Researchers at UCD


Shane O'Reilly

Postdoctoral Fellow

School of Earth Sciences
Science Centre
Dublin 4



I earned my PhD from DCU in 2013, in environmental and organic geochemistry. My PhD project was funded by the Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship program and was supervised by Dr. Brian Kelleher (DCU) and Dr. Chris Allen (QUB).  I investigated recently discovered marine cold seep features in Irish waters, as well as marine organic matter composition and fate in the Irish Sea.

In 2014 I was awarded a  Marie Curie Actions Program-Irish Research Council COFUND
 Postdoctoral Fellowship (ELEVATE). This fellowship is in collaboration with  Prof. Roger Summons at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Prof. Frank McDermott in the National Centre for Isotope Geochemistry in University College Dublin.

I recently arrived back from MIT, where I spent 2 years, and am completing the final phase the fellowship in the School of Earth Sciences in UCD. In August 2017, I was awarded an additional 8 months funding from the Irish Research Council to extend the fellowship to mid-2018.  


Honours and Awards

Year: 2014.
Title: ELEVATE Postdoctoral Fellow



Peer Reviewed Journals

O'Reilly, SS and Mariotti, G and Winter, AR and Newman, SA and Matys, ED and McDermott, F and Pruss, SB and Bosak, T and Summons, RE and Klepac-Ceraj, V (2016) 'Molecular biosignatures reveal common benthic microbial sources of organic matter in ooids and grapestones from Pigeon Cay, The Bahamas'. Geobiology, 15 :115-130. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Gold, David and O'Reilly, Shane and Luo, Genming and Briggs, Derek E and Summons, Roger E (2016) 'Prospects for Sterane Preservation in Sponge Fossils from Museum Collections and the Utility of Sponge Biomarkers for Molecular Clocks'. Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, 57 (2):181-189. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Wilhelm, Mary Beth and Davila, Alfonso F and Eigenbrode, Jennifer L and Parenteau, Mary N and Jahnke, Linda L and Liu, Xiao-Lei and Summons, Roger E and Wray, James J and Stamos, Brian N and Oâ¿¿Reilly, Shane S and others (2017) 'Xeropreservation of functionalized lipid biomarkers in hyperarid soils in the Atacama Desert'. Organic Geochemistry, 103 :97-104. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Murphy, B; O'Reilly, S; Monteys, X; Reid, B; Szpak, M; McCaul, M; Jordan, S; Allen, C; Kelleher, B (2016) 'The occurrence of PAHs and faecal sterols in Dublin Bay and their influence on sedimentary microbial communities'. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 106 (1):215-224. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
O'Reilly, S; Pentlavalli, P; Flanagan, P; Allen, C; Monteys, X; Szpak, M; Murphy, B; Jordan, S; Kelleher, BP (2016) 'Abundance and diversity of sedimentary bacterial communities in a coastal productive setting in the Western Irish Sea'. Continental Shelf Research, 113 :1-9. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Mahaney, W; Allen, C; Pentlavalli, P; Kulakova, A; Young, J; Dirszowsky, R; West, A; Kelleher, B; Jordan, S; Pulleyblank, C;O'Reilly, S (2017) 'Biostratigraphic Evidence Relating to the Age-Old Question of Hannibal's Invasion of Italy, I: History and Geological Reconstruction'. Archaeometry, 59 (1):164-178. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Szpak, M; Monteys, X; O'Reilly, S; Lilley, M; Scott, G; Hart, K; McCarron, S; Kelleher, BP (2015) 'Occurrence, characteristics and formation mechanisms of methane generated micro-pockmarks in Dunmanus Bay, Ireland'. Continental Shelf Research, 103 :45-59. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Van Landeghem, K; Niemann, H; Steinle, L; O'Reilly, S; Huws, D; Croker, P (2015) 'Geological settings and seafloor morphodynamic evolution linked to methane seepage'. Geo-Marine Letters, 35 (4):289-304. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
O'Reilly, Shane S and Hryniewicz, Krzysztof and Little, Crispin TS and Monteys, Xavier and Szpak, Michal T and Murphy, Brian T and Jordan, Sean F and Allen, Christopher CR and Kelleher, Brian P (2014) 'Shallow water methane-derived authigenic carbonate mounds at the Codling Fault Zone, western Irish Sea'. Marine Geology, 357 :139-150. [Details]
O'Reilly, Shane S and Szpak, Michal T and Flanagan, Paul V and Monteys, Xavier and Murphy, Brian T and Jordan, Sean F and Allen, Christopher CR and Simpson, Andre J and Mulligan, Stephen M and Sandron, Sara and others (2014) 'Biomarkers reveal the effects of hydrography on the sources and fate of marine and terrestrial organic matter in the western Irish Sea'. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 136 :157-171. [Details]
Oâ¿¿Reilly, Shane S and Hurley, Sarah and Coleman, Nigel and Monteys, Xavier and Szpak, Michal and Oâ¿¿Dwyer, Tom and Kelleher, Brian P (2012) 'Chemical and physical features of living and non-living maerl rhodoliths'. Aquatic Biology, 15 (3):215-224. [Details]

