Fossil Hunter Lottie has left London (see her adventures behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum here) and made it to her first #realfossilhunter tour stop: Edinburgh. She spent the day with post-doctoral researchers Dr Shaena Montanari and Dr Hongyu Yi, checking out isotopic analyses of whale skin, Scottish fossils and fossil crocodile brain cases!

Shaena is a Royal Society Newton International Fellow at the University of Edinburgh in the School of GeoSciences. She uses stable isotope geochemistry to understand environmental and biological signatures in extant and extinct vertebrate remains like teeth and eggshells. She conducts modern experimental research on natural variations in carbon and nitrogen isotopes of modern omnivores to compare to the fossil record. She uses museum and field collections from around the world for much of this geochemical research. Shaena’s current project is on small mammals but in the past has worked on extinct creatures ranging from dinosaurs to giant kangaroos!

Hongyu is a Royal Society Sino-British Fellow at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Geosciences. She uses X-ray CT scanning and computer modeling to study the evolution of sensory organs among extant and extinct reptiles. She is particularly interested in using inner ear morphology in snakes to better understand what environment snakes evolved in and why they lost their legs. To answer this question, she has CT scanned snakes varying from a 30 cm thread snake to a 3m giant anaconda. 

Don’t forget you can join in and share your own #realfossilhunter pictures and stories on twitter, or like & comment our Real Fossil Hunter posts on Facebook — with the added bonus that you could win your own Fossil Hunter Lottie doll!
Here’s what Shaena and Hongyu got up to with Fossil Hunter Lottie…

Lottie looking at the cast of the plesiosaur from Dorset that we have on the wall in the Grant institute.

Lottie looking at the cast of the plesiosaur from Dorset that we have on the wall in the Grant institute.

Up close look at the cast!

Up close look at the cast!

Lottie learning about Charles Lyell, the grandfather of geology and famous Scotsman!

Lottie learning about Charles Lyell, the grandfather of geology and famous Scotsman!

Lottie doing some isotope analysis on R Studio at Shaena’s desk. She is looking at stable isotope data from whale skins currently.

Lottie doing some isotope analysis on R Studio at Shaena’s desk. She is looking at stable isotope data from whale skins currently.

Lottie looking at a CT scan of a Tyrannosaur brain case that undergraduate student Amy (pictured below) was working on. Yi typically does her work in the CT lab so Lottie wanted to check it out.

Lottie looking at a CT scan of a  Steneosaurus — a fossil crocodile  — brain case that undergraduate student Amy (pictured above) was working on. Hongyu typically does her work in the CT lab so Lottie wanted to check it out.

Then she visited the office of Dr. Steve Brusatte who has this sign on his door! We aren’t sure where Steve is right now, we hope the velociraptors didn’t get to him

Then she visited the office of Dr. Steve Brusatte who has this sign on his door! We aren’t sure where Steve is right now, we hope the velociraptors didn’t get to him

In Dr. Brusatte’s office, we were looking at some fossils we collected in the Isle of Skye last month up close through the microscope. It looks like we found something interesting!

In Dr. Brusatte’s office, we were looking at some fossils we collected in the Isle of Skye last month up close through the microscope. It looks like we found something interesting!

Lottie is planning her next trip to Skye by studying the geologic map and reading the latest issue of the Scottish Journal of Geology!

Lottie is planning her next trip to Skye by studying the geologic map and reading the latest issue of the Scottish Journal of Geology!

So that was Lottie’s day. She is off to Leeds now to meet Dr Fiona Gill!

Written by Shaena Montanari and HongYu Yi. All photos copyright Montanari & Yi.

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