Collectively, CETAF institutions manage half of the world’s biological collections. The range of specimens in CETAF taxonomic facilities holds a wealth of stories about the past, present and future of the natural world around us. This unique infrastructure represents a precious resource for research on global biodiversity.
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Earth sciences - Life sciences - Heritage sciences
An estimated 1.5 billion specimens can be found in these collections: geological items; dried plants and fungi; or preserved animals, collected over the years by explorers and researchers. But this is not all: collections also hold biological resources such as tissues, cells and molecules. They hold artefacts like biological traces and constructions. Our libraries contain all the knowledge associated with these specimens. The importance of these facilities for the understanding and documenting of biodiversity on Earth cannot be overstated.
Taxonomic facilities like ours are essential for the work of biologists across a wide range of areas. Our taxonomic infrastructure plays a key role in such issues as sustainable development and climate change modelling. Researchers look to us not only to study our collections but for the taxonomic expertise we provide that supports their work. As well as holding, curating and preserving this rich heritage of biological collections, our organisations therefore have to meet the needs of a broad range of communities.
Earth sciences tell the story of the evolution and composition of our planet. The science of geology involves the study of the earth and its various components, its structure and the dynamic processes that have shaped it, as well as the reconstruction of the history of its formation.
Collections in this field cover mineral and sediment samples, meteorites and rocks both endogenous and exogenous. The science of mineralogy incorporates the study of the composition of rocks and the formation of minerals. As part of this, paleontological collections include organisms that have been fossilised over geological timescales, allowing them to be studied from an evolutionary perspective. Similarly, anthropological collections let us examine the evolution of hominids and prehistoric human societies.
Our life sciences collections are a vital resource for the study of living organisms: animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms. Research on these specimens helps us learn about their biology, their evolutionary histories and how populations of living species today can be preserved.
Natural history collections in CETAF member institutions focus on zoological, botanical or mycological specimens. Botanical collections are kept in herbaria as well as within botanical gardens as living collections. In some cases, and for research purposes, living collections on zoology and mycology are also available both for scientists and the general public. Some of our members also hold microbiological collections as well as collections of tissue, seed or genetic sequence samples.
Heritage science collections are formed by all the documents about our collections that bear witness to the history of natural sciences. The study and preservation of our planet’s natural heritage are global challenges for science.
These include books, periodicals and articles kept in our members' libraries as well as maps, art works, photographs, manuscripts, and travel diaries that may be held in the archives of libraries. Interdisciplinary expertise on heritage science supports conservation, access, interpretation and management, helping to facilitate the study of our collections and broader societal engagement.