Our ScientistsPalaeontology As A Career

It is a rare and fortunate person who can turn their passion into a career. Most palaeontologists consider themselves among the lucky few. They are consumed with a drive to further understand the history of life on Earth. It can be a fun, thrilling, and fascinating field, but it also involves a lot of hard work. Palaeontologists use the traditional “core” scientific disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, and geology in their daily research. This field is often considered to be more difficult than other sciences, as it requires such a broad base of expertise.


Fields of Palaeontology

Palaeontology is more than just dinosaurs! It is the study of the history of animal and plant life on Earth, as reflected in the fossil record.

Vertebrate Palaeontology – the study of fossil animals with backbones. Many people think of dinosaurs when they think of palaeontology but fossil vertebrates include birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

Invertebrate Palaeontology – the study of fossil animals without backbones.

Palaeobotany – the study of organic-walled microfossils such as plant spores and pollen, algae or fungal spores.

Palaeoecology – the study of ancient environments and the organisms living in them.

Taphonomy – the study of how an organism enters the fossil record. It includes the study of death, decay, burial and fossilization of an organism.

Micropalaeontology – the study of microscopic fossils.

How do I Become a Palaeontologist?

A palaeontologist is a scientist with advanced education in the specific field of palaeontology. In order to be successful in this field, you should begin with the study of “core” sciences like physics and chemistry, as well as biology, mathematics and geology. Curiosity, persistence, problem solving skills and a fascination with the natural world are just some of the attributes palaeontologists share.

Get as much experience as you can in palaeontology. Contact a local museum, university or nature centre and see if there are any fossil digs you can volunteer to be part of. Occasionally there will be summer jobs for students on dig sites or in preparation labs. Some institutions have volunteer programs that allow you to get experience doing preparation or leading tours through museum galleries.

Very few universities offer degrees in palaeontology. Most palaeontologists first obtain degrees in zoology or geology. Zoology helps you understand the biology and taxonomy of animals while geology helps you understand the environments that fossil organisms were deposited in.

Despite the field’s high profile on television, in movies, and other media, there aren’t that many professional palaeontologists in the world. However, those who do work in the profession find it to be very rewarding. Like in so many fields, if you work very hard and are persistent, you’ll have a good chance of finding success.

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