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Mariana Di Giacomo

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began September 2014

Mariana Di Giacomo is a paleontologist with special interest in fossil preservation. She graduated in 2012 with a Master in Zoology from the PEDECIBA at Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay. In 2006 and 2007 she received tutoring from fossil preparators at the Museo de la Plata, La Plata, Argentina and so began her interest in conservation of fossil bone. She has worked both as a paleontologist and as a teacher since the early beginnings of her career. After two fruitful excavations at Arroyo del Vizcaíno, Sauce, Uruguay, in 2011 and 2012 she became the curator and manager of the collection which now has over 1000 specimens. Mariana is carrying out research at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Some of her study has focused on surface modifications in the color of vertebrate fossils exposed to museum lighting for prolonged periods of time. She is also interested in relative humidity and temperature fluctuations and how these affect the long-term conservation of fossilized bone. In addition, Mariana will also study the different adhesives and consolidants that have been applied to fossilized specimens. Mariana was selected as a DelPHI Summer Fellow (2015) through the Center for Material Culture Studies, she was awarded the 2015 Emily Schuetz Striker annual award in preventive conservation which allowed her to travel to four natural history institutions to learn about their collections and preventive conservation efforts, and she was a 2016 recipient of Sidney Williston Award from the Washington Conservation Guild​. In 2017, Mariana was honored with a Peer Recognition Award for her work as a Fellow in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History. In 2019, Mariana was elected as a Member at Large for the Association for Materials and Methods in Paleontology.

​Images: PSP student Mariana Di Giacomo holding a restored Smilodon fang (left) and restoring a femur from a giant sloth (above). Photos by Martin Batallés.

Mariana passed her exams in December 2015 and her proposal presentation in June 2016, and is now working on her dissertation. Her dissertation committee members are: Dr. Vicki Cassman and Dr. Jocelyn Alcantara-Garcia (co-chairs, ARTC), Dr. Neil Sturchio (UD, chair of the Department of Geological Sciences), Dr. Christopher Norris (Yale Peabody Museum), and Catharine Hawks (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution). Mariana is the 2016 recipient of UD's Graduate University Fellow Award.

TOPIC: The Effects of Preparation on Paleontological Scientific Analyses and Long-term Stability of Fossils

For many years, fossils were believed to be exceptionally resistant. The common belief was that if they had been preserved for millions of years, then nothing would happen to them. The result was a severe destruction over time of important pieces that were unique or that had important information regarding the anatomy of the animals or even about the taphonomy of the site in which they were found. Only after many pieces were lost, museum curators realized fossils were not as resistant as once thought. Mariana’s doctoral research will focus on the agents of deterioration, especially light and UV radiation, and the chemical properties of fossil bones. Fossils from Arroyo del Vizcaíno and La Brea will be employed to analyze the different properties of bones with similar ages. Pleistocene bones may be the best way to study preservation in fossils since, in many cases, they share characteristics with modern bones.​

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Mariana Di Giacomo
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489