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Masters Degrees (Palaeobiology)

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This programme is for students who are passionate about early life, dinosaurs, mass extinctions, macroevolution, fossil preservation and understanding the palaeobiology of extinct organisms. Read more
This programme is for students who are passionate about early life, dinosaurs, mass extinctions, macroevolution, fossil preservation and understanding the palaeobiology of extinct organisms. It examines quantitative aspects of the fossil record and the history of life. The research-oriented MSc bridges the biology-geology divide and will provide you with a strong background for independent research to PhD level or for a career in museums, libraries, management or the media.

This interdisciplinary programme is taught mainly in the School of Earth Sciences, along with some archaeology and biology units. You will engage in current debates in evolutionary biology, systematics and palaeobiology.

You will learn how to analyse problems quantitatively, and design experimental approaches to resolving questions in macroevolution and in the study of ancient organisms. First-hand training in research methods in palaeobiology involves laboratory techniques. In addition, you will learn a range of advanced skills throughout the programme, such as computer software use, numeracy, planning research, problem-solving and communication skills. You will learn multimedia techniques, including presentation of palaeontological data through talks, posters and formal written reports. A key aspect of the programme is preparing your projects for publication, and we provide continuing support to ensure as many projects as possible are published in leading international journals.

Programme structure

The first half of the programme consists of lectures, practical classes, tutorials and visiting speakers, designed to provide a firm foundation in the theory and methodology of the subject.

The programme comprises five core units which all students take, and a number of optional units of which students choose four. We recommend that biologists take some of the more geologically-orientated optional units, and that geologists take some of the biological optional units.

Core units
-Current Controversies in Palaeobiology and Macroevolution
-Scientific Communication
-Phylogenetic Methods in Palaeobiology
-Literature Review
-Research Methods in Palaeobiology

Optional units
-Biomechanics and Functional Morphology
-The Cambrian Explosion: the origin of animal body plans
-Early Human Origins
-Evolutionary Biology*
-Evolution of the Biosphere
-Geology for Research Palaeobiologists**
-Micropalaeontology
-Tree of Life
-Vertebrate Palaeobiology and Evolution

*Mandatory for non-biologists
**Mandatory for non-geologists

Careers

The degree is research-based, and about half the graduates go on to academic careers, usually starting with a PhD. The MSc is focused on methods, and you will learn the latest techniques in phylogenetics, biomechanics, and macroevolution training, which is highly sought after by PhD supervisors across the world.

The training in professional skills, including writing scientific papers, is also highly regarded. Some students have used the MSc as a means to go on to careers in museums, the media and education and now hold senior positions as curators and collection managers in national and regional museums. Graduates also work in making scientific documentaries, or are involved in science education at all levels.

Finally, some graduates have gone into commercial work in marketing, the oil industry and computing, where their practical skills in palaeobiology and communication have proved invaluable.

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Open Day.  Visit our course pages for more information about the next Open Day at NHM on Wednesday 28 February 2018. To register for a place, please email. Read more

Open Day

 Visit our course pages for more information about the next Open Day at NHM on Wednesday 28 February 2018. To register for a place, please email

Course Overview

Taxonomy and systematics provide the foundation for studying the great diversity of the living world and its evolutionary history. These fields are rapidly changing through new digital and molecular technologies. There is ever greater urgency for species identification and monitoring in virtually all the environmental sciences, and evolutionary ‘tree thinking’ is now applied widely in most areas of the life sciences.

This course provides in-depth training in the study of biodiversity based on the principles of phylogenetics, evolutionary biology, palaeobiology and taxonomy. The emphasis is on quantitative approaches and current methods in DNA-based phylogenetics, bioinformatics, and the use of digital collections.

Location

This course is a collaboration of Imperial College London (South Kensington and Silwood Park campuses) with the Natural History Museum. This provides an exciting scientific environment of two institutions at the forefront of taxonomic and evolutionary research.

