Research framework

Research framework

The research and outreach work of the museum is organized into six areas of emphasis under the motto "Evolution of organisms and ecosystems":

1. Biological systematics and phylogeny
The collections-based description of species and higher taxa and their interpretation in an evolutionary context is one of our core areas of expertise and is the basis for all further research.

2. Biodiversity and biogeography
The diversity of life is examined at three hierarchical levels - biodiversity of genes, of species, and of ecosystems. Long-term biodiversity studies are combined with biogeographical analyses.

3. Ecology of fossil and Recent ecosystems
The analysis of complex ecosystems from different time slices provides us with profound insights into biological communities and their relationships with habitat and climate. Our extensive expertise in botany, paleobotany, zoology, paleozoology, and ecophysiology facilitates a broad research approach.

4. Open research
Open research topics allow us to respond flexibly to current issues and societal demands.

5. Collections development and scientific preparation
The collections are archives of biodiversity, and are rigorously maintained and expanded. This includes the development of tissue and DNA archives. Diverse methodologies for specimen preparation and modern imaging techniques for both research and collections are being further developed. Digital documentation and integration of collections into international databases is ongoing.

6. Knowledge transfer: Communication and exhibition design
The effective transfer of knowledge into society is one of the core competencies of the museum and influences its perception by the general public. The close connection between research, exhibitions, and knowledge transfer is a strength of the SMNS. The exhibitions are constantly being updated, as are new methods of knowledge transfer. We are thus one of the most important providers of outreach education in the natural sciences in the state.

Cross-cutting themes

Within this research and outreach framework, medium-term cross-cutting areas of special research emphasis strengthen internal cohesion and build the museum’s external research profile.

QT 1 Integrative phylogeny and evolution of life-history strategies
Key events in organismal evolution are investigated, based on the collections strengths of the SMNS: specifically in arthropods, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Morphological data from fossils and recent organisms are combined with molecular data to generate robust, time-constrained phylogenetic hypotheses. The resulting trees allow new hypotheses on the impact of evolutionary adaptations and life-history strategies on the development of biodiversity to be tested.

QT 2 Biodiversity patterns: species and their distribution
Where do species live and why? We integrate diverse