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Naturhistoriska riksmuseet (NRM)

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Collections & Expertise

SE-TAFs collections at the Swedish Museum of Natural History (NRM) contain more than 10 million biological, palaeontological and geological specimens (including organisms, fossils, minerals, wet collections, frozen tissues, DNA, slides, etc). They are characterized and distinguished from other European collections by specific areas of strength: ● rich and extensive collections from tropical regions, especially South America, and high-latitude and polar regions; ● unique type and historical collections ● an Environmental Specimen Bank.

The collections consist of nine core collections and are managed in five departments (see table below). Each core collection includes numerous type specimens of which a minimum of 161,000 primary types have been recognized, and many more remain to be identified. Many special collections are unique globally (e.g., Linné Herbarium, Herbarium Regnellianum, Chinese fossil plant collection, historical Swartz collection). Modern facilities for specimen storage in liquid nitrogen exist at the centralized repository for NRM’s frozen collections (due 2016).

Approximately 29% or almost 3 million specimens are digitized, and the majority of them are accessible via the Internet (status 2015). NRM is leading the development of an international Nordic-Baltic open-source information system for natural history collections, DINA (in progress).

Department and core collection Collection highlights
MFÖ – Environmental Specimen Bank A core facility for national contaminant monitoring in Sweden.Long time series of more than 333,000 samples from terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. These high-quality collections are of immense value for molecular analyses and extraction of chemical compounds for ecotoxicological and related studies.
PAL – Fossil Plants More than 250,000 specimens consisting of macro-, meso- and microfossils.Particularly important collections from China, Sweden, and polar regions.H.J. Schweitzer collection containing approx. 10,000 specimens from Iran, Afghanistan, Bear Island, Germany and many other remote localities.
PAL – Fossil Animals Of an estimated 900,000 items, about half are from Sweden, and most of the remainder from Europe (incl. the Arctic islands of Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Novaya Zemlya and Vaigach).
BOT – Vascular plants Over 3 million specimens, >52,000 types registered to date.Large and unique collections from areas with a high level of biodiversity (e.g. South America and the Caribbean [Herbarium Regnellianum], South Africa).Historical Swartz collections (also covering non-vascular plants).50,000 pollen and spore slides.
BOT – Non-vascular plants & fungi 1.53 million specimens, including more than 50,000 primary types.Significant lichen collection from South America (G. Malme, R. Santesson).One of the largest bryophyte herbaria worldwide with >715,000 specimens.
ZOO – Vertebrates Important and unique material from all continents comprising 163,000 bird, 51 000 mammal, more than 500,000 fish and 50,000 reptile and amphibian specimens.
ZOO – Invertebrates Over 580,000 lots of which the mollusc collection, 300,000 lots, is particularly strong in material from high latitude areas and also from hydrothermal vents.
ZOO – Insects, spiders and myriapods 3 million specimens of a broad systematic and geographic coverage, and including very valuable historical collections (e.g., De Geer).
GEO – Minerals 180,000 catalogued (digital database) specimens.Rich collections from the famous Långban mines (25,000 samples).

Department of: MFÖ, Environmental Research and Monitoring. PAL, Palaeobiology. BOT, Botany. ZOO, Zoology. GEO, Geosciences.

SE-TAF scientists at NRM’s research division are experts in a wide range of disciplines within the natural sciences and conduct research on the development and diversity of the Earth and life on it. See below for research conducted at SE-TAF.

Examples of particularly strong expertise represented by SE-TAF scientists:

World-leading authority on Bayesian phylogenetic inference methods
Outstanding skills in Molecular techniques at the Center for Genetic Identification, such as:

  • Obtaining DNA sequences from museum collections, development of bar codes (molecular diagnostic for species-level identification) resulting in significant input to the international BARCODE OF LIFE project
  • Excellence in palaeogenetics and palaeo-phylogeography, that allow e.g. genetic studies of museum and other specimens up to several thousands of years old
  • Pioneering the use of nuclear genes for phylogenetic reconstructions
World leading expertise in phylogeny, systematics and taxonomy:Early Metazoans; brittle stars/Ophiuroidea; Acoela, Nemertodermatida, Rhabditophora; Fish, Cichlids;   Molluscs; Insects, Trichoptera, Water Beetles; Carnivorous mammals; Seed   plants, high latitude floras, Asterales, Ericales; Pleurocarpous mosses, emphasis on arctic & temperate taxa; Lichenized fungi, Arthoniales; Ascomycetes, Pezizomycetes; Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic floras
World-class expertise in the origins of multicellular life, exploring alternative models of mode and location of origin
One of the world’s leading research groups on the evolution, biogeography and adaptations of birds, collaborating with DK-TAF, GB-TAF and FR-TAF
Outstanding competences on pleurocarpous mosses, complementing expertise at NL-TAF
Excellent expertise in contaminant research
Pioneers in the application of X-ray microtomography to the study of fossil animals and plants
First-class expertise in mineral spectroscopy and isotope analyses
Excellence in ion-microbeam analytical applications combined with studies of Hadean/early Archaean surface environments and Earth’s earliest life

Analytical facilities and services:

SE-TAF’s dedicated research laboratory and service space covers more than 1,100 m², and includes advanced analytical facilities and excellent libraries.