The MSc in Taxonomy, Biodiversity and Evolution comprises two terms of taught modules, mostly based at the Natural History Museum, and covers core areas in biodiversity, palaeobiology, phylogenetics, molecular systematics, phylogenomics and taxonomic principles. This is followed by a 16-week laboratory or field-based research project at the NHM or Imperial College’s Silwood Park or South Kensington campuses.

Modules

• Taxonomy of major groups and the Tree-of-Life: An introduction of major branches of the Tree, including identification exercises, presented by NHM experts

• Statistics and Computing: A two-week intensive course at Silwood Park

• Field course: trapping and collecting techniques for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems

• Phylogenetic Reconstruction: the principles of building phylogenetic trees

• Molecular Systematics: generating and analysing molecular data; model-based phylogenetics

• Phylogenomics: Genomic techniques for studying evolutionary processes and biodiversity

• Biodiversity (Concepts): speciation, radiation, macroevolution, mechanics of evolution

•Biodiversity (Applied): Measuring biodiversity, geospatial analysis, collection management and biodiversity informatics

• Palaeobiology: Studying the fossil record and what we can learn about biodiversity.

Post Study

Students on the course will become the new generation of taxonomists in the broadest sense. They will be familiar with these new tools, as well as the wider concepts of biodiversity science, evolutionary biology and genomics. Most importantly, students gain the abilities to work as an independent scientist and researcher, to be able to solve questions about the future of biodiversity and to communicate them to peers and the public.

Students have many options for future employment in evolutionary and ecological research labs in industry, government and non-governmental organisations, conservation, and scientific publishing and the media. The courses are an excellent starting point for PhD level careers, feeding into various Doctoral Training Programmes available at NHM and Imperial, or elsewhere.



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The School of Earth Sciences has strong international links and the presence of researchers from all over the world makes for an exciting and stimulating environment. Read more
The School of Earth Sciences has strong international links and the presence of researchers from all over the world makes for an exciting and stimulating environment. Research involves the full breadth of the earth sciences and has benefited from major investment in new laboratories and equipment in the past few years. Important initiatives include experimental and theoretical studies of physical, chemical and biological processes of the Earth.

Please note: If you are applying for this programme, you need to select Geology as the programme choice when completing your online application form.

Research groups

The research programme at Bristol is characterised by an expanding range of exciting subject areas. Research in the School of Earth Sciences encourages interdisciplinary collaboration between its five research groups, which in turn nurtures revolutionary research.

Geochemistry
The Geochemistry group uses fundamental chemical techniques to understand natural processes on a range of temporal and spatial scales. This can be from single atoms on mineral surfaces and the environmental geochemistry of the modern Earth to the large-scale chemical structure of planets and the birth of the solar system. The group has considerable expertise in isotopic measurements, spectroscopy and first-principles calculations.

Geophysics
Geophysics uses physical properties of the solid Earth to measure structure and processes on scales from the single crystal to the entire planet. Members of the Bristol Geophysics group use gravity, seismic and satellite data to image the Earth in a variety of different contexts. These include the Earth's core, mantle and tectonic processes, volcanoes, oil and gas reservoirs and mines.

Palaeobiology
The Palaeobiology group uses the fossil record to study the history of life. Research focuses on major diversifications, mass extinctions, dating the tree of life, phylogenomics and molecular palaeobiology, morphological innovation, biomechanics, and links between evolution and development; the organisms of interest range from foraminifera to dinosaurs.

Petrology
The Petrology group uses a combination of high-pressure and high-temperature experiments, petrology, geochemistry and mineral physics to attack a wide range of problems in the solid Earth - from the core to the surface.

Volcanology
The Volcanology group at Bristol aims to understand the physical processes underlying volcanic phenomena and develop methods of hazard and risk assessment that can be applied to volcanoes worldwide.

Recent case studies and collaborators include the Met Office, Montserrat Volcano Observatory, Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland and INGEOMINAS in Columbia.

Research centres

The School of Earth Sciences is involved in a number of collaborative research groups on an international level. Inter-faculty research centres such as the Biogeochemistry Research Centre and the Cabot Institute involve collaboration across several departments and faculties.

