February 2021 - "Protection Versus Extraction: Science on Skye’s Shoreline" (Dr Elsa Panciroli)


Thursday 25th February, 1-2pm

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The Isle of Skye has become famous for its fossil dinosaur footprints and bones. These palaeontological discoveries are made along the shores of the island, where the sea eats at the layers of rock and exposes Jurassic sediments. The shoreline is therefore a place sitting upon multiple edges, marking both physical and temporal boundaries. The boundary between the land and sea shifts daily and geologically, through processes of erosion. The fossils transform our sense of the environment, allowing us to simultaneously exist the present and almost literally step into the past.

For scientists working these shores, work is constrained by the daily movement of tides, which moves rocks and can reveal/cover exposures, facilitating/preventing exploration.  The protected status of these sites (which have SSSI and NCO status) means a delicate balance must be struck between conservation and extraction – a process at odds with the scenic surroundings. In this talk we will explore the intersections between scientific research and preserving natural heritage, and reflect on what conservation and protection mean at a site at the edge of the sea, and of science.


Dr Elsa Panciroli is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Oxford Museum of Natural History and associate researcher at National Museums Scotland. She is a UHI alumna, having studied Environmental Science at Inverness College UHI before taking up a masters in palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, then a PhD at National Museums Scotland and the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the origins and evolution of mammals, and she works extensively on fossil material from Scotland. She is also a science writer and carries out regular science outreach.


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