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paleo schools

Ladies and Gentlemen,

        Earlier, someone posted a request for information on paleontology
graduate schools.  I did not save the original message, but here's my

        The answer to your question will depend on the kind of paleontology
you want to do.  Are you primarily interested in vertebrates?  Arthropods?
Micropaleo? Paleobotany? Do you like systematics, or functional morphology,
or biostratigraphy?  Some schools are more general than others, but your
choice will be heavily based on what you want from your advisor and

        Some questions to ask yourself:

        1.  Are you a biologist with geological leanings, or a geologist
with biological leanings?  This is not the same as asking what your
undergrad degree is in - your sentiments and diploma could say very
different things.  My B.S. is in geology, but my research is primarily
biological these days.  Some programs emphasize the geological side of
paleontology, and others push the life-science part.

        2.  What is your background?  I've become a big believer in the
master's thesis for paleontologists - too many come in with a geology
degree, but no zoology, or vice versa, and the M.S. is a great way to fill
out your toolbox before diving into a dissertation.  Moreover, skipping the
master's does not save any time, from my experience.  There are some
wonderful places to go to get a master's degree.  But, if you come from a
good, thorough background, you might want to consider some of the programs
that generally don't award M.S. degrees.

        3.  What kind of access to collections or research funding might
you need?  The amounts available will vary from program to program.  Some
programs have "canned projects" available for incoming students, but others
generally let the students wallow around until they've found themselves; if
you need a lot of personal direction, you should look for the former.

        The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
(http://eteweb.lscf.ucsb.edu/svp/) maintains an on-line directory of
vertebrate paleo graduate programs.  Outside the AGU Directory of
Geosciences Programs, I don't know if a similar directory exists for
invertebrate/micropaleo/paleobotany programs, but it should if it doesn't.
The best way to get the skinny on any program is to dive into the web pages
for a given program, find out who the grad students are, and e-mail them.
They will be much more up-front with you than the faculty.  Make sure you
e-mail more than one student, as there will generally be a specific range
of opinion on any given set of issues.

Good luck with your search,


Christopher Brochu

***in transit***