Centre for Environmental and Geophysical Flows
This interdisciplinary research centre brings together expertise from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. This creates diverse research activities and interests, from traffic flow to explosive volcanic flows, meteorology to oceanography.

Biogeochemistry Research Centre
The Biogeochemistry Research Centre involves staff from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences and Chemistry. The research aims to develop our understanding of the biogeochemistry of modern-day and ancient environments and the way that it is affected by natural processes and the actions of mankind.

Bristol Isotope Group
The Bristol Isotope Group is a world-class research facility for isotope measurements directed at understanding natural processes, from the formation of the solar system, the origin of Earth - its deep structure and atmosphere, through to the evolution of that atmosphere and contemporary climate change.

Interface Analysis Centre
The Interface Analysis Centre specialises in the application of a wide range of analytical techniques and is used by the Schools of Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Physics.

The Cabot Institute
The Cabot Institute carries out fundamental and responsive research on risks and uncertainty in a changing environment. Interests include climate change, natural hazards, food and energy security, resilience and governance, and human impacts on the environment.

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This is a full-time research-based postgraduate degree, run jointly by Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum, London. Read more

This is a full-time research-based postgraduate degree, run jointly by Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum, London.

OPEN DAY

visit the course pages for more information about the next Open Day at NHM on Wednesday 7 June 2017.

OUTLINE

Taxonomy and systematics provide the foundation for studying the great diversity of the living world. These fields are rapidly changing through new digital and molecular technologies. There is ever greater urgency for species identification and monitoring in virtually all the environmental sciences, and evolutionary ‘tree thinking’ is now applied widely in most areas of the life sciences. These courses provide in-depth training in the study of biodiversity based on the principles of phylogenetics, evolutionary biology, palaeobiology and taxonomy. The emphasis is on quantitative approaches and current methods in DNA-based phylogenetics, bioinformatics, and the use of digital collections.

LOCATION

The course is a collaboration of Imperial College London (Silwood Park) with the Natural History Museum. This provides an exciting scientific environment of two institutions at the forefront of taxonomic and evolutionary research.

SYLLABUS

The MRes in Biosystematics features hands-on research projects that cover the main methodological approaches of modern biosystematics. After 6 weeks of general skills training, students will ‘rotate’ through three research groups each conducting a separate 14-week project in specimen-based phylogenetics, molecular systematics/genomics, and bioinformatics. The projects may be of the student’s own design. Students attend small group tutorials, lab meetings and research seminars.

TRANSFERABLE SKILLS

The GSLSM (Graduate School of Life Sciences and Medicine) at Imperial College London provides regular workshops covering a wide range of transferable skills, and MRes students are encouraged to undertake at least four during the year. Topics include: Applied Writing Skills, Creativity and Ideas Generation, Writing for Publication, Introduction to Regression Modelling, Introduction to Statistical Thinking.

RECENT PROJECTS

MORPHOLOGICAL

The Natural History Museum’s Dorothea Bate Collection of dwarfed deer from Crete: adaptation and proportional size reduction in comparison with larger mainland species

Cambrian lobopodians and their position as stem-group taxa

Atlas of the Caecilian World: A Geometric Morphometric perspective

Tooth crown morphology in Caecilian amphibians

Morphometrics of centipede fangs: untapping a possible new source of character data for the Scolopendromorpha

Phylogeny of the Plusiinae (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae): Exploring conflict between larvae and adults

A comparison between species delineation based on DNA sequences and genital morphometrics in beetles (Coleoptera)

MOLECULAR

Geographical distribution of endemic scavenger water beetles (Hydrophilidae) on the island of Madagascar based on DNA sequence data

Cryptic diversity within Limacina retroversa and Heliconoides inflate

Phylogenetics of pteropods of the Southern Oceans

Molecular discrimination of the European Mesocestoides species complex

A molecular phylogeny of the monkey beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Hopliini)

The molecular evolution of the mimetic switch locus, H, in the Mocker Swallowtail Papilio dardanus Brown, 1776

Phylogenetic and functional diversity of the Sargasso Sea Metagenome

BIOINFORMATICS

A study into the relation between body size and environmental variables in South African Lizards

