Paleontologist Job Description video

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Mention "paleontologist," and most people think "dinosaurs!" While their field of study certainly includes these extinct giants…paleontologists also focus on the microscopic organisms that shared the dinosaur's world. Paleontologists study fossils of animals and plants to learn what the earth was like long ago -- and what it may be like in the distant future. That's because these rock-embedded prehistoric remains help to document the evolution of life… how living things adapted to change…or died out. Paleontologists usually specialize in an area, such as a type of animal, plant or ancient ecosystem. Expeditions can take them all over the world to conduct strenuous fieldwork, often in uncomfortable conditions. The fossil's position in a rock formation is described in detailed notes that include measurements and drawings. The specimen is painstakingly removed to be studied and analyzed in a lab. The paleontologist draws on a vast scientific knowledge to identify the find as accurately and completely as possible… especially determining when it lived. Paleontologists need exceptionally sharp powers of observation and pattern recognition, to notice subtle differences and similarities among specimens. They use computers to organize numerical data and create models of their finds. Working paleontologists are generally Ph.D.s, and most teach at colleges or universities. Some are employed in government geological surveys. Even with the high educational requirements, competition is keen for jobs in this field. The history of the earth is far from complete. Paleontologists work to fill in the gaps in understanding of our planet.

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