Paleontology at the University of Mainz
The major purpose of paleontology is to reconstruct the evolution of life on Earth. Paleontology involves the study of evolutionary mechanisms and the strategies of organisms to survive in a constantly changing
environment, to occupy new habitats and to produce fertile offspring. Fossils, the remains of once living organisms, together with the sediments in which they were preserved, can provide the means of reconstructing past
ecosystems, the distribution of land/sea areas, and the changing positions of the continents through time. They can also be used to determine past weather extremes and paleoclimate dynamics.
Ultimately, paleontology enables scientists to understand life, as it is paleontology that adds the concept of time to our existing biological knowledge. Understanding how faunal communities change through time, either
in response to natural environmental or climatic fluctuations, can help us to predict the future consequences of current global climate change. No other scientific discipline can do this!
Since its reorganization in September 2006, the principal focus of paleontology at Mainz is on the applied and analytical aspects of paleontology. Within this remit, the work group undertakes research
associated with a number of other disciplines, for example, archeology, anthropology, climatology, sedimentology, geochemistry and modeling. The research center, concentrates primarily on the environmental and climatic
history of the Quaternary period (the last 2.6 million years). However, the research team also works on older periods of Earth history, such as, the Paleogene and Neogene (65.5 to 2.6 million years ago, Ma BP), the Cretaceous
(145.5 to 65.5 Ma BP), the Jurassic (199.6 to 145.5 Ma BP) and the Devonian (416.0 to 359.2 Ma BP).
Extensive collaboration with neighboring disciplines, both in terms of research and teaching, ensures the delivery of a comprehensive, diverse and interdisciplinary study program. Furthermore, a significant amount
practical education is given, through laboratory and field based teaching, which combines traditional aspects of paleontology (e.g., the knowledge of anatomical and skeletal morphology) with more modern and progressive
aspects (e.g., gaining experience with modern analytical equipment, in particular, for determining stable isotope and trace/minor element values from biological hard parts).
Students wishing to specialize in paleontology at Mainz will obtain a broad subject knowledge that will prepare them for a variety of jobs, for example, in the petroleum exploration industry, environmental protection/
conservation, environmental monitoring, material sciences, curatorial museum work, or jobs with the geological survey. A paleontological education at Mainz is also excellent preparation for a career in academic science,
and after being awarded a degree (BSc, MSc), students may be interested in perusing their doctoral dissertation in paleontology.