Cryptic diversity and the effect of alignment parameters on tree topology in the foraminifera

Delimiting evolutionary taxonomic units within the bacteria: 16S rRNA and the GMYC model

Testing the molecular clock hypothesis and estimating divergence times for the order Coleoptera

Taxon Sampling: A Comparison of Two Approaches

Investigating species concepts in bacteria: Fitting Campylobacter and Streptococcus MLST profiles to an infinite alleles model to test population structure

Assessing the mitochondrial molecular clock: the effect of data partitioning, taxon sampling and model selection

ON COMPLETION OF THE COURSE, THE STUDENTS WILL HAVE:

• a good understanding of the state of knowledge of the field, together with relevant practical experience, in three areas of biosystematic science in which he or she has expressed an interest;

• where applicable, the ability to contribute to the formulation and development of ideas underpinning potential PhD projects in areas of interest, and to make an informed decision on the choice of potential PhD projects;

• a broad appreciation of the scientific opportunities within the NHM and Imperial College;

• knowledge of a range of specific research techniques and professional and transferable skills.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Students are encouraged to view the NHM website for further information, and to contact the course administrator if they have any queries. Visits can be arranged to the NHM to meet the course organisers informally and to be given a tour of the facilities. Applications should be made online on the Imperial College London website. An Open Day is scheduled for Wednesday 28 February 2018. to register for a place on the Open Day please email



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This MSc is a uniquely broad and flexible programme that suits students' aspirations, background and experience. UCL Earth Sciences has strengths in geophysics, geochemistry, palaeobiology, mineral physics, geodynamics, geohazards, climate science, environmental geosciences and policy, and other areas. Read more

This MSc is a uniquely broad and flexible programme that suits students' aspirations, background and experience. UCL Earth Sciences has strengths in geophysics, geochemistry, palaeobiology, mineral physics, geodynamics, geohazards, climate science, environmental geosciences and policy, and other areas. Students choose from a wide range of optional modules from within the department and more widely across UCL, building an MSc tailored to their interests.

About this degree

The programme aims to integrate theoretical studies with essential practical skills in the Earth sciences, both in the field and in the laboratory. Students develop the ability to work on group projects, prepare written reports, acquire oral skills and gain training in the methods of scientific research.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of three core modules (45 credits), six optional modules (75 credits) and a research dissertation (60 credits).

Core modules

  • Research Methods
  • Project Proposal
  • Earth and Planetary Systems Science

Optional modules

  • Earth and Planetary Materials
  • Melting and Volcanism
  • Physical Volcanology and Volcanic Hazard
  • Earthquake Seismology & Earthquake Hazard
  • Tectonic Geomorphology
  • Palaeoceanography
  • Palaeoclimatology
  • Biodiversity and Macroevolutionary Patterns
  • Deep Earth and Planetary Modelling
  • Geodynamics and Global Tectonics
  • Crustal Dynamics, Mountain Building and Basin Analysis
  • Advanced Biodiversity and Macroevolutionary Studies

Students can also choose relevant elective modules from UCL Geography.

Dissertation/report

All MSc students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of approximately 10,000–12,000 words.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials, and laboratory and fieldwork exercises. Student performance is assessed through coursework, written assignments, unseen written examination and the dissertation.

Fieldwork

Crustal Dynamics, Mountain Building and Basin Analysis is a fieldwork only module without a classroom element.

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Geoscience MSc

Careers

Geoscience students have gone on to pursue careers in many varied areas, such as planning and surveying, governmental organisations, academic research.

Recent career destinations for this degree

  • PhD in Climatology, Cardiff University (Prifysgol Caerdydd)
  • PhD in Geoscience, UCL
  • Engineer, Geo-Info
  • Lecturer in Geology, University of Benin
  • Oil and Gas Analyst, EIC (Energy Industries Council)

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.

Why study this degree at UCL?

UCL Earth Sciences is engaged in world-class research into the processes at work on and within the Earth and planets.

Graduate students benefit from our lively and welcoming environment and world-class facilities, which include the UK's only NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility and access to the University of London Observatory in north London.

