I am an environmental and organic geochemist with particular expertise in using organic molecules as chemical fossils and fingerprints to address research questions in a environmental science, Earth sciences and ecology. In this way I work in timescales from the modern to ancient – from living to fossil.
During my graduate studies I worked on projects to understand submarine methane seepage and the microorganisms that consume this greenhouse gas before it escapes into the atmosphere. I also studied the origin, distribution and fate of terrestrial, marine, and anthropogenic (human pollution) organic matter in the Irish Sea.
I am currently working on projects to understand how microbes precipitate rocks and how their lipids can be preserved in these minerals over geologic time. In particular, I am interested in non-skeletal carbonates that are well represented in the Precambrian, before the evolution of complex life. I study modern counterparts in detail using experimental, geochemical and genomic techniques. In this way I want to bridge the gap between what we see in the rock record and what we see today.
I am also involved in projects studying how animal soft tissues, including mammoths, birds and dinosaurs, can preserve and what molecular information is retained in these rare soft tissue fossils. I collaborate on projects studying lipid biosynthesis in marine animals and plankton, organic matter cycling in tropical peatlands and in experiments to understand the sources of organic matter on Mars.
I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science (EAPS) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the School of Earth Sciences at University College Dublin. Specifically I am part of the Summons Lab (MIT) and the McDermott Lab (UCD). My research is funded by the Marie Curie Actions Program and the Irish Research Council.
For more background information on my research, click on the publications tab above.