Palaeontology and Global Change

Palaeontology and Global Change deals with the changing conditions and evolution of life on Earth. Research topics include fossil mammals and their environments during the last 25 million years, the environmental and evolutionary context of early humans in Africa, and the history of climate change and ecosystems during the last 100,000 years. The effect of humankind on the biosphere is a multidisciplinary topic.

To tackle the increasingly pressing questions arising from the impact on humankind on our home planet we urgently need to understand both how the earth-life system works today and how it behaved in the past, under conditions that we cannot observe directly today but may encounter in the future. The long history of life on our planet is recorded in the remains and traces that organisms have left in geological strata billions of years, such as shells, bones, teeth, leaves or pollen, as well as the structure and composition of the rocks that contain them.

Previous studies required for this study track: BSc in geosciences or relevant, with minor studies in biology. 

1. Common courses, 55 cp: 3D modelling, 5 cp; Isotope geochemistry, 5 cp; Conducting scientific research, 10 cp; Thesis 30 cp; Internship 5 cp

2. Advanced courses: Compulsory courses: 20 cp: Paleoclimatology 5 cp; Life on the Baltic vontinent - A Palaeozoic history  5 cp; Fossil recognition 5 cp and Quantifying the past 5 cp ; Optional courses additional 40 cp, see the course list.

3. Optional studies: 45 - 5 cp (number according to the number of advanced courses, so that 120 cp is filled).

Common courses (55 cp)

  Common courses course package 55 cp Compulsory
period II/ every year 3D modelling 5 cp Compulsory
period I/ every year Isotope geochemistry 5 cp Compulsory
periods III-IV/ every year Conducting scientific research 10 cp Compulsory
1. to 2. year MSc Thesis 30 cp Compulsory
summer between 1. and 2. yr Internship 5 cp Compulsory

Advanced courses (20-60 cp)

  Paleoclimatology (course package): 10 -15 cp Compulsory
period III/ 2018, 2020 Paleoclimatology 5 cp Compulsory
period IV/ 2018, 2020 Life on the Baltic continent - A Palaeozoic history 5 cp Compulsory
period II/ 2017, 2019 Palaeoceanography - application of marine microfossils as paleoclimatological proxies 5 op optional
  Working with Fossils (course package): 25 cp Optional (exept one course)
period III/ 2019, 2021 Pollen analysis 5 cp Optional
period I/ 2018, 2020 All about teeth 5 cp Optional
period II/ 2018, 2020

Palaeontological Perspectives on Biodiversity

5 cp Optional
period II/ 2018*, 2020 Plant macrofossils and environmental reconstructions (*2018 replaced with Testate amoeba (Protozoa: Rhizopoda) and environmental reconstructions, 3 cp) 5 cp Optional
period I/ 2017, 2019, 2021 Fossil recognition and introduction invertebrate paleontology 5 cp Compulsory
period I/ 2018, 2020 Mammalian ecomorphology and introduction vertebrate paleontology 5 op Optional
period IV/ 2018, 2020 Palaeobioindicators 5 op Optional
  Earth system archives (course package): 20 cp Optional (exept one course)
period II/ 2017, 2019, 2021 Advanced seminar in palaeobiology and palaeoclimatology 5 cp Optional
period III/ 2018, 2020 Quantifying the past 5 cp Compulsory
general exams Book examinations 1-3 5-15 cp Optional
  Sedimentary environments (course package): 15 cp Optional
period IV/ 2019, 2021 Aquatic sedimentary environments 5 cp Optional
period I/ 2018, 2020 Clastic sedimentology 5 cp Optional
period III/ 2018, 2020 Sedimentary petrology and basin analysis 5 cp Optional
  Other courses 15 cp Optional
period I/ 2018, 2020 Environmental Magnetism 5 cp Optional
periods I-II/ 2017, 2019 Paleomagnetism 5 cp Optional
period III/ every year  X-Ray methods 5 cp Optional
  Optional courses (sub-5 cp thematic courses, field courses etc. In batches of 5) 5-10 cp Optional
TBA Long terrestrial sequences 0-5 cp Optional
TBA Cladocera analysis 0-5 cp Optional
TBA (spring 2019, 2021) Dendrochronology 0-5 cp Optional
TBA Chironomid analysis 0-5 cp Optional
period IV/2018, 2020 Maannokset ja niiden prosessit 0-5 cp Optional
TBA Special courses on current topics 0-5 cp Optional
TBA Sequence Stratigraphy 0-5 cp Optional
every year Geoscience Seminar 0-5 cp Optional


