Caitlin is a PhD candidate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Her research focuses on the preservation and degradation of biomolecules in vertebrate fossils. She received her Bachelors degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in anthropology. After graduating, she became interested in palaeontology when she found herself in the badlands of Utah digging up a very large sauropod. She has an MSc from the University of Bristol, UK, where she studied the preservation of fossil melanin. She has done fieldwork in Africa, Central America, Britain and all across the United States. She enjoys using cutting-edge technology to build on our understanding of the history of life on Earth. She is also an associate producer for Palaeocast.
Caitlin Colleary, Department of Geosciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA.
by Caitlin Colleary*1
The fossil record is our only direct window to the history of life on Earth. The ability to find and study the remains of animals, plants and other organisms that lived millions of years ago is extraordinary, and as technology has improved over the past few decades, scientists have realized that fossils contain more information about the stories of extinct life forms than even Charles Darwin could have imagined. Biomolecules (such as DNA, proteins and lipids) that make up modern animals contain information about how their bodies work (physiology — that is, physical and chemical functions), relationships to other animals and their evolutionary histories. With the advances in analytical tools such as high-resolution mass spectroscopy, the study of biomol