Research- and Collection Strategies

Research strategy - 3. zoology (invertebrates)

The identity of the Natural History Museum Vienna, as a research institution, is heavily based on its collections.

The 3rd Zoological Department houses collections encompassing all animal phyla. The main research focuses have emerged in light of the historically developed collections and the focuses of the individual scientists. The 3rd Zoological Department primarily deals with invertebrate animals. The staff expertise enables us to tackle a broad range of topics. The efforts are defined both by the strengths of individual personal expertise and the collection priorities. The Department’s strategy is to actively pursue third-party funded research, especially in the fields of systematics, phylogeny, biodiversity, zoogeography and ecology.

The Department has also developed competence in applied research, for example in nature conservation and in the monitoring of parasites, and strives to further develop this approach. Another ongoing Department focus is targeted studies on the data quality of the collections. The results and conclusions are being published in the relevant scientific journals. Ongoing efforts are being made to promote cooperations within the museum, with other scientific institutions and in the framework of international programs.

Collection strategy - 3. zoology (invertebrates)

Preserving and expanding the collections are among the core tasks of the Department staff. Beyond the extensive dry collections and micro-preparations, the alcohol collections have an important status due to the preserved DNA they contain. These date back as far as the 18th century and were (and continue to be) considerably expanded by material collected by prominent researchers. The collections are among the internationally most significant ones; they represent major foundations for research, and national law classifies them as cultural assets. This means they must be properly stored according to international standards.

The objects housed in the collections are information repositories. They represent an important documentation of evolution and biodiversity, making them cornerstones of research as well as evidence in the support of scientific hypotheses. Moreover, they also document the history of science. It is our duty to preserve and provide access the collections as an important element of the national and international research landscape. Collection objects are also used in exhibitions and presentations to convey natural science content. They contribute to our understanding of evolution and the diversity of life and help spark the inquisitiveness of youngsters.

The value of the collections is tapped by using them. In order to preserve and enhance the objects as information sources in space and time, the collections must be dynamic and continuously renewed. They continue to be expanded by purchases, gifts and ongoing collection activities. Nonetheless, the usefulness of accepting and incorporating outside collections must first be examined from a scientific, conservatorial and financial perspective. The deposition of important material (for example type species) should be promoted, whereas the incorporation of random amateur collections should be restricted. Collections by staff members are primarily conducted in the framework of targeted research projects.
A criteria catalog governing the incorporation of new objects/collections has been compiled.
The collections have almost exclusively been acquired. About 40% of them have already been fully inventoried. The level of digitalization is considerably lower. The goal is to make all the data digitally available.

Numerous scientists who use the collections fund their stays through national and international programs. Especially important in this regard is the EU-program CETAF/SYNTHESYS. We attach great importance to participating in international programs to utilize collections.

The use of the collections is under the responsibility of the division heads and the curators. Material is loaned only under strict loan requirements and has been tightly restricted due to the many risks involved. Preference is given to studying material on site. Visitor workspaces equipped with light microscopes are available. Destructive study methods are authorized solely in well-justified exceptions. Extractions or loans for DNA or for isotope studies are subject to special conditions of use.