My research is a bit like magic. I take an old bone that has been sitting on a beach for over a century and draw conclusions about that individual using various scientific approaches. I can tell you information about this individuals diet and how it’s diet compared to other individuals of the same species. I can tell you whether it preferred to eat higher trophic food items such as fish or whether it chose to feed on lower food items, such as zooplankton. I do this by extracting bone collagen and looking at the isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen. I can also tell you what species this individual belonged to and whether it was male or female. I do this by extracting DNA and performing basic molecular techniques, such as PCR and Sanger sequencing.
Although new to me, I could also tell you approximately how old this individual was using an up-and-coming technique known as “DNA methylation”.
You can learn a lot from a deserted bone on a beach… I cannot wait for the advancements in this field and the knowledge it will bring about the individuals and populations that were lost and are now found.