It pays to be ‘fossil hunters’: GSI

There aren’t too many takers of palaeontology in India, but it offers a high-yielding career

Updated - February 28, 2021 05:21 pm IST

Published - February 28, 2021 04:59 pm IST - GUWAHATI:

Geological Survey of India. File

Geological Survey of India. File

Palaeontology is not as adventurous as the Indiana Jones or the Lara Croft franchise makes it seem. But seeking fossils could translate into a high-yielding job in sectors such as oil and gas, scientists at the Geological Survey of India (GSI) say.

Palaeontology, a branch within geology, is the study of prehistoric organisms that thrived in the biosphere of the earth and later transformed into fossils after burial. Many of these organisms — the dinosaurs, for instance — are extinct while many others still survive or are extant.

Experts say palaeontology is crucial for revealing the geological history as well as defining the evolutionary patterns of life that survived on earth through the geological ages. While constructing the stratigraphy of a basin, fossil records play the key role in defining the age of the different lithological horizons with the help of its diagnostic fossil assemblages.

Stratigraphy is the order and relative position of strata and their relationship to the geological timescale.

There aren’t too many takers for palaeontology in India. But things could change with a growing demand for “fossil hunters” in various sectors, geologists said.

“There are special streams within palaeontology such as micropalaeontology, palynology and ichnology and one needs to develop expertise in such streams. Similarly, careers in palaeontology are diverse and possess a lot of opportunities for amateurs as well as professionals,” Arindam Roy, senior geologist in GSI’s Palaeontology Division said.

“A significant career prospect in palaeontology after pursuing a Ph.D. is teaching the subject as a professor in academic institutions. But expertise in micropalaeontology can help get jobs in oil companies where the role of palaeontology is to help locate possible oil reserves based on microfossil assemblages,” he said.

Apart from the PSUs and private oil firms, there are scientific positions for students with a research background in organisations such as the GSI, Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Indian Statistical Institute, National Institute of Oceanography and many institutes under the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the Department of Science and Technology, Mr. Roy said.

There are opportunities in European countries too, he added.

“To pursue a career in palaeontology, it is always better to opt for a particular specialisation and gain expertise on the subject through research and publications. This process of career building may be time-taking, but the efforts will be high-yielding,” Mr. Roy said.

He advised students who complete their Master’s in geology to check out various fellowship programmes for Ph.D. courses in palaeontology as well as post-doctoral fellowships offered by the Science and Engineering Research Board and the University Grants Commission.

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