Conference Publications

O'Reilly, S; Klepac-Ceraj, V; Newman, S; Winter, A; Pruss, S; Mariottu, G; Bosak, T; McDermott, F; Summons, R; (2015) Molecular Evidence For a Microbial Role in Ooid Formation and Preservation of Molecular Biosignatures in Ancient Oolite Geological Society of America Annual Meeting Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, Maryland, , 31-OCT-15 - 04-NOV-15 [Details]
O'Reilly, S;Klepac-Ceraj, V;Winter, A;Bosak T;McDermott, F;Summons, R (2015) Molecular evidence for a micorbial role in modern ooid formation and implications for their occurrence and meaning in the geological record Astrobiology Science Conference 2015 Chicago, , 15-JUN-15 - 19-JUN-15 Available Online [Details]
O'Reilly, S; Klepac-Ceraj, V; Winter, A; Newman, S; Bosak, T; McDermott, F; Summons, R (2015) Evidence for a microbial role in ooid formation and implications for their utility as molecular paleoenvironmental records 27th International Meeting on Organic Geochemistry Prague, , 13-SEP-15 - 18-SEP-15 [Details]
O'Reilly, S; Newman, S; McDermott, F; Summons, R (2015) Lipid biomarkers preserved within Oman Ophiolite carbonates: insights into a subsurface serpentinite-hosted ecosystem 3rd International Workshop on Microbial Life under Extreme Energy Limitation (MICROENERGY2015) Sandbjerg Manor, Denmark, , 21-SEP-15 - 25-SEP-15 [Details]


Research Interests

My research interests involve the application of organic molecular markers - also often called biomarkers - to address a range of questions in environmental and Earth sciences. In questions relating to Earth history, certain organic molecules can act as molecular fossils and provide incredible insight into biological and environmental change over timescales stretching back hundreds of millions of years.

Due to their structural diversity, biological specificity and chemical stability in the environment, lipid molecules and their diagenetic products (geolipids) are the most useful molecular fossils across the geologic record.
To date I have worked on a number of questions and projects in the marine sciences, soil sciences, environmental sciences, palaeontology, palaeobiology, geobiology, microbial ecology and astrobiology. The current projects I work on include:

- palaeobiological and palaeoenvironmental information preserved in organic matter bound within non-skeletal carbonates e.g. ooids, tufa, pisoids

- understanding how vertebrate soft tissues preserve at the molecular level and what diagnostic biomolecular information is preserved 

- reconstruction of vegetation and environmental change from ancient peat and paleosols

- identifying organic biosignatures on Mars using analogue pyrolysis GC-MS experiments

- understanding the microbial processes in mineral precipitation, especially carbonates of geobiological interest

- using organic molecules to study the source and extent of human contamination of the environment, especially faecal contamination, petroleum spills and persistent organic pollutants