Examples of the thesis titles (see the database for all Geology theses):

Buchan, Michelle, 2018. Late Holocene firen history and vegetation dynamics: a pollen and charcoal record from a southern Finnish lake.

Mechenich Michael, 2017. Best Practices for Ecometric Analysis: A Case Study Correlating Climatic Conditions and Herbivore Teeth in Africa.

Oksanen, Otto, 2017. Feeding ecology of Lothagam and Koobi Fora carnivorans.

Paasi, Teea, 2016. Changes in hind limb proportions in Quaternary large carnivores in Northern Europe.

Kurki, Eija, 2016. The oxygen isotope composition of chironomid chitin as a proxy for oxygen isotope composition of lake water and related parameters in southern Spitsbergen, Svalbard, during mid- and late Holocene.

Jokela, Tuomas, 2015. The high, the sharp and the rounded: paleodiet and paleoecology of late Miocene herbivorous mammals from Greece and Iran.

Sova, Susanna, 2015. Biomineralization in domestic pig molars.

Kurkela, Janita, 2015.  Holocene monsoon dynamics and environmental history of Lake Kumphawapi, northeast Thailand.

Kähkölä,  Noora, 2015. Historical vegetation change and peat accumulation in a drained peatland Kalevansuo.

Rannikko, Janina, 2014. Experimental dental wear study of artifically worn teeth.


  1. The effects of grain size and particle hardness on tooth wear. An experimental study using a mechanical masticator. (Mikael Fortelius)
  2. The effect of hard particles in Mesozoic plants on tooth wear. An experimental study using a mechanical masticator. (Mikael Fortelius)
  3. A palaeo-diet study using angle-based mesowear of fossil mammals from X (details to be agreed on). Would involve travel to appropriate museum (e.g., Uppsala. Vienna, Stuttgart). Co-supervised by Juha Saarinen. (Mikael Fortelius)
  4. An ecometric analysis of fossil mammals from Y (details to be agreed on). Would involve travel to appropriate museum (e.g., Uppsala. Vienna, Stuttgart). (Mikael Fortelius)
  5. The fossil rhinoceros remains from Orce, early Pleistocene of Andalucia, Spain. Would involve travel to the collections in Granada and/or participation in the field work at Orce (always in July). (Mikael Fortelius)
  6. Origin and stability of the surface landforms on a raised bog in the Valkmusa national park, Finland (involves fieldwork in Finland) (Heikki Seppä)
  7. Using charcoal piece analysis for fire history reconstruction in the boreal coniferous forest (involves fieldwork in Finland) (Heikki Seppä)
  8. Vegetation and wildfire history in the Evo region, southern Finland. A study based on pollen and charcoal data (involves fieldwork in Finland) (Heikki Seppä)
  9. A novel approach for vegetation biomass reconstructions using pollen data from a lake sediment core from southern Finland (involves fieldwork in Finland) (Heikki Seppä)
  10. Quantifying the rate of temperature change in Europe during the rapid climate changes of the late-glacial period (no fieldwork) (Heikki Seppä)
  11. Spatio-temporal climate reconstructions using a new Bayesian method (no fieldwork) (Heikki Seppä)
  12. Younger Dryas-Holocene warming as an analogue for the current warming in the high latitudes (no fieldwork) (Heikki Seppä)
  13. Regional extinctions of arctic-alpine plants in Europe during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition (no fieldwork) (Heikki Seppä)