Paleontology, MS

Contact Information

Dr. Laurie Anderson, Department Head
Department of Geology and Geological Engineering
Mineral Industries 303
(605) 394-2461

Geology and Paleontology Faculty

Professors L. Anderson, Duke, Masterlark, Price, and Uzunlar; Associate Professors Pagnac and 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; 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 Preparator and Instructor Johnson.

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.
The thesis option is the only option for the MS in paleontology.

For more information on degree requirements: Paleontology, MS 

Graduate Programs Outcomes

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

GGE Graduate Program Outcomes

  • Students will have technical expertise.
  • Students will be effective communicators.
  • Students will engage in meaningful professional service.
  • Students will impact the profession.

Applying for the MS in Paleontology

We strongly encourage students to contact potential graduate research 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 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...