Texas’ rivers, desert landscape and ancient volcanoes make it a fossil-hunter’s paradise and a hotbed for first-rate paleontology programs. Shallow waters once crept far inland as evidenced by rich deposits of both vertebrate skeletons and invertebrate shells. The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology recommends five schools in Texas with graduate programs in paleontology.

University of Texas at Austin

The paleontology/geobiology program at the University of Texas’ Jackson School of Geosciences takes advantage of a 3D tomography scanner to create virtual dinosaurs from skeletal remains. Faculty members have particular expertise in echinoderm fossils found in the Rocky Mountains and the relationships between ancient creatures in long-vanished reef systems. The school’s non-vertebrate paleontology lab has about 4 million specimens, including invertebrates, plants, microfossils, rocks, minerals, meteorites and tektites. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in geosciences. Graduate students can apply to help the university’s Gulf Basin Depositional Synthesis, a long-term study of the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in geology with research concentrations in paleoclimates and climate change, paleobiology and paleoecology. Faculty evaluate each student's need to improve foreign language skills, depending on the student’s area of interest. The school has extensive fossil collections; an evolutionary geobiology laboratory with microscopes, a walk-in freezer and centrifuges; and a micropaleontology laboratory. Faculty research projects include how sea levels affected prehistoric mollusks and how climate has affected evolutionary turnover in ancient marine life.

University of Texas at El Paso

Students of paleontology at UTEP have access to the Centennial Museum and its paleontological gallery. The collection includes fossils from the El Paso area, such as a seaweed sample estimated at 2 billion years old and a cast of a 75-million-year-old pterosaur. The school’s advanced degree program in geological science features a handful of classes in paleontology, including paleobiology, advanced topics in geological science and advanced vertebrate paleontology techniques. The university offers doctoral degrees in ecology and evolutionary biology, geologic sciences and biological sciences.

Southern Methodist University

The Dedman College at SMU offers Master of Science and doctoral degrees in earth science with a concentration in paleontology. Students are encouraged to tackle the subject matter globally, studying in Antarctica, China, the Republic of Congo and Pakistan in 2014. The school houses the Shuler Museum of Paleontology, which includes laboratories for fossil preparation and high-tech microscopes. In 2014, faculty and students in the program were researching mosasaurs, Oligocene plant fossils from Ethiopia and a hominoid fossil site in Kenya.

Texas Tech University

Students in Texas Tech’s paleontology division work alongside faculty investigating the fossil-rich deserts within an hour’s drive of the campus in Lubbock. In 2014, researchers pored over fossils from the Late Triassic Dockum Group of Texas and also studied Antarctic bird fossils. University researchers have uncovered new prehistoric species, documented the specimens and shared information with colleagues. Students have an opportunity to mold and cast fossils for display for university collections and elsewhere. Texas Tech offers master’s and doctoral degrees in geosciences.