Paleontology is a basic science concerned with the evolutionary history of life. Our Paleontology program concentrates on the study of fossils and ancient life forms. It is an interdisciplinary program designed to give students a strong background in paleontology, earth sciences, and biological sciences.

A common misconception is that paleontology is the study of dinosaurs. However, the discipline is more properly described as the study of fossils, which are typically classified as vertebrate or invertebrate fossils (i.e. whether or not the organism has vertebrae or a spinal cord).

Commonly studied organisms that paleontologists study (other than dinosaurs) include:

  • birds and reptiles,
  • insects,
  • fish and marine mammals,
  • spores, fungi, and microbes,
  • plants, and
  • other prehistoric invertebrates (worms, molluscs, jellyfish, hydras, etc.).

Areas Of Study

Paleontology naturally lends itself to interdisciplinary research because the scientists in this field not only study prehistoric organisms but also the earth and rock where the fossils are embedded.

As such, the paleontology program at UAlberta is cross-appointed through the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Often what distinguishes courses between departments is invertebrate paleontology tends to fall under the research and purview of earth science professors and vertebrate paleontology under biological sciences.

Paleontology subject material ranges across many disciplines. Students in the honors or specialization programs will likely take courses in:

  • biological sciences
  • botany
  • earth and atmospheric sciences
  • marine sciences
  • mathematics
  • paleontology
  • statistics
  • zoology

The Faculty of Science offers both a specialization and honors program in paleontology for students looking to focus the subject matter of their science bachelor's degree.

University of Alberta Calendar:

Major in Paleontology

Honors in Paleontology 

Specialization in Paleontology (discontinued in 2024)

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Dr. Michael Caldwell