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Paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (/ˌpeɪliɒnˈtɒlədʒi, ˌpæli-, -ən-/) is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene Epoch (roughly 11,700 years before present). It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments (their paleoecology). Paleontological observations have been documented as far back as the 5th century BC. The science became established in the 18th century as a result of Georges Cuvier's work on comparative anatomy, and developed rapidly in the 19th century. The term itself originates from Greek παλαιός, palaios, "old, ancient", ὄν, on (gen. ontos), "being, creature" and λόγος, logos, "speech, thought, study".

Paleontology lies on the border between biology and geology, but differs from archaeology in that it excludes the study of anatomically modern humans. It now uses techniques drawn from a wide range of sciences, including biochemistry, mathematics, and engineering. Use of all these techniques has enabled paleontologists to discover much of the evolutionary history of life, almost all the way back to when Earth became capable of supporting life, about 3.8 billion years ago. As knowledge has increased, paleontology has developed specialised sub-divisions, some of which focus on different types of fossil organisms while others study ecology and environmental history, such as ancient climates.

Body fossils and trace fossils are the principal types of evidence about ancient life, and geochemical evidence has helped to decipher the evolution of life before there were organisms large enough to leave body fossils. Estimating the dates of these remains is essential but difficult: sometimes adjacent rock layers allow radiometric dating, which provides absolute dates that are accurate to within 0.5%, but more often paleontologists have to rely on relative dating by solving the "jigsaw puzzles" of biostratigraphy. Classifying ancient organisms is also difficult, as many do not fit well into the Linnaean taxonomy that is commonly used for classifying living organisms, and paleontologists more often use cladistics to draw up evolutionary "family trees". The final quarter of the 20th century saw the development of molecular phylogenetics, which investigates how closely organisms are related by measuring how similar the DNA is in their genomes. Molecular phylogenetics has also been used to estimate the dates when species diverged, but there is controversy about the reliability of the molecular clock on which such estimates depend.

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Matching Paleontology Colleges

Bowling Green State University-Main Campus
Four or more years; Public; $16,632 average out-state tuition; $9,096 average in-state tuition
Mesalands Community College
At least 2 but less than 4 years; Public; $2,496 average out-state tuition; $1,392 average in-state tuition
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Four or more years; Public; $11,560 average out-state tuition; $7,380 average in-state tuition

Scholarships for Paleontology Majors

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President's Scholarship - Texas Wesleyan University

Texas Wesleyan University

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President's Scholarship - Texas Wesleyan University

Texas Wesleyan University

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Up to $12,000

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Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Idaho State University

Up to $7,000 Varies See Details

Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Idaho State University

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Montana Minds Scholarship - University of Montana, Montana Tech

University of Montana at Montana Tech

$6,000 Varies See Details

Montana Minds Scholarship - University of Montana, Montana Tech

University of Montana at Montana Tech

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$6,000

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Glen E. Ullyot Scholarship

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

$6,000 Varies See Details

Glen E. Ullyot Scholarship

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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$6,000

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Titmus Foundation Scholarship

Averett University

$5,000 Varies See Details

Titmus Foundation Scholarship

Averett University

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$5,000

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Norman Family Scholarship

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Norman Family Scholarship

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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$5,000

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Beverly McAllister Parker Scholarship

Southern Nazarene University, Department of Science

$5,000 Varies See Details

Beverly McAllister Parker Scholarship

Southern Nazarene University, Department of Science

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$5,000

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Dr. William W.L. "Bill" Taylor Memorial Scholarship

INSPIRE - NASA

$4,000 Varies See Details

Dr. William W.L. "Bill" Taylor Memorial Scholarship

INSPIRE - NASA

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$4,000

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Grace and Dr. CJ Meredith Scholarship

Valley City State University

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Grace and Dr. CJ Meredith Scholarship

Valley City State University

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$3,000

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Dr. Donald and Marjorie Meredith Scholarship

Valley City State University

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Dr. Donald and Marjorie Meredith Scholarship

Valley City State University

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Popular Cities for Paleontology Majors