall in UCC. It’s great because we have lots of space for greenhouses, ponds, etc. and it’s closer to the city centre than main campus. My lab has lots of nice equipment in it for simulating the fossilization process, including creepy-sounding “decay chambers” as well as dangerous-sounding things such as a high-pressure bomb (yes!) plus a handheld X-ray gun (don’t point it at anyone). In another building I have some bigger equipment including an electron microscope to see very tiny things and an infrared microscope to analyse chemistry of fossils and rocks – both very exciting to use. Most of the time I work in Cork but every year I also go on fieldwork (usually in China) and have lots of other trips abroad to do analyses, study fossils, and go to conferences.
My Typical Day: My job is really varied so it’s hard to describe a typical day. I might give a lecture in the morning and check on our electron microscope – I’ve to do regular calibrations to make sure everything’s working properly. I’ll probably spend an hour or more dealing with emails, and will spend the rest of the day having meetings with my PhD students. That’s one of my favourite aspects of the job.
What I'd do with the money: I’d spend the money developing a national competition for Ireland’s Favourite Fossil! I would love to see my project come to life because in Ireland we have very little awareness of our geological heritage relative to other countries. This is because we don’t learn much about them in school. This is a terrible shame because fossils can teach us about where we come from, and they can give us a sense of pride in our local area. Ireland has actually some pretty important fossils on a global level, so I believe that Irish people should have an opportunity to learn about them and to use fossils to get inspired by science.
Irish people know very little about palaeontology or even the fact that we have fossils in Ireland – including dinosaur bones! I really want to change this, and make Irish children and adults more aware of our fabulous fossil heritage.
I would use the money to launch a national competition promoting Ireland’s fossils called “Ireland’s Favourite Fossil”. I would make the website myself with help from colleagues and would feature a map of Ireland showing where you can find fossils in Ireland, and “fossil profiles” for 10 or 15 key Irish fossils. I’d use the money to market the campaign by sending flyers to schools and putting an ad in a major national newspaper.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Energetic, motivated, passionate
Who is your favourite singer or band?
No favourite – I’m a bit eclectic - but I’m listening to Eminem, SIa, Puccini and Lana del’Rei at the moment
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes – for too much chat
What was your favourite subject at school?
Everything – science, art, English, maths, geography, sport, music...
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Discovered that pterosaurs had feathers and dinosaurs had dandruff
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Win the lotto and buy loads of cool science equipment! Play more with my kids. Look at the stars more.
Tell us a joke.
Why do gorillas have such big nostrils? Because they have big fingers....