The Gotland field school (photo by Sebastian Teichert)



Here is the recommended list of courses in the Palaeobiology-Palaeoenvironments major and the Climate and Earth System minor that we offer to our international students in English.

Regular courses

Most regular courses take place during the lecturing periods of the semester. Sometimes these are held as whole-day block courses to make the work more focused.

1st semester

winter (October-February)

Before the first semester: Since the program is quite heavy on using computers, we recommend and expect new students to participate in the Computers in geosciences supplementary course, which takes place during the week preceeding the lecturing period.

Biofacies and Paleoecology

This course explores fundamental concepts of ecology and paleoecology, paleoecological and paleoenviromental interpretations, dynamics and structure of paleocommunities.

R Programming

Building on the basic understanding acquired in the 'computers course', this course aims at the development of programming skills. Weekly homework exercises accompany the systematic treatment of the tools offered in the R base distribution.


The course covers the application of sedimentary geochemistry with special consideration of major and trace elements, rare earth elements (REE), stable and radiogenic isotopes. The application of geochemical proxies to reconstructions of the climate as well as of the paleoenvironmental conditions will be introduced.

Literature Seminar

To learn how to develop scientific arguments, students present one article explaining the main problem/hypothesis, the approach, and the conclusions. Together with other students and lecturers they discuss how the methods or findings could be related to their own research interests.


In this course, students learn about the stratigraphic ranges of organisms, how to use them for correlation and about the biostratigraphy of mass extinction events.

Invertebrate Paleobiology

This course provides an overview of key invertebrate fossil groups and their evolutionary relationships. Their utility in understanding evolutionary & ecological processes is demonstrated through a series of hands on exercises.


The lecture conveys the principles of oceanography and climate, such as the mechanism of thermohaline circulation, the importance of water mass properties, the phenomenon of internal waves, ocean front systems, ocean acidification, and its relationship with global climate.


Microfossils are the most numerouse fossil organisms. In this course, students learn about the basics of this useful group of fossils in a systematic, group-by-group fashion.

In the first or thirrd semester, the ‘Tracers, isotopes and natural attenuation’ course can also be taken, altough that is held mostly in German.

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2nd semester

summer (April-July)

Analytical Paleobiology

The R programming environment is used to introduce students into the statistical analysis of paleontological data, focusing on the Paleobiology Database. The primary topic of the course are global-scale diversity dynamics and fossil sampling patterns.

Climate and Earth System Data

Data are everywhere. In this course, students learn examples of the available kinds of data in Earth System Research and a universal programming toolset to manipulate, transform and work with them.

Hypothesis Testing

This course focuses on hypothesis testing and reproducibility in science. You will learn how to develop and test your own hypotheses, perform basic statistical tests and apply this knowledge to reproduce (and potentially improve) published results. There will be a combination of lectures and group exercises.

Statistical Modelling

This course will provide an introduction to statistical modelling and Bayesian inference. Through a combination of lectures and practical exercises, students will learn how to construct and apply model-based approaches to problems in paleobiology. Students will learn how to simulate data and perform inference using biologically and geologically informed models, as well as how explore the fit and limitations of existing models.

Lab Methods

In this course students are introduced to research devices, laboratory work and thin section preparation.


This course covers trends and patterns in evolution and biodiversity that occur over long timescales. You will explore hypotheses and outstanding questions about the drivers of macroevolutionary processes based on evidence from the molecular and fossil records.


This hands on course focuses on the use of Bayesian phylogenetics. You will learn about approaches used to infer trees, divergence times and evolutionary rates through a mix of lectures and tutorial material. The course will focus on getting to grips with the software RevBayes.

Research Project Implementation

Students conduct a previously designed small research project and learn how to sum up their results in the form of a scientific paper.

Vertebrate Paleobiology

This course provides an introduction to the major fossil vertebrate groups (early vertebrates, jawless fish, bony fish, early tetrapods, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals), working up through the Phanerozoic towards the present day.

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3rd semester

winter (October-February)

Reef Geobiology

The course presents the methods for studying fossil reef systems, explains geological and biological control factors of reef development, and shows the geological history of reef systems.


A top-down approach to the biosphere and the distribution of species. Spatially explicit, global-scaled variables are discussed with reference to their history based on paleontological research.


The course starts with an introduction to carbonate sedimentology, which is followed by examples from various depositional environments and periods in Earth History. Thin sections and loose sediments are studied in terms of microfacies and diagenetic structure.

Reef system analysis

Statistical modeling and supervised machine learning approaches focusing on reef distribution data from the PaleoReefs Database.

Paleoenvironmental Proxies

Environmental parameters such as productivity, redox conditions or salinity can be approximated with quantitative data derived from the geological record. The course emphasizes quantitative, testable paleobiological proxies which can be used to make predictions and assessed in terms of their accuracy.

Research Project Design

Acquiring funding is an important part of being a scientist. In this course, students learn how to design research projects and write scientific proposals.

Science Communication

This course covers different ways of communicating science both within and outside research. We’ll cover scientific writing, making and designing presentations, communicating with the media, art in science and outreach.

Note that this is a recommended order and there might be changes given individual progress.

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Supplementary courses

Besides regular coursework, additional courses need to be taken to earn additional credits. In general these courses are 5 ECTS. You need to collect 15 ECTS, 10 as a Key Qualification (Schlüßelqualifikation), and 5 as interdisciplinary elective (Überfachliches Wahlmodul/Wahlpflicht) .

Here you can find brief a list of courses that are usually available in English. You can find more courses here, although many of these are only available in German.

Key Qualification Courses

Computers in Geosciences

Usually just called the ‘computers course’. The course covers range of basic computer skills including an introduction to R programming language and procedural data analysis.

Gotland Field School

Every second year, master students are taken on an exciting trip to the exotic Island of Gotland (Sweden), where they get hands-on experience with the wonders of Paleozoic rocks, fossils and stratigraphy.

Carbonate Microfacies course

This is a five-days course on carbonate microfacies and diagenesis. Examples from almost all geological time slices and depositional environments are presented and discussed in microscopy exercises using a one-of-a-kind collection of thin sections.

Poland Field School

The course focuses on stratigraphic paleobiology. We will visit several outcrops all together, combined with a series of short lectures and exercises on quantitative methods for analysing the data we observe in the field. During the second half, you will have group projects.

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Interdisciplinary Elective Courses

Computers in Geosciences

Usually just called the ‘computers course’. The course covers range of basic computer skills including an introduction to R programming language and procedural data analysis.

Paleo Problem Solving

The freedom of science... Students can work on a small research project of their choice.

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