Studying Palaeontology as an undergraduate at the University of Birmingham

Studying Palaeontology as an undergraduate at the University of Birmingham

October 17, 2019 1 By Stanley Isaacs


This degree is an extremely varied
program combining elements of geology and biology to give our students a
really rigorous training in paleontology. Building on a broad earth sciences base
you will use the fossil record to study the evolution in the diversity of life from dinosaurs
to micro fossils. This course is led by academics from one of
the largest and strongest paleo biology research groups in the UK.
There’s a really great atmosphere in the
department. There’s a small research group of vertebrate palaeontologists,
there’s paleobotanists, there’s a large working group of micro palaeontologists, and
the staff all look after you really well.
You’ll be taught by world leading researchers on modules ranging from the
evolution of vertebrates to genetics ensuring that your degree is
comprehensive and up-to-date. Our focus on research-led teaching will provide
you with your own exciting opportunities to carry out cutting-edge research. This
is supplemented and supported by the unique and amazing collections of
Lapworth Museum of Geology which provide a fantastic resource that supports our
teaching and research. The Lapworth is a fantastic resource; for the public to
engage them in science and geology and paleontology but also for students to
have all the specimens that you could possibly want
here in university. There are
opportunities to actually work within the museum, that has been really great
fun. Our students have opportunities to
get involved with academic conferences presenting their work and engaging with
the wider academic paleontology community.
My time at Birmingham has given me the opportunity to learn a wide
range of research skills. I used photogrammetry to create 3D
models of a scientifically important and unique collection of amphibian and
reptile footprints held by the Lapworth Museum. This allowed me to generate new
insights into the late carboniferous, a period which marked the rise of reptiles
as the dominant land animals my research was published in an academic journal and
I presented it at an international academic conference.
My third year research project was focused on the
fossil record of bats. I collected data from scientific publications to
understand how changes in fossil record completeness affect our understanding of
bat evolution. I presented this work at two paleontological conferences and
managed to win awards at both. Our degree course is accredited by the
Geological Society of London which means that it provides you the broad training
in the geosciences which is essential to any practising palaeontologist. Your
course will cover a wide range of topics including specialist paleontological and
biological modules from the second year onwards as well as a range of fieldwork in
places like Wales, Scotland, the South of England and Spain.
You get to apply what you learn in the classroom but also you get to make lots
of friends and have lots of fun! You will learn cutting-edge methods used
to investigate past life and have opportunities to get involved in
research through your dissertation project. My current dissertation module
uses CT scanning to look inside the skulls and reconstruct the brain and
inner ear of dicynodonts, an important group of plant-eating Permian
vertebrates. I’m aiming to use these skills to go on to complete a PhD in
paleontology. We also offer the
opportunity to join our four-year MSci programme allowing you to go into greater
depth in the subject and lead a major research project.
For my final year project I’m using CT data to answer
questions about the biology and skulls of a bizarre group of early fossil
reptile called protosucides. Our
graduates go on to a wide range of careers. Everything from paleontological research,
teaching, and museum curation to much more applied positions for example a biostratigrapher
in the oil industry. Your
degree will set you up with much sought after specialist skills as well as
essential transferable skills. This will mean that you will leave Birmingham as a
highly employable independent graduate.