Master's Programme in Earth Science – Palaeobiology

120 credits

Are you interested in how life on Earth looked millions of years ago? Do you want to understand how life, climate and the environment have evolved and been influenced by Earth's chemical and physical changes over time? The Master's Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology, combines research in geosciences with the biological sciences to recreate and understand the evolutionary changes that have taken place throughout history.

Autumn 2023 Autumn 2023, Uppsala, 100%, On-campus, English

Autumn 2024 Autumn 2024, Uppsala, 100%, On-campus, English

The specialisation in Palaeobiology, within the Master's Programme in Earth Science, is focused on the evolution of life with courses ranging from palaeobiological principles, through to the evolution of organisms to complex vertebrate life forms. This is a mainly research-oriented specialisation, but has applications to careers in geology, particularly the oil industry.

We try to understand how life has evolved over millions of years and how it adapted to constant changes in the environment and climate. We do this by combining traditional fossil studies with modern biological methods. This is mainly a research-oriented specialisation, but has applications to careers in geology.

During the programme, you can expect to:

  • understand how life has evolved over millions of years,
  • learn how life adapted to constant changes in the environment and the climate,
  • combine traditional fossil studies with modern biological methods.

The Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University is one of the most comprehensive academic departments of its kind in Europe. Research in Earth Science focuses on subjects that range from the Earth's core to the atmosphere, on scales from sub-microscopic minerals and fossils to the formation of mountains and oceans, and in time from the formation of the Earth to the processes currently reshaping the planet.

Research in paleobiology includes the evolution of animals in connection with major biological events, especially those of the so-called Cambrian explosion. Moreover, we investigate how different types of microorganisms have evolved and changed in relation to the climate and climate change over a period extending from today until over a billion years ago.


The programme leads to the degree of Master of Science (120 credits) with Earth Science as the main field of study. After one year of study, it is possible to obtain a degree of Master of Science (60 credits).

The first semester starts with Dynamics of Earth Systems - Global Change. Method courses are also offered in the first semester with Analytical Methods in Earth Science and Applied geoinformatics. The Presentation and Publication course helps you develop your communication skills.

In the second semester, the specialisation focuses on Principles of Palaeobiology, which looks at basic theoretical concepts such as conservation, phylogeny and evolution. Followed by Evolution and development, an advanced course in which biology and palaeontology are combined.

Semester three starts with a course that deals with various key events in the early development of life. It is followed by a project-based course focusing on large vertebrate animals.

The programme concludes with a degree project in the form of an independent project.

Courses within the programme

See the programme outline for courses within the programme.

The teachers in the Master's Programme in Earth Science are experts in their respective fields, giving you up-to-date contact with front-line research in an open and creative educational atmosphere. The teaching consists of a balanced mix of theoretical and practical work providing experience in both research and industry-oriented applications. Excursions, fieldwork and study visits are included in some courses.

Instruction in the Master's programme builds on your experience and knowledge from your previous education. You are expected to actively participate and contribute to the learning environment and take responsibility for your own and others' learning. The teachers are responsible for creating opportunities for active learning at individual and group level. Purposeful and respectful dialogue between teachers and students contributes to the constant improvement and development of courses.

Examination generally includes written exams, complemented by seminar presentations/discussions, project work, laboratory work and field reports.

The Master Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology, provides good opportunities for a postgraduate education with subsequent research career, and sufficient overall knowledge to meet society's needs for qualified earth scientists.

Alumni from the Palaeobiology specialisation work largely within scientific research internationally. Additionally, alumni work at museums or as earth scientists in a broad range of applications.

Our graduates work at, for example, the Swedish Museum for Natural History, the Paleontology museum Uppsala Natural History Museum and even Zinkgruvan AB.

Career support

During your time as a student, UU Careers offers support and guidance. You have the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities and events that will prepare you for your future career.