Paleontology, MS

Contact Information

Dr. Robert Hall, Interim Department Head
Department of Geology and Geological Engineering
Mineral Industries 303
(605) 394-2461

Geology and Paleontology Faculty

Professors Duke, Hall, Masterlark, Pagnac, and Uzunlar; Associate Professor Ustunisik; Assistant Professors Keenan, Waldien, and Ward; Instructor Karnes; Professors Emeritus Bjork, J. Fox, Martin, and Paterson.

Geological Engineering Faculty

Professor Stetler; Associate Professors Katzenstein and Li; Assistant Professor Ye; Professors Emeritus Davis, Rahn, Roggenthen, and Sawyer.

Adjunct Faculty

M. Anderson, Benton, and Valder.


Research Scientist Nielsen; Coordinator and Instructor Pellowski; Museum of Geology Associate Director and Instructor N. Fox; Museum of Geology Assistant Director and Instructor Johnson; Museum of Geology Preparator and Lab Manager Wright.

MS in Paleontology

The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering offers advanced study leading to an MS degree in Paleontology. Resources available to graduate students in paleontology include the extensive collections of the Museum of Geology.

At South Dakota Mines, the paleontological research conducted spans diverse subject areas including paleobiology, paleoecology, taphonomy, biostratigraphy, biogeography, and phylogenetics. Faculty and students combine field research in both modern and ancient settings with museum studies and laboratory analyses to reconstruct past paleoenvironmental conditions and reveal their ecological and evolutionary consequences through geologic time.

Collectively, research is focused on four key paleontological questions:

  • How do organisms respond to environmental changes and adapt to different environments?
  • How is biological diversity distributed across space and time?
  • How are paleontologic resources best used and conserved for scientific study?
  • How do modern processes drive fossil formation and preservation in different environments?

Current study systems include:

  • Modern and fossil bone geochemistry and diagenesis;
  • Microbial interactions with vertebrates and bones in modern systems;
  • Modern freshwater and coastal biomes of tropical America;
  • Neogene sequences rich in microfossils and invertebrates from the Western Atlantic Ocean;
  • Cenozoic terrestrial deposits with rich mammalian faunas;
  • Cretaceous marine deposits from the Western Interior Seaway.

Additional information is available on the Department's Research Page and the Research Facilities pages. 

The Accelerated MS option is available for this degree.
Both thesis and non-thesis (coursework with project) tracks are available.

For more information on degree requirements: Paleontology, MS 

Graduate Programs Outcomes

Expectations for Geology and Geological Engineering graduate programs are designed to target program outcomes in the context of the GGE Strategic Plan and greater professional community:

Program Outcomes for Paleontology MS (non-thesis track)

Outcome 1: Demonstrates knowledge of concepts and terminology of the discipline
Outcome 2: Critically explores and evaluates scientific and technical literature
Outcome 3: Communicates effectively
Outcome 4: Acts professionally and ethically

Program Outcomes Paleontology MS (Thesis track)

Outcome 1: Demonstrates knowledge of concepts and terminology of the discipline
Outcome 2: Critically explores and evaluates scientific and technical literature
Outcome 3: Analyzes, interprets, and evaluates scientific and/or engineering data and methods
Outcome 4: Communicates effectively
Outcome 5: Acts professionally and ethically

Applying for the MS in Paleontology

We strongly encourage students to contact potential graduate research/project advisors prior to or during the application process. Many factors contribute to the success of an application, including the goals statement, coursework, grades, test scores, work experience, recommendations, and availability of a faculty member in the student’s anticipated research/project area. In general, we prefer to see a GPA of 3.0 or above.

Applicants interested in the Paleontology MS should have substantial preparation in general science, math, and geological sciences, although a particular baccalaureate degree is not required for admission.

Additional Information

Information on required examinations is outlined in the Geology and Geological Engineering Graduate Handbook.

Any physical specimens (and associated documentation) collected, prepared, and cited in a thesis or dissertation are to be deposited in the Museum of Geology as part of the student’s work.

See course catalog for more information: Loading...