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Graduate Program

We have a well-rounded program in paleontology and related areas of evolutionary biology, and ecology. Faculty and graduate students involved in paleontology are associated with the Museum of Paleontology, where the collections and paleontology faculty (and some student) offices are located. We have a diverse and helpful group of colleagues in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Anthropology.

The University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology itself does not admit graduate students, but instead, graduate students are advised by museum faculty. Grad students may be affiliated with the museum but are formally admitted through academic departments such as: 

The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and the Museum of Paleontology share faculty with professorial/curatorial appointments in paleontology ( CarvalhoFisherFriedman, and  Wilson Mantilla). In addition, we have faculty members with research scientist appointments ( BadgleyMacLatchySandersSmith, and  Zelditch).

If you are interested in graduate studies we encourage you to reach out to one or more of the faculty members listed below.

U-M Museum of Paleontology Faculty

Mónica Carvalho collects and studies plant fossils in tropical South America, and uses observational and experimental approaches to better understand the paleobiology and evolution of tropical rainforests. Her work documents how interactions between plants and insect herbivores are recorded in leaf damage, form-function relations of leaves, and how acclimation responses of tropical plants to climate change can inform ecosystem function in deep time.

Daniel Fisher is interested in functional morphology, taphonomy, and use of stratigraphic data in phylogenetic inference. He has worked with various groups, including arthropods and echinoderms, but he currently directs much of his attention toward proboscidean paleobiology and determining the causes of the late Pleistocene extinction of mastodons and mammoths.

Learn more about Dr. Fisher's research.

Matt Friedman is a vertebrate paleontologist whose research focuses on using fossils to inform our understanding of the evolution of modern biological diversity. My own studies target the paleontological record of fishes, which spans the better part of half a billion years and is represented in a variety of depositional settings by relatively complete fossils rich in anatomical data with a bearing in ecology and evolutionary relationships. Current research spans this long history, with projects in the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic that are complemented by molecular genetic studies of the living relatives of the fossil groups under study.

Learn more about Dr. Friedman's research.

Jeff Wilson Mantilla is a vertebrate paleontologist whose research focuses on dinosaur (especially sauropod) evolution, distribution, and paleobiology. He is interested in the palebiogeography of continental vertebrates of the Indian subcontinent, and he conducts field work in central and western India.

Learn more about Dr. Wilson's research.

U-M Museum of Paleontology Researchers

Catherine Badgley works in the area of taphonomy/paleoecology and is concerned both with general issues such as the completeness of the geologic record, and with specific questions relating to the context of late Cenozoic hominoid evolution.

Learn more about Dr. Badgley's research.

Laura MacLatchy is a paleoanthropologist interested in understanding the relationship between biological form and function, with research foci on primate locomotor evolution, and hominoid (ape and human) origins.  The arboreal habitat of primates poses unique challenges, including substrate gaps and complex and unstable supports, which have led to the evolution of diverse forms of locomotion.  Although humans are terrestrial, we still bear the hallmarks of prior arboreal specializations.  

Learn more about Dr. MacLatchy's research.

Bill Sanders is the Chief Preparator of the Vertebrate Fossil Preparation Lab and research scientist in the Museum of Paleontology and Department of Anthropology.  His research interests primarily include the evolution and fossil record of catarrhine primates, proboscideans, and embrithopods, and he is also concerned with advancing fossil preparation and conservation standards.

Learn more about Dr. Sanders' research.

Selena Smith runs the The Plant Evolution, Paleobotany, and Paleoecology Research (PEPPR) Labs. She studies the paleobiology of plants, including their evolution and their link to climate and environment on broad timescales.

Learn more about Dr. Smith's research.

Miriam Zelditch is a paleontologist who focuses on complex morphologies, structures that comprise multiple traits whose relationships matter to fitness. 

Learn more about Dr. Zelditch's research.