What Is a Paleozoologist?

Paleozoologists examine the context, form and function of faunal remains. This includes fossils and organic material.

What Does a Paleozoologist Do?

Paleozoologists fulfil much the same roles as paleobotanists, but in studying animal remains rather than plant remains. They also study much the same records as paleontologists and will often work together with various groups. However, there are several key differences between a paleontologist and a paleozoologist. The former study extinct species only, typically from a period before 12,000 years ago. The latter study both extinct and surviving animal remains. The former studies fossilized remains - that is, those materials that have mineralized and are now essentially stone. The latter studies organic remains such as bone, horn, hair and soft tissues where extant.

Paleozoology is a cross-disciplinary approach that rarely works in isolation. They will work on archaeological sites, with paleontologists and with paleoecologists, amongst others. They will use the data extrapolated from a study to attempt to define the ecology at the time the specimen died. Therefore, they are as much environmental biologists as zoologists. As this is a niche area, the traditional choice of workplace may not be open to the paleozoologist. The choice of working on excavation or desk-based research may not be present due to the limited openings. Therefore, most paleozoologists are likely to have a variety of tasks and responsibilities. Much of their work may be desk-based with the occasional need for work outdoors on paleontological or archeological excavations.

Where Does a Paleozoologist Work?

As already discussed, this is a niche area with few openings often tied to broader disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology and paleontology. 28%, that's just over a quarter of qualified personnel in the archaeological field, work in R&D in social sciences. These can be private areas of scientific research and can include media (television and film industry), book publication and even marketing research.

23% work in management scientific and consulting. They may be part of private archeology units tasked with carrying out surveys for government and private developers. There are state, national and international laws on protecting cultural assets such as archeological remains and these firms act in advisory roles or carry out research reports. They may advise government on the importance of their findings. 7% work in engineering services, working directly for construction companies, often watching for signs of important remains that may need to be recorded and sent away or preserved.

19% work in Federal government (not including the postal service). This will include heritage bodies and conservation groups such as the EPA, but will also work directly in research and conservation in the National Parks Service. 8% will work in state and local government fulfilling similar roles.

Sponsored Content

What Is the Average Paleozoologist Salary?

No specific data for this field exists, but paleozoologists can be classified under the broader BLS category of zoologists and wildlife biologists. As of May 2020, these professionals earned a median salary of $66,350. The top payer was the federal government, who paid a median salary of $81,530 during this time.*

Paleozoology Jobs & Job Description

Paleozoologists share many of the same job responsibilities as related careers paleoethnobotonists and paleontologists including working on archeological sites recovering and analyzing remains. The key difference between paleozoolgists and these related fields is that paleozoologists focus on recovering and studying animal matter such as bone, horn, hair and tissues. Paleozoologists at the start of their careers generally have the following job duties:

  • Use scientific methods to collect animal remains from an archaeological site
  • Record and manage records of their observations and collections
  • Analyze field data, laboratory samples and other sources of information to draw conclusions about animal life
  • Conduct research using microscopes, identification manuals, reference collection drawings and archaeological literature including academic journals
  • Prepare research reports and present findings
  • Communicate findings with project leads and other scientists
  • Assist in the set-up, organization and maintenance of laboratory facilities

A more experienced paleozoologist may have the following or similar responsibilities, depending on the project and its goals:

  • Test and calibrate equipment and instruments
  • Ensure quality assurance, organization and tracking of field data
  • Engage in office-based tasks such as scientific report writing
  • Supervise fieldwork, including all collection, testing and recording performed by field crews
  • Communicate with stakeholders through field status reports and presentation of team findings

What Is the Job Demand for Paleozoologists?

Job demand among zoologists and wildlife biologists is expected to grow 5% between 2020 and 2030.* Much of this work is subject to the demands of construction and on research funding. The economic picture for the next ten years is difficult to read due to a variety of factors; therefore, there may not be as many openings unless there is a boom in construction or a sudden focus on heritage in the USA.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Paleozoologist?

High School Students should focus on the subjects that would lead to an archaeology degree. They will also need to focus strongly on some hard sciences. Biology and chemistry are vital; geography should also be a major factor and history will be advantageous. No paleozoology subjects exist in high schools or colleges; these will be part of advanced degrees.

At degree level, students should study anthropology, archaeology, geology or as their major zoology where available. The student should also examine choices of minors in similar subjects. Environmental sciences are beneficial, so too will be the subjects mentioned above - geography, history and ecology. The student should attempt, where possible, to tailor their studies towards examining animal remains. Minors and electives in paleontology will also be helpful. Those who wish to work for Federal field roles such as the National Parks Service (Park Ranger for example) may find that a BA/BS is sufficient.

Bachelor's degrees will be suitable for fieldwork, but in paleozoology, these jobs are rare. To specialize, you will need to study a master's degree. The level of independent study, project work, research and report writing will put the student in good stead for the more specialized area of paleozoology. Master's degrees will be required for the majority of jobs in this area, especially those with responsible roles such as research assistants and excavation management.

Doctorates will certainly be required for teaching and research roles. Students are advised to qualify as highly as their abilities permit due to the small community in which this study area functions. For the higher-paying government roles, Doctorates will certainly be required.

Paleozoology - Related Degrees

What Kind Of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Paleozoologists Have?

There are no specific paleozoology bodies, but this small niche has the following organizations and bodies that will cover its remit.

  • Archeological Institute of America: Founded in 1879, the AIA is the oldest of its kind in North America. They publish a regular journal, support archeology in terms of research and employee issues and offer memberships
  • The Society for Archaeological Sciences: This international body promotes research about the scientific aspects of humanity's past, including its interaction with animal life - domestication and ecological

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for zoologists and wildlife biologists reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

Sponsored Content