What is a paleontologist?
A paleontologist is a scientist who may do one or both of these activities :
· Discover and carefully dig up ancient fossils out at field sites
· Study the fossils in a laboratory and share the results of their findings with others to increase our understanding of ancient life
The first known paleontologist was Neils Stensen who realized in 1667 that the shark's tooth he had found and was examining was an ancient life form - not from a shark that had lived in recent time.
Later in the mid 1700s, George curvier realized that the fossils he was studying also included life forms that are now extinct.
In the mid 1800s modern paleontology as a science was created by Louis Azassig and William Smith who linked the study of fossils to the geologic material / period they were found encased in. this established a more methodical means of beginning to create a time line from the fossil and geologic record.
Today there are paleontologists working for national and state parks, at colleges and universities, at specific dig sites, for transportation departments, for geology firms looking for oil, for environmental organizations, and on their own private research projects. And they have been popularized in the movies of course, Jurassic Park being one well-known example. Some paleontologists also study human remains - think of the Leakey's in Africa for example.