Much of what we know about biodiversity and its origins comes from the collection, preservation and ongoing study of natural specimens and cultural remains. Museum collections are libraries of the world’s biological, cultural and environmental history and are vital to our ability to interpret the past and understand our place in its future. As such, museums are stewards of this history, preserving it for posterity while fostering an informed appreciation of our complex and ever-changing world.
The Florida Museum’s Division of Collections and Research is dedicated to understanding and preserving biological diversity and cultural heritage. Utilizing millions of specimens and artifacts housed within the Museum, our scientists are at the forefront of exploring some of today’s most pressing and fascinating scientific issues.
As of 2017, the Florida Museum houses more than 40 million specimens and objects, making us the Southeast’s largest natural history museum and one of the top five nationally in terms of collections size. Many of our individual department collections rank among the top 10 in the U.S., and some rank among the top 10 globally. These vast holdings are available locally and internationally to scholars, scientists, students and the public through on-site study, public exhibitions, loans, publications, television and the Internet.
Scientific research on the collections has direct applications for these fields of study:
- Biomedical research
- Climate change
- Cultural and environmental change
- Cultural heritage and diversity, both today and in the past
- Distributions of plant, animal, and human populations
- Endangered species
- Environmental contaminants
- Evolution and extinction
- Origins of life and disease
- Use of natural resources
Our Impact on Science & Teaching
National Academy of Sciences Members:
- Elizabeth Wing, Curator Emerita, Environmental Archaeology
Distinguished Professors, Chairs:
- Kathleen Deagan, Distinguished Research Curator of Archaeology
- Scott Robinson, Ordway Eminent Scholar
- Pam Soltis, Distinguished Research Professor of Molecular Systematics and Evolutionary Genetics
Special Achievements, 2015-2016:
- Dr. Kathleen A. Deagan was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- Dr. Kathleen A. Deagan and Dr. Jerald T. Milanich were honored with 2015 lifetime achievement awards from the Southeastern Archaeological Conference.
- Dr. Douglas S. Jones was named Chair of the Board for the American Alliance of Museums.
- Dr. William Marquardt received an Exceptional Leadership Award from the Florida Association of Museums.
- Dr. William Marquardt received the Southeastern Archaeological Conference Patty Jo Watson Award for best publication in the field of southeastern U.S. archaeology.
- Dr. Jacqueline Miller was elected as an honorary member of the Entomological Society of America.
- Dr. Douglas Soltis and Dr. Pam Soltis were named to the Thomas Reuters 2015 Highly Cited Researchers list, representing the top 1 percent in their field.
- Dr. Douglas Soltis and Dr. Pam Soltis received the 2016 Darwin-Wallace Medal from the Linnean Society of London, considered one of the top international awards given to researchers studying evolutionary biology.
- Dr. Pam Soltis was named Director of the University of Florida Biodiversity Initiative.
- Dr. Pam Soltis was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences
- 36 Courses taught by Museum faculty
- 168 Graduate Committees Served
- 106 Graduate Committees Chaired
- 47 Independent Studies Supervised
In addition, 160 undergraduates and 27 postdoctoral fellows were trained in Museum labs and collections. Museum faculty and staff taught more than 600 students in 36 courses through the departments of Anthropology, Biology, Entomology & Nematology, Geological Sciences, Wildlife Ecology & Conservation and others. They also oversaw independent studies and research topics for 47 students totaling more than 600 credit hours.
Florida Museum of Natural History scientists had an outstanding year with 27 faculty overseeing about $65 million in total external grant support for research and collection activities, including 36 new and 24 continuing grants totaling $8.3 million.
- 187 Peer-reviewed publications
- 1,125 Scientific and other visitors to collections
- 554 Collection loans of 37,620 specimens and artifacts
- 40+ Million total specimens
- 187 Undergraduates and postdoctoral fellows working in collections
- 24 Countries including the U.S. where Museum scientists conducted research
- 12 States including Florida where Museum scientists conducted research
- 13,777 Accessions to collections
- 383,962 New specimens and artifacts cataloged
- American Association of Museums
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- Consortium for the Barcode of Life
- Florida Association of Museums
- Natural Science Collections Alliance
- Southeastern Museums Conference
Our Impact on the Future
During the Age of Discovery, when Europeans first visited Florida, explorers circumnavigated the globe, opening doors to new worlds and revealing the organisms and cultures that inhabited them. The Florida Museum continues that voyage of discovery each day through its collections and research initiatives. The Museum provides a rare window into Florida’s ancient past, illustrating the rich abundance of life and unique habitats pre-dating the arrival of humans by millions of years.
Archaeological collections record the presence of the first Floridians who hunted the great mammoths and mastodons, to the Calusa, Timucua, and the people who greeted Ponce de Leon and his contemporaries thousands of years later. This record of life and culture is irreplaceable, the foundation upon which our understanding of modern Florida is based, and the starting point we use to assess changes to its ecosystems and inhabitants.
The enormous scientific collections at the Florida Museum, and the aggressive research initiatives of faculty, staff and students, play a crucial role in documenting and understanding biotic and cultural change. By creating new knowledge through research, and translating these findings into effective public education programs and exhibits, the Museum touches thousands of lives and raises awareness of the natural world. It inspires people to appreciate and preserve our surroundings for generations to come.
The Museum will continue its long tradition of active collecting, research and student training to prepare the next generation of conservationists, ecologists, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists for the challenges ahead, protecting the diverse and astounding complexity of life on Earth.