The Jackson School’s paleontology program is distinguished by its diverse and active faculty, modern equipment, and extensive reference collection. It has perennially been considered one of the top paleontology programs in the nation.
Paleontological research at the Jackson School is motivated by several overarching questions: What were the causes and mechanisms for change in major lineages represented in the fossil record? What is the evolutionary history of lineages such as echinoderms, reptiles, and mammals? How can we use the fossil record and phylogenetic hypotheses to test current theories, and make predictions about potential consequences of current global-change phenomena?
Vertebrate paleontologists in the Jackson School focus on the evolutionary morphology of vertebrates, evolutionary ecology (recent and ancient), phylogenetic systematics, and the evolution of development. A major tool in this work is a high resolution computer-aided tomography scanner for 3D imaging of fossil vertebrates.
Invertebrate paleontologists in the Jackson School focus on the development of early Paleozoic echinoderms. This includes trying to determine the origin, early evolutionary history, paleoecology and closest relatives of the earliest crinoids in the Early Ordovician based on new collections from the Rocky Mountains. Researchers are also looking at the expansion of all types of echinoderms during the Cambrian Explosion and the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.
There is also interest among the School’s invertebrate paleontologists in relationships between organisms over time, especially within reef environments. Rudists, a type of extinct bivalve important in reef environments, are a particular focus of interest. Researchers explore the connections between changes in major reef-building organisms through time to better understand how conditions in the global ocean changed. Because they provide a unique long term perspective, the University’s extensive fossil collections are used by researchers to relate ancient to modern climate changes.
| My current research addresses the past evolution of impact crater lakes on Mars, Earth, and elsewhere with satellite observations, landscape modelling, and fieldwork. Specifically, I'm interested in how ...
MSc or PhD StudentGraduate
Our team is almost always interested in recruiting new graduate students who are interested in paleoecology, marine communities, carbonate sedimentology, and/or geobiology. We currently have teo areas of focus, modern and Pleistocene reef and coastal communities in Jamaica and Early Jurassic marine paleoecology in Morocco
Posted by: Rowan Martindale
Research Triassic vertebrates (Paleontology)Undergraduate
Undergraduates interested in Triassic vertebrates of Texas and the Colorado Plateau!! Get involved with new research including digital segmentation of CT-scanned specimens from Petrified Forest National Park and the University of Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collections, preparation of vertebrate fossils collected by the WPA in the early 1900s, and photographic documentation of those materials. Opportunities exist for students to develop independent research related to the main questions associated with this project. Projects begin in the Fall, 2022 semester. Interested students should contact Will Reyes (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Chris Bell (email@example.com).
Posted by: Christopher Bell
Research Phillips Cave fossils (Paleontology)Undergraduate
Dedicated, enthusiastic undergraduate student(s) sought to help work on fossils from Phillips Cave in Crockett County, Texas. Student(s) will help with screen-washing, sorting, identifying, and curating vertebrate fossils from Ice-Age sediments in the cave. Students will learn aspects of the anatomy of the vertebrate skeleton as they contribute to broadening our understanding of vertebrate paleobiogeography on the Edwards Plateau. The project is under way and volunteers can be brought on board immediately. Interested students should contact Stacie Skwarcan (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Chris Bell (email@example.com).
Posted by: Christopher Bell
Research Inner-Space Cavern fossils (Paleontology)Undergraduate
Dedicated, enthusiastic undergraduate student(s) sought to help work on fossils from Inner Space Cavern in Williamson County, Texas. Student(s) will help with screen-washing, sorting, identifying, and curating vertebrate fossils from Ice-Age sediments in the cave. Students will learn aspects of the anatomy of the vertebrate skeleton as they contribute to studying patterns of vertebrate diversity through time in the context of climate change. Potential opportunities exist for motivated students to pursue independent supervised research related to the main questions associated with this project. Projects begin in the Fall, 2022 semester. Interested students should contact John Moretti (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Chris Bell (email@example.com).
Posted by: Christopher Bell
The Center for Planetary Systems Habitability is an interdisciplinary research center at UT and is the result of a partnership between the Jackson School, the College of Natural Sciences, and the Cockrell School of Engineering. The center advances our ability to search for life on other planets by collaborating on research that helps better understand where habitable zones develop and how they evolve within planetary systems.
The High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility at The University of Texas at Austin (UTCT) is a national shared multi-user facility supported by the Instrumentation and Facilities Program of NSF's Earth Sciences (EAR) directorate. UTCT offers scientific researchers across the earth, biological and engineering sciences access to a completely nondestructive technique for visualizing features in the interior of opaque solid objects, and for obtaining digital information on their 3D geometries and properties.
NPL was created in 1999 as an answer to the increasing conservation and curation issues developing with the huge increase in collection size. Collections placed in the care of TNSC mainly were derived from research at the BEG, the UTDGS and the Museum (TMM) itself. Other material came from orphaned collections within Texas. Numerous other collections have been contributed as donations. Although an exact count has never been made, the collection is estimated to contain about 4 million specimens.
The mission of the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory is three-fold, involving research, conservation, and education pertaining to the history of vertebrates. In particular, VPL focuses on the history of vertebrates in Texas and adjacent regions, but much broader studies are also conducted to establish a national and global context for Texas vertebrate history.
Affiliated UT Programs & Centers
The Environmental Science Institute is a multi-disciplinary institute for basic scientific research in environmental studies founded by The University of Texas at Austin. The Institute serves as a focal point on campus for a wide scope of interdisciplinary research and teaching involving the complex interactions of the biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere in the Earth system, as well as the human dimensions of these interactions.