The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin is an integrated research museum within the Leibniz Association.
Alongside knowledge transfer, research and its collections are the main pillars of the Museum’s work. It is one of the most important research institutions worldwide in the areas of biological and geological evolution and biodiversity.
The MfN collections were brought together over more than two centuries from all over the world. They are a unique cultural asset and inextricably linked to the Museum’s research. They comprise over 30 million items covering zoology, palaeontology, geology, and mineralogy and are of highest scientific and historical importance. A part of the MfN collection is available online, like the Animal Sound Archive.
The MfN has research partners in Berlin, Germany and approximately 60 other countries. Circa 650 international researchers visit and use the MfN collections every year, for around 1,800 user days. Over 800,000 visitors per year, as well as steadily increasing participation in educational and other events show that it has become an innovative communication centre that helps shape the scientific and social dialogue about the future of our earth – worldwide.
The MfN offers an unrivalled collection of recent animals, fossil plants and animals, and mineralogical material. With recently upgraded state-of-the-art storage and laboratory facilities, the MfN is the largest Natural History depository in Germany. Collections are mostly arranged in systematic order, providing easy access for researchers. The MfN houses several special collections, such as the Ehrenberg collection of microorganisms and the unique Hubrecht collection of sectioned vertebrate embryos. The MfN also hosts one of the largest collections of animal sound recordings in the world, comprising approximately 120,000 recordings.
The libraries hold 200,000 volumes with subscriptions to approximately 850 periodicals, with a special emphasis on rare works dating back to the 15th century as well as literature from Eastern Europe, Russia, and the CIS, forming a unique resource within the central European area.
The historical research department comprises an extensive collection of historical documents, publications, pictures, and biological models. It is a unique source for the history of the museum and the history of the scientific disciplines practised here. The collection contains a number of historical letters, collection lists, scientific sketches as well as documentation of expeditions.
The state-of-the-art facility DNA laboratory is equipped for all molecular systematics techniques, enabling high-throughput routines from automated DNA extraction to sequencing. The facility has devices for DNA and RNA analyses (standard sequencing and fragment analyses). Dedicated technicians help users in all practical aspects of lab work. Sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear markers is routinely employed (including sample >100 years old), as well as genotyping (microsatellites and AFLPs) and genomics/transcriptomics of non-model organisms.
A wide array of imaging techniques and techniques for physical and chemical analyses is utilised: Morphological laboratories include a state-of-the-art environmental scanning electron microscope, fully digital transmission electron microscope, a confocal laser scan microscope, fully motorised compound microscopes, fluorescence microscopy, and many partly motorised stereo microscopes, mostly equipped with digital cameras. The equipment is housed in a central modern lab, recently upgraded with immunochemistry facilities and supervised by staff, enabling visitors to conduct research on diverse topics. A GE Phoenix Nanotom Micro-CT machine allows analysis of a range of samples, up to a resolution of 0.5 μm (temporarily closed for Call 2). Sophisticated technologies are employed to digitalise the collections, such as the SatScan system for whole drawer imaging, DISC3D resulting in high resolution image sequences, and DigiLine.
A geoscience lab comprises a range of state-of-the-art mineralogical-geochemical apparatus and stable isotope facilities. Instrumentation includes X-ray fluorescence and a micro-XRF instrument for rapid in situ analysis of materials. Transmitted and reflected light polarisation microscopy, cathodo-luminescence and micro-Raman spectrometry provide comprehensive optical analysis. This is complemented by a field-emission cathode electron microprobe. Hyper-element mapping is carried out routinely. Two scanning electron microscopes are available for micro-textural and EDS analysis (one supporting low-vacuum research). Stable isotope mass spectrometry is focused on the analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotopes in bulk rock and sediments and tissue samples for food web analysis. Additionally carbonate samples can by analysed for oxygen and carbon isotopes for the reconstruction of past climate and past carbon cycling.
Contact: Maraike Willsch, synthesys.germany(@)mfn.berlin