For a full list of the equipment that Users can apply to use, click here.

Facilities for biological and palaeontological research. The state-of-the-art DNA laboratories include i.a., an automated sequencer, a Next Generation Sequencing instrument enabling high throughput sequencing and small genome sequencing, and an ancientDNA lab. The use of the latter for museum specimens is encouraged. Modern transmission and scanning electron microscopes for ultra-structure studies of biological materials, excellent services for physical handling and x-ray investigation of zoological specimens, a laboratory for analysis of X-ray microtomography data, and imaging facilities are available.

Facilities for geological and geochemical research include a modern clean laboratory for low-level contamination chemical preparation of rock, sediment and water samples, a mineral synthesis laboratory, an X-ray diffractometer, as well as equipment for Mössbauer and polarised single crystal micro-FTIR and micro-UV/VIS/NIR spectroscopy, as well as advanced mass spectrometers for isotope analysis. The recently up-graded high mass-resolution ion microprobe (NORDSIM facility) is one of only few such instruments in Europe, and the only one in the SYNTHESYS consortium. NRM host the national infrastructure Vegacenter, a state-of-the-art microbeam analytical and imaging facility.  It permits to conduct a wide range of innovative research in the geosciences, such as investigation of chemical and isotopic composition, atomic structure and surface texture of both natural and synthetic materials. The Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope facility includes Energy-Dispersive, Cathodoluminescence, Wavelength-dispersive, and Back-scatter electron detectors. This set of geo-analytical equipment complements the facilities offered by GB-TAF, the only other SYNTHESYS partner with particular strengths in geological analysis.

Information technology. NRM is the Swedish node for Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF; www.gbif.se), and a member of the FishBase Consortium, a Global Information System on Fishes. It hosts one of their servers. Computing resources beyond standard PC and Macintosh hardware and programs comprise advanced phylogenetic software and GIS and imaging analyses facilities. See above for collection databases.

Research supported by the infrastructure

NRM’s research activities are focused into four themes:

The Changing Earth. Traces of the point of onset of life on earth are investigated applying high-resolution isotopic micro-analyses techniques on the best preserved early-Archean rocks in West Greenland. The emergence and establishment of multicellular life in the context of global climatic and atmospherical evolution are explored using integrated geochemical and palaeontological approaches. NRM scientists also investigate the development of the Fennoscandian bedrock and petrogenesis of sulphide and iron ores, flow of elements between different reservoirs of the Earth, the occurrence of major water repositories in Earth’s mantle, and the mineral chemistry at the atomic level. The sources and fate of key trace elements in the marine environment are investigated using improved techniques for the determination of long-lived radioisotopes in low concentrations. The expertise and technical facilities present at SE-TAF under this theme are unique in the SYNTHESYS consortium.

Ecosystems and Species History. Research is directed at understanding events in evolutionary time through analysis of ancient faunas and floras and their changes in space and time. Focal points are the origin and early evolution of animals, the phylogenetic diversification and ecological radiation of flowering plants and seed plants, and the evolution of modern mammals. The expertise and extensive and exceptional collections available for this research under SE-TAF are unparalleled in the SYNTHESYS consortium.

The Diversity of Life. This research addresses organismal relationships at all levels, the evolution of morphological and other traits and phylogeography, as well as the survey, analyses and description of biodiversity at a global level. NRMs scientist thus contribute directly with critical knowledge to the preservation and management of the world’s natural capital, its biological diversity (EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/comm2006/2020.htm). An international expert panel recently assessed NRM’s biodiversity research and its scientific relevance as outstanding. The research also benefits from the presence of a world-leading authority in phylogenetic methods.

Man and the Environment. NRM leads and participates in national and international monitoring programmes that study environmental contaminants and their effects in terrestrial and marine environments. These studies on levels of environmental contaminants in wildlife cover of the longest time-spans in the world. So do the associated time-series of frozen tissues in the continuously and actively developed Environmental Specimen Bank. The effects of exposure to pollutants on the reproductive and endocrine systems in large marine mammals and links with potential population levels are analysed. Other topics dealt with under this theme concern , bird migration, pollen allergenes and biochemical and geochemical processes of organic substances in the environment. Expertise and collections supporting the research under this theme are unique in Europe.