The department also hosts the UCL Hazard Research Centre, Europe's leading multidisciplinary hazard research centre, and engages in extensive collaborative work with the Royal Institution and the Natural History Museum.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Earth Sciences

92% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.



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Biodiversity, evolution and conservation are of growing importance due to climate change, extinction, and habitat destruction. Read more

Biodiversity, evolution and conservation are of growing importance due to climate change, extinction, and habitat destruction. This new research-led programme is run in collaboration with the Institute of Zoology and the Natural History Museum, providing a rigorous training and unparalleled opportunities across the full breadth of pure and applied research in evolutionary, ecological, and conservation science.

About this degree

Taught modules will focus on cutting-edge quantitative tools in ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics, bioinformatics, systematics, palaeobiology, conservation, biogeography and environmental biology. Seminars, journal clubs and the two research projects will provide students with diverse opportunities for experience at UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment & Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, the Natural History Museum and the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of three core taught modules (60 credits) and two 16-week research projects (120 credits).

Core modules

  • Science Communication for Biologists (15 credits)
  • Computational Methods in Biodiversity Research (15 credits)
  • Analytical Tools in Biodiversity, Evolutionary and Conservation Research (30 credits)

Optional modules

  • There are no optional modules for this programme.

Dissertation/report

All students undertake two 6000-word, 16-week research projects, which each culminate in a written dissertation, and poster or oral presentation.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of seminars, presentations, assigned papers, as well as data analysis and interpretation. The seminar series includes mandatory seminars at UCL, the Natural History Museum and the Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society of London). Assessment is through essays, project reports, presentations and practicals. The two research projects are assessed by dissertation, and poster or oral presentation.

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation MRes

Careers

This programme offers students a strong foundation with which to pursue careers in academic research, environmental policy and management, applied conservation, public health, or scientific journalism.

Recent career destinations for this degree

  • Research Assistant, New York Academy of Sciences
  • Trainee Ecologist, Thomson Ecology
  • Research Associate, Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos
  • Intern, ZSL Institute of Zoology
  • PhD Researcher (Evolutionary Biology), The University of Edinburgh and studying PhD in Evolutionary Biology and Infectious Disease Research, University of Edinburgh

Employability

This programme provides students with a strong foundation to pursue careers in academic research, environmental policy and management, applied conservation, public health, or scientific journalism.

Interested in a PhD? Find out about  London NERC DTP

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.

Why study this degree at UCL?

This programme is an innovative collaboration between three globally renowned organisations: UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment & Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, the Natural History Museum and the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London.

By consolidating research expertise across these three organisations, students will gain a unique and exceptionally broad understanding of ties among different fields of research relating to the generation and conservation of biodiversity.

The MRes offers diverse research opportunities; these include the possibility of engaging actively in fundamental and applied research and participating in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (based at the Natural History Museum) or the EDGE of Existence programme (based at the Zoological Society of London).

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Division of Biosciences

82% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.



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Research profile. The University of Edinburgh is one of the leading centres of palaeontology and geobiology research in the UK and globally. Read more

Research profile

The University of Edinburgh is one of the leading centres of palaeontology and geobiology research in the UK and globally. Our MScR degree is the only such programme in palaeontology and geobiology in the UK.

This programme is made up of three compulsory courses and a 120 credit dissertation. Compulsory courses typically include:

  • Research Planning and Management in the GeoSciences (Semester 1)
  • Project Design and Literature Analysis (Semester 1)
  • Topics and in Palaeobiology and Evolution (Semester 2)

Courses are offered subject to timetabling and availability and are subject to change.

On successful completion of the programme, you will know key concepts and methodological approaches concerning your chosen research topic. You will gain experience in, and knowledge of:

  • key debates appropriate to students’ particular research interest
  • how theoretical concepts ‘translate’ into methodological and hypothesis-testing frameworks
  • research design principles and their practice
  • practical training in the use of specific theoretical, modelling, analytical and experimental methods

Career opportunities

This programme will provide you with a strong background for independent research to PhD level or for an applied career in museums, libraries, management or the media.



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