Biodiversity Discovery

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The  launch of the new Center for Integrative Biodiversity Discovery at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin puts a new, forward-looking research focus on the map. A core aim of the center is to increase the efficiency of discovering and exploring global biodiversity. It will be instrumental in building an inventory of millions of known and as yet unknown animal species and investigate their role in their natural environment and what contribution they might make to the solution of many problems humanity is currently facing. 

The diversity of life (biodiversity) is one of the most complex and most fascinating phenomena on our planet. It is a crucial component of all global ecosystems and essential for maintaining their functioning, and thus ensuring the survival of mankind in the future. And yet we have hardly begun to understand the complexity of global biodiversity. The 1.5 million animal and plant species that have been discovered over the past 250 years through intense research, represent just a fraction of existing biodiversity. Scientists estimate that only 10 to 20% of species are actually known, with the vast majority of species that make up global biodiversity yet to be discovered. The amazing plethora of species may well hold the key to the solution of many social and scientific problems we humans are facing today. 

However, we do not have another 250 years left to explore the entirety of biodiversity. While the Earth system has always been subject to constant change, human activities have accelerated its dynamics. In the past 50 years, dramatic human-induced changes of global climate, biodiversity, the availability of farmland and many other factors have left a lasting and unfortunately mostly negative mark on our world. These changes endanger the stability of global ecosystems and thus our own future. 

Recording, exploring and preserving the diversity of species as an important part of global biodiversity is a scientific and social challenge of supreme importance. New technologies offer great opportunities of gaining deep knowledge about global biodiversity by making the process of recording and understanding global biodiversity more efficient. The Center for Integrative Biodiversity Discovery that has now been established at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin is doing just that. Using a variety of methods and closely collaborating with scientists throughout Germany and the wider world, we develop, test and apply new efficient methods of biodiversity discovery that allow us to describe many yet unknown animal species. We will not only develop methods of faster species discovery and description at the center, but also conduct research projects on selected groups of organisms in close collaboration with institutions focusing on practical applications in medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture and food technology. 

The center will form a department within the science program Collection Development and Biodiversity Discovery at the Museum für Naturkunde, thus emphasizing the fundamental role and significance of the scientific collections of the Museum as a global research infrastructure. The center employs more than 20 members of staff with different qualifications, including scientists who are directly responsible for the collections. At the head of the center will be a Professor for Integrative Biodiversity Discovery who will be jointly appointed by the Museum für Naturkunde and the Institute for Biology at the Humboldt-Universität. Until then, PD Dr. Michael Ohl will be Acting Director of the centre, with Dr. Thomas von Rintelen as his deputy. 

The „Center for Integrative Biodiversity Discovery“ is a permanent strategic extension of the MfN and will be jointly funded by the German Government and the Federal State of Berlin.