Palaeontology

Palaeontologists aim to understand past life on our planet and make informed predictions for the future. They discover, study and record the fossilised remains of plants, animals and microorganisms to determine their origin, age, and the composition of their ecosystems and palaeoenvironments. This helps explain geological processes like continental drift, historical events like mass extinctions, and scientific theories like evolution.

By undertaking our major in palaeontology, you will:

  • study one of the most comprehensive palaeontology curricula in the world, covering invertebrates, plants, vertebrates, geochronology, ancient DNA, and palaeoclimates.
  • benefit from unparalleled field trip opportunities in two core subjects; six days on Kangaroo Island, studying its half-a-billion year old Cambrian fossils, and six days in Naracoorte Caves where you will learn how to excavate micro- and megafauna bones, marine invertebrates, plants and sampling for absolute dating.
  • work with, and learn from, world experts in palaeontology and palaeoconservation, plus have the chance to contribute to their international research projects.
  • access research on all the major fossil sites in South Australia, including the Ediacaran fossils in Flinders Ranges (555 million years old), the Cambrian fossils in Kangaroo Island (520 million years old), the Cretaceous fossils from Coober Peedy (100 million years old), remains of tropical rainforests from Golden Grove, Maslin Bay and Nellie Creek (45 million years old), and the Megafauna fossils in Naracoorte Caves (500,000 years old)
  • gain unique access to the South Australian Museum and State Herbarium staff, samples and specimens, and volunteering opportunities.
  • build your science communication skills through visits to sites of key significance for ecotourism and regional development in South Australia.

This major will provide you with practical skills in both the biological and geological aspects of modern palaeontology, including the scientific techniques used to interpret fossil records, determine the age of fossils and reconstruct past living conditions.

Having a strong background in palaeontology and understanding of the full history of life prepares you for a wide range of careers, including palaeontology, conservation, ecotourism, climate change adaptation and mitigation and many others.

Degrees that offer this study area


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