Best Paleontology Schools: Numerous findings that influence our current understanding of the world have been made through research into extinct plants, animals, and other forms of previous life.
Paleontological discoveries have expanded knowledge of the relationships between many environmental and geologic systems and given insight on Earth’s distant past.
Paleontologists have been able to characterize extraordinarily ancient forms of life and classify them into taxonomies and timelines that explain the evolution of life from the early days of the earth to the development of anatomically modern humans by studying fossils, rock layers, and ancient DNA.
Paleontologists draw on an incredible range of fields, including geology, physics, chemistry, and biology, in order to acquire such a singular and remarkably thorough understanding of life forms from millions of years ago.
Students interested in jobs in paleontology should make sure they are enrolled in a college or university with good programs in these areas and in paleontology specifically because the field involves such a broad variety of scientific topics and approaches.
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What is Paleontology?
The study of the evolution of life on Earth as revealed by fossils is known as paleontology. Fossils are the remains of organisms that have been replaced by rock material, including traces of species like bacteria, fungus, and single-celled organisms.
The field of paleontology is rich, with a long and fascinating past and an even more exciting and promising future. A common misconception is that paleontology is the study of fossils. Paleontology is actually much more than that.
Traditional divisions of paleontology into a number of subdisciplines include:
- Micropaleontology: study of usually minuscule fossils, regardless of the category to which they belong.
- Paleobotany: the study of extinct plants, and it typically also examines extinct algae and fungi in addition to extinct land plants.
- Palynology: the study of pollen and spores produced by terrestrial plants and protists, both living and fossil.
- Invertebrate Paleontology: study of invertebrate animal fossils, such as mollusks, echinoderms, and others.
- Vertebrate Paleontology: the study of fossilized vertebrates, ranging from early fish to modern mammals.
- Human Paleontology (Paleoanthropology): the study of ancient human and protohuman fossils.
- Taphonomy: study of the general processes of deterioration, preservation, and fossil creation.
- Ichnology: the study of footprints, trails, and other fossil remains.
- Paleoecology: the study of former ecosystems and climates as inferred from fossils and other historical records.
The top 10 paleontology colleges in the country are listed here. These universities were chosen based on their excellent rankings in web rating directories like US News.
The Best Paleontology Schools
Programs in paleontology are available at the undergraduate and PhD levels through Yale’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences.
Graduate students can select from the school’s research programs in paleontology and evolution or biogeochemistry, paleoceanography, and paleoclimate studies, among others. Undergraduate students can follow a Bachelor of Science degree track that focuses on paleontology and geobiology.
The more than 14 million objects housed in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History’s 10 collections serve as excellent resources for Yale paleontology students.
The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History grants undergraduate students internships and provides graduate students with employment options in addition to funding student and academic research.
A new species of dinosaur was found among the museum’s holdings recently, along with information about how lizards have shaped their own evolution and advancements that could make crops more drought-resistant.
Paleontology-focused undergraduate students at Virginia Tech begin their studies by registering for the Department of Geosciences’ Bachelor of Geosciences program and selecting the Geobiology and Paleobiology Option.
Graduate students at Virginia Tech have the option of pursuing a PhD or Master of Science in one of the research areas of the Department of Geosciences.
Geobiology and biogeochemistry, sedimentary processes and record, paleoenvironment reconstruction, oceans and climate, and sedimentary processes are some of the specialized research fields at Virginia Tech.
In light of the recent discovery of a new species, Teleocrater rhadinus, a distant ancestor of modern birds, the Paleobiology and Geobiology Research Group at Virginia Tech has recently contributed to studies of “snowball Earth” periods in Earth’s past as well as shed light on the relationship between dinosaurs and bird-like archosaurs.
Graduate students pursuing Master of Science and PhD degrees in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago have a wide range of possibilities for specializing in various areas of paleontology and related fields.
The department collaborates with organizations both inside and outside of the University of Chicago as part of its multidisciplinary approach to graduate education.
Potential students will be lured to the university not just because of its graduate program but also because it is the alma mater of renowned explorer and paleontologist Paul Sereno.
Sereno is an educator at the institution in addition to serving as the Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society.
The University of Chicago’s Fossil Lab supports study and instruction in paleontology and the evolution of life on Earth by acting as a teaching space, museum, and laboratory for fossil preparation.
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Paleontology courses and fascinating research projects are available to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences.
Graduates may pursue master’s degrees or PhDs through the institution, while undergraduates may seek a geoscience Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.
The university offers undergraduate students the chance to do research on Triassic animals using specimens from the Petrified Forest National Park as well as fossils found in Texas cave systems.
The school offers great research possibilities for graduate students interested in geobiology, carbonate sedimentology, paleoecology, and marine ecosystems.
Vertebrate and non-vertebrate fossils and specimens are kept at the Jackson School Museum of Earth History thanks to the work of academic scholars and others.
With over 4 million samples, the museum boasts the fifth-largest collection of non-vertebrate specimens in the country.
Through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program in collaboration with the university’s Museum of Paleontology, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor enables undergraduate students to start specifically studying aspects of paleontology in their first year of their undergraduate program.
Undergraduate students can also minor in paleontology, complete a senior honors thesis in collaboration with a museum faculty member, and work in the Vertebrate Preparation Laboratory.
For graduate students, the University of Michigan’s Museum of Paleontology offers a variety of study options.
The museum’s academic staff and researchers conduct research in fields of paleontology such the evolution and morphology of early hominoids, paleobiology of plants, fishes, and sauropod distribution.
There are collections of vertebrate, invertebrate, paleobotanical, and micropaleontological specimens at the university’s research museum.
Through its departments of Integrative Biology, Geography, and Earth and Planetary Sciences, the University of California, Berkeley provides both undergraduate and graduate students with the option to study paleontology.
When pursuing their degrees through one of these departments, students who are interested in the field may enroll in paleontology classes there.
With its specimen collections, laboratories, personnel, research programs, and career opportunities, the university’s Museum of Paleontology aids students’ field education.
PaleoBios, a peer-reviewed journal with academic articles on all aspects of paleontology, is published by the UC Museum of Paleontology.
Researchers from the UC Museum of Paleontology as well as those from other organizations are welcome to submit work to PaleoBios.
The study of the oldest-known remains of enormous birds with 21-foot wingspans, as well as the discovery of a new genus and species of hyena from China, have all resulted from recent research at the museum. Another recent project examined the advantages of the T. rex’s short arms.
Students majoring in Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University can start their studies in paleontology there.
Many of the concentration’s undergraduate courses give students the chance to take part in camps and field trips in order to provide them with hands-on learning opportunities.
Working with professors who are experts in geobiology and Earth history will be appealing to graduate students who want to pursue this topic at Harvard.
Major climatic events, animal radiation and mass extinctions, and the oxygenation of the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere are all topics of interest to geobiologists and historians of the planet.
In collaboration with other Harvard programs, organizations outside of the university, and fieldwork, the Harvard Paleoanthropology Laboratory investigates the evolution and behavior of hominoids, hominids, and other mammals.
Paleontology and biogeology are elective courses available to University of Kansas undergraduate geology majors as they work toward a Bachelor of Science degree.
Paleontology is a possible area of concentration for PhD in Geology candidates who collaborate with school instructors and advisors.
For anyone interested in studying vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology as well as paleobotany, the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas provide excellent options.
Over 400,000 paleobotanical specimens, over 150,000 vertebrate specimens, and over 900,000 invertebrate fossil specimens are all kept at the institute.
The study of Cambrian radiation, phylogenetic patterns in arthropods, Paleozoic and Mesozoic fish, Mesozoic marine vertebrates, and the biology of fossil plants and their relationships with other living forms are only a few of the institute’s areas of expertise.
Students at Columbia University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Earth science can benefit from the course offerings offered by the university to better position themselves for graduate-level paleontology study.
Paleobiology and Earth systems history, paleoceanography, and Cenozoic paleoceanography are suggested courses for persons with an interest in paleontology.
At the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of the Columbia Climate School, advanced paleontological research is carried out.
By examining fossils, pollen, and chemical biomarkers preserved in the Earth’s strata, the Biology & Paleo Environment Division at the institution investigates the effects of environmental factors and changes in the Earth’s past.
Due to its collaborations, Columbia is able to conduct more paleontological studies with outside institutions like the American Museum of Natural History, which houses some of the most extensive collections.
the largest known collection of fossilized fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, mammals, and invertebrates.
The Pennsylvania State University Bachelor of Science in Geobiology program will interest those who want to start a career in paleontology.
In order to educate undergraduate students for a range of professions concerned with the history of life on Earth and its interactions with the active chemical and physical processes, the program combines paleontology, paleobiology, astrobiology, biogeochemistry, and geomicrobiology.
Penn State offers Master of Science and PhD programs in geosciences, as well as a dual-title PhD program that combines biogeochemistry with one of eight other related fields, for students who choose to continue their education at the doctoral level.
Penn State conducts international research in the fields of paleobiology, microbial geobiology, and biogeochemistry. The department’s list of specialties includes, among many others, the biotic response to extinction events and climate change, biological indicators of paleoclimates, macroevolution, and evolutionary paleoecology.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is instances of paleontology?
Bones, teeth, shells, leaf impressions, nests, and footprints are a few examples. This data sheds light on the past climate of our planet. The evolution of creatures over time and their relationships to one another are both revealed by fossils. We can't learn everything from fossils.
What purposes does paleontology serve?
The main objectives of paleontology are to characterize the previous biodiversity of the planet, to trace the history of life on earth, and to generate fresh perspectives on evolution and ecology.
What distinguishes archaeology from paleontology?
The scientific study of fossils to discover the past of non-human life on Earth is known as paleontology. In order to understand ancient people and societies, archaeology is the scientific study of human-made objects and buildings.