Research and Teaching


The study of diversity in nature is traditionally the focus of research done by natural history museums. For this goal the collections are the background, and to document the variety of forms was the purpose of scientific collecting since the 18th century. Today some 1.4 million animal species are described, but estimates on their real number amount to 10 and even 30 million species. Due to habitat destruction and environmental changes many of these will go extinct before they become known to science. At the same time the number of systematists – i.e. the specialists familiar with the various groups of organisms – is drastically declining throughout the world. Systematics has been banned from the research and teaching programmes of most European universities. Thus the natural history museums are today the refuges for systematic knowledge.

Collection-based research is therefore the foundation of NMBE’s research activities. These, however, encompass not only purely taxonomic studies, for very often these give rise to new questions about the functional morphology, behaviour and evolutionary relationships of the animals under investigation.

In mineralogy the situation is somewhat different: The numbers of minerals, based on the number of chemical elements, is restricted to some 4000 mineral species, and they do not originate from an evolutionary process by which species evolve into new species. But again the museum specimens are indispensable for mineralogical research.


The link between NMBE and the University of Bern has a long tradition. With the founding of the local university in the 19th century professors of zoology and geology acted as curators for the museum collections. Today three museum staff scientists are involved in teaching at the University of Bern.

Dr. Stefan Hertwig: Teaching at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern:
Biodiversity of animals, vertebrates, principles of zoological systematics and phylogeny reconstruction, journal club of the Natural History Museum Bern.
Dr. Beda Hofmann: Teaching at the Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Bern
Dr. Christian Kropf: Teaching at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern:
Biodiversity of animals, invertebrates. Compulsory lecture and practical course for biology students of the 4th semester.
Phylogeny of arthropods. Lecture for advanced zoology students.
Fundamentals of zoological systematics. Lecture for advanced zoology students.
Zoological Excursions.