Remote strategies for fossil finding: multispectral images and species distributional modelling applications for large-scale palaeontological surveys.

REFIND is supported by the European Commission under Horizon 2020 - Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action IF for the year 2018-2021. The project has been developed in collaboration with the University of Oregon  and many other Italian and foreign Institution will be involved in different phases.

The project aims to recover new fossils exposed on desertic surfaces, applying high resolution multispectral images recorded by satellite and drone sensors. The results will be tested with at least four outcrops, where dinosaurs, ancient mammals and whales-relatives were discovered, in Oregon, Perù, Niger and Egypt.
Where arboreal coverture prevents the use of surface imaging, Spatial Distributional Modelling, commonly used for predicting extant species distribution will be applied to target extinct species of the Late Pleistocene.
European mainland has been chosen for the spatial analysis, in order to highlight possible gaps among the paleontological record, and for the estimation of species response to modern human spreading.

Team Members:

Elena Ghezzo

Elena Ghezzo is a Research Fellow at the Department of Environmental Scieces, Informatics, and Statistics of Ca’ Foscari, with the project REFIND. Until 2020, she is located at the University of Oregon, Earth Science Department.

She obtained a Master in Prehistoric Science at the University of Ferrara and a Phd at the University of Florence, and she defended a second Master degree in GIScience at the University of Padua.

During her career, she participated to paleontological excavations in Europe (Spain, Germany  Hungary, Italy, Georgia and Eritrea) and she studied the morphological characteristics of Late Pleistocene European carnivorans  (in particular, leopards, lynxes and dholes). Recently, she had the opportunity to analyse the rare anthracotheres from North Italy. More information is available through her blog

Matteo Massironi

Matteo is a professor at the University of Padua, Department of Geosciences. As a geologist, he is specialized in the analysis and interpretation of satellite imageries recorded on planet surfaces, and he studies the major mountain chairs in Italy, Morocco, Argentina and Georgia. He is included in the project PANGEA for the European Space Agency (ESA), as scientific coordinator.

He is included in the REFIND project for the interpretation of spectral signatures of fossils and for the detailed analysis of the high resolution satellite imageries.

Giovanni Bianucci

Giovanni is a professor of the University of Pisa, Department of Earth Science. He is specialized on vertebrate paleontology and the evolution of marine mammals. Since 2006 he is the main researcher at the Pisco Basin (Ica, Peru), where he is in charge for annual field surveyis.

He is collaborating with the project REFIND for the interpretation of data concerning the Pisco Basin, one of the main localities where we are testing the methodology.



Jessica Blois

Jessica is an assistant professor at the Univeresity of California, Merced and she is specialized in paleoecology and computing models of faunal communities, in order to analyse the climatic changes.

She is included in the REFIND project for the conceptualization and elaboration of the paleontological database that will include the Late Pleistocene European species.

Andrew Kitchener

Dr. Andrew Kitchener is the Principal Curator of Vertebrates in the Department of Natural Science at National Museums of Scotland (Edinburgh). He is a zoologist and a member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group. He has profound knowledge of archaeozoological and palaeontological studies of mammal evolution.

He will collaborate with the REFIND project for testing and interpretation of the second phase results of the project.

Edward Byrd Davis

Edward is a professor at the University of Oregon, Department of Earth Science and the Palaeontological Collections Manager for the Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene (Oregon). His research is focused on the evolution of mammals, macroecology and paleobiology, particularly focused on the evolution of antlers and horns in artiodactyls. He also works with big-data and he is a member of the sub-commission IT for the the NEOTOMA project.

He supervises the REFIND project for the years 2018-2020. 

Stefano Malavasi

Stefano is a professor of zoology at the Department of Environmental Scieces, Informatics, and Statistics of the University of Venice.

His research deals with environmental ecology, animal behaviour and ecology, focused on Pisces in transitional environments, related to human exploitation and climate changes.

He supervises the REFIND project for the years 2020-2021.


Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia
University of California
University of Oregon
National Museums Scotland


March 16th, 2019 – E. Ghezzo talk within the WAVP conference in Eugene (OR). During the presentation, she discussed the principal characteristics of spectral signatures obtained from three fossil localities (Pisco Basin, Gadoufaua and the John Day Fossil Beds), and anticipated their use for classify satellite imageries and RGB photos recorded by a drone.

October 31st, 2018 – the REFIND project was officially presented at the University of Oregon. During the conference, E. Ghezzo introduced previous studies about the Italian fauna, reports of dinosaur footprints, and the diagenesis of Alps, describing the most important paleontological localities in Italy for the Oligocene and Quaternary.