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

Bullet name award deadline Link
 

Johnson and Johnson Scholars Award Program

Johnson and Johnson Consumer Products Company

$150,000 September 30, 2022 See Details
 

Johnson and Johnson Scholars Award Program

Johnson and Johnson Consumer Products Company

award

$150,000

deadline

September 30, 2022
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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SMART Scholarship

United States Department of Defense (DoD)

Up to $38,000 December 01, 2022 See Details
 

SMART Scholarship

United States Department of Defense (DoD)

award

Up to $38,000

deadline

December 01, 2022
See Details
 

UCF Astronaut Scholarship

University of Central Florida (UCF)

Up to $15,000 March 02, 2023 See Details
 

UCF Astronaut Scholarship

University of Central Florida (UCF)

award

Up to $15,000

deadline

March 02, 2023
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Sturgis Fellowship

University of Arkansas

$12,500 February 01, 2023 See Details
 

Sturgis Fellowship

University of Arkansas

award

$12,500

deadline

February 01, 2023
See Details
 

President's Scholarship - Texas Wesleyan University

Texas Wesleyan University

Up to $12,000 Varies See Details
 

President's Scholarship - Texas Wesleyan University

Texas Wesleyan University

award

Up to $12,000

deadline

Varies
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SOLV Energy Women in Solar Scholarship

Solar Energy International (SEI)

$10,000 Varies See Details
 

SOLV Energy Women in Solar Scholarship

Solar Energy International (SEI)

award

$10,000

deadline

Varies
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Willamette University STEM Fellows Scholarship

Willamette University

Up to $10,000 February 01, 2023 See Details
 

Willamette University STEM Fellows Scholarship

Willamette University

award

Up to $10,000

deadline

February 01, 2023
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GCA Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestry

Garden Club of America

$7,500 January 31, 2023 See Details
 

GCA Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestry

Garden Club of America

award

$7,500

deadline

January 31, 2023
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Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Idaho State University

Up to $7,000 Varies See Details
 

Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Idaho State University

award

Up to $7,000

deadline

Varies
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