The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) was founded in 1846, and houses c. 38 million specimens, which includes unique treasures such as: the Bernissart Iguanodons; the Spy Neanderthals; the Dautzenberg shell collection,; and Baron De Selys Longchamps’ insect collections. The collection is divided into six main sub collections: entomology, recent invertebrates, recent vertebrates, anthropology, palaeontology, and geology.
RBINS is a multidisciplinary institution with scientific staff specialised in biology, palaeontology, geology, oceanography, anthropology, prehistory, archaeobiology, geography, physics, bio-engineering, and mathematics.
The RBINS collection houses exceptionally rich and diverse zoological, palaeoanthropological, mineralogical and prehistoric collections amounting to 38,000,000 specimens - this includes 200,000 types and illustrated specimens, including 100,000 primary types. This places RBINS in the world top 10 collections in terms of volume of specimens stored and available for research.
Collections at RBINS are continually expanding, with 210,000 new specimens in 2016 and 180,000 in 2017. RBINS is databasing and imaging in priority the Types and illustrated specimens and performing digitization on demand. Specimen data are reported on GBIF (2018: 595,000 records representing 2863611 of specimens ).
RBINS develops tools and methods for monitoring natural land and marine environments. It also supports the development of national and European policies for the protection and conservation of biotopes and biodiversity, and serves as Belgium’s National Focal Point to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI).
RBINS has also been a content provider for the Biodiversity Heritage Library Project. In 2016, RBINS received 593 research visitors for 1361 visitor days, and sent 386 loans to other scientific institutions.
74 staff members are dedicated fully to the collections covering groups of invertebrates and vertebrates worldwide including terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems in Europe and other global regions (Africa, South East Asia, Papua New Guinea, South America, Russia and Antarctica). The institution is internationally renowned for collections management training in addition to other disciplines, and is currently supervising 64 PhD and 52 MSc students. A breakdown of collections available to visitors includes:
· Entomology (15 million specimens, including 15,000 types)
· Invertebrates (15 million)
· Vertebrates (600,000)
· Palaeontology (3 million)
· Belgian Geological Survey (40km cores, 30,000 minerals, 25,000 rocks, 425 Antarctic meteorites and 400 other meteorites)
· Anthropology/prehistory (350 human fossils, 200 fossils from Neolithic & Mesolithic individuals, and >1,500 individuals from other historical periods)
· Library (300,000 books and 450,000 journal volumes with several special collections including 35,000 geographical, hydrological and geological maps and the unique Dautzenberg collection concerning conchology)
The RBINS Laboratory for Molecular Systematics (LMS) provides a dynamic environment for researchers using various DNA markers for molecular research. On average the LMS is used by 20 – 30 researchers per year.
RBINS has developed pipelines allowing high resolution digitisation of specimens and associated documentation. This includes two micro scanners with a maximum resolution until 0.4μm, while other equipment produces 2D+ and 3D surface models using multispectral illumination if required.