Jul 18, 2024  
2017-2018 SDSM&T Academic Catalog 
2017-2018 SDSM&T Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Paleontology, M.S.

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Contact Information

Dr. Laurie Anderson
Department of Geology and Geological Engineering
Mineral Industries 303
(605) 394-2461
E-mail: Laurie.Anderson@sdsmt.edu.


Professors Anderson and Price; Associate Professor Pagnac; Associate Director and Instructor Shelton; Adjunct Faculty Benton; Professors Emeritus Fox and Martin.

M.S. in Paleontology

The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering offers advanced study leading to an M.S. degree in paleontology.  Resources available to graduate students in paleontology include the extensive collections of the Museum of Geology.  The M.S. in paleontology has a strong emphasis on field-based research as well as courses in museum studies.

At the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, the paleontological research conducted spans diverse subject areas including paleobiology, paleoecology, taphonomy, biostratigraphy, biogeography, evolution and paleoclimatology. 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 three 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?

The Accelerated B.S./M.S. option  is available for this degree.

The thesis option is the only option for the M.S. in paleontology.

Graduate Programs Outcomes

A graduate of the M.S. in Paleontology is expected to:

•         Demonstrate knowledge of concepts and terminology of the discipline

•         Explore and evaluate scientific and technical literature

•         Analyze, interpret, and evaluate scientific and/or engineering data and methods

•         Communicate effectively (in writing and orally)

•         Act professionally and ethically

•         Impact the profession with research


Background Requirements

The GRE exam is required of all applicants.  The TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE exam is required for students whose native language is not English. 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 area. In general we prefer to see a GPA of 3.0 or above and GRE scores greater than the 50th percentile.

Incoming students are expected to have substantial preparation in general science, math, and geological sciences; successful applicants will ideally have completed the subjects listed below.  The student’s graduate committee may require that deficiencies important to the student’s area of research be remedied by taking additional undergraduate courses that will not count towards the graduate degree credit requirements.

  • Calculus I and II
  • Statistics
  • General Chemistry I and II
  • General Physics I and II, or General Biology I and II
  • Stratigraphy/Sedimentation
  • Petrology
  • Structural Geology
  • Field Geology

Candidates for the M.S. degree must fulfill all degree requirements of the graduate office and of the program, including an oral comprehensive exam covering course material and a thesis defense. This exam should be scheduled through the student’s major advisor with committee approval when the student has substantially completed the required 24 credits of coursework for the M.S., and at least three months prior to the thesis defense.

M.S. in Paleontology Degree Requirements

The M.S. thesis option requires 30 credits, including twenty-four (24) credits of coursework and six (6) credits of thesis research. No more than 15 credits may come from courses at the 500-level or below. Required courses include:

  is required in the first fall semester of enrollment.
GEOL 771/771L Paleobiology/Lab 
GEOL 471/571 Field Paleontology   or GEOL 604 Advanced Field Geology  

Candidates will work with their advisors and committee members to develop an approved program of study to fulfill the remaining coursework requirements.

Additional Information

All thesis samples, specimens, and their documentation collected while a registered student must be curated into the collections of the Museum of Geology.

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