Research at SNM – University of Copenhagen

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Research at the Natural History Museum of Denmark

The overall theme for research at the museum is the description and exploration of the “origin and development of everything” – in other words, describing the biological and geological diversity all around us. This mainly consists of basic research that increases understanding of the connections between the formation and development of Earth and of the Solar System, the origins and evolution of living nature, the interaction between nature and humankind and the correlations and secondary effects derived from of all of the above.

Examples of big research questions pursued by the Museum are:

  • What are the fundamental evolutionary and ecological principles and processes that generate and maintain patterns of biodiversity on Earth?
  • How does the 'Tree of Life' look like, and how many species exist on our planet?
  • What is the coupling between the evolution of life and Earth?
  • What circumstances allow for the formation of habitable planets?
  • How do organisms and their physical environment shape ecosystem function now and in the future?
  • How did humans evolve and diversify?
  • Are we living in the Anthropocene - the Age of Men?

The objectives of the museum’s research programme are to:

  • make scientific breakthroughs at the highest international level
  • attract and develop research talent
  • pursue clear scientific targets, with the focus on basic research

Traditionally, the museum has been particularly heavily involved in exploration of Denmark and the North Atlantic, especially Greenland, but its expeditions are truly global and include regular exploration of Tanzanian mountain rainforests, the jungles of Thailand, Siberian coniferous forests, the Ethiopian highlands and the ocean depths.

The extensive collections brought back from these expeditions form the basis for a wide range of international research. The basis for our research is therefore the museum’s collections, in the broadest sense. The objects range from “stardust” and meteorites to rocks and fossils, specimens of present-day plants, animals and fungi, supplemented by a wealth of information about the context in which they were found.

The collections also include a large amount of data not related to particular objects in the museum, e.g. bird-ringing data, species-distribution data and geological mapping generated over the centuries. The collections provide an international, state-of-the-art infrastructure that encourages groundbreaking research.

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