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DinoFest 2022 Speaker: Dr. Caitlin Colleary


Title of Lecture: From death to discovery: the life of a fossil in the rock record

Lecture Description: A fossil is any evidence of past life including the remains of an organism. Because the conditions need to be just right to keep a creature intact long enough to be buried and preserved, the chances of becoming a fossil are very low. To understand the processes of fossilization, Dr. Colleary will give an introduction to the study of how biomolecules are altered and preserved in the fossil record, with case studies on long term decay experiments and the influence of different burial environments on preservation. By understanding how biomolecules breakdown and preserve, Dr. Colleary will show how this allows new interpretations about the ancestry and evolution of ancient animals.

Bio: Caitlin is the Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Her expertise is in molecular taphonomy, the study of how biomolecules (e.g., pigments and proteins) are altered and preserved in the fossil record, and her research focuses on molecular breakdown during early stages of decay and molecular preservation in common fossils such as bones and teeth. Caitlin spends a lot of time in the lab these days, but she has also conducted fieldwork across the United States, central America, the United Kingdom and sub-Saharan Africa.