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

Mesalands Community College

At least 2 but less than 4 years; Public; $2,784 average out-state tuition; $1,512 average in-state tuition

Bowling Green State University-Main Campus

Four or more years; Public; $18,765 average out-state tuition; $10,776 average in-state tuition

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Four or more years; Public; $12,240 average out-state tuition; $7,820 average in-state tuition

Scholarships for Paleontology Majors

Bullet name award deadline Link
 

NASA ISGC Fellowship-PAID

NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium

$44,000 March 08, 2024 See Details
 

NASA ISGC Fellowship-PAID

NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium

award

$44,000

deadline

March 08, 2024
See Details
 

Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Up to $30,000 Varies See Details
 

Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

award

Up to $30,000

deadline

Varies
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SEI Native American Education Scholarship

Solar Energy International (SEI)

$10,000 Varies See Details
 

SEI Native American Education Scholarship

Solar Energy International (SEI)

award

$10,000

deadline

Varies
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SEI Energy Women in Solar Scholarship

Solar Energy International (SEI)

$10,000 Varies See Details
 

SEI Energy Women in Solar Scholarship

Solar Energy International (SEI)

award

$10,000

deadline

Varies
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NSF S-STEM Scholarship

University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth

Up to $10,000 Varies See Details
 

NSF S-STEM Scholarship

University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth

award

Up to $10,000

deadline

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EAGLES Scholarship - PSU

Portland State University

$10,000 Varies See Details
 

EAGLES Scholarship - PSU

Portland State University

award

$10,000

deadline

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Latinos in Technology Scholarship

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Up to $10,000 February 29, 2024 See Details
 

Latinos in Technology Scholarship

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

award

Up to $10,000

deadline

February 29, 2024
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Stribic-Martin Scholarship

University of Colorado at Boulder - College of Arts and Sciences

Up to $10,000 March 15, 2024 See Details
 

Stribic-Martin Scholarship

University of Colorado at Boulder - College of Arts and Sciences

award

Up to $10,000

deadline

March 15, 2024
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Richard and Muriel Saunders Family Scholarship

Colorado Mesa University

$10,000 August 01, 2024 See Details
 

Richard and Muriel Saunders Family Scholarship

Colorado Mesa University

award

$10,000

deadline

August 01, 2024
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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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Up to $7,000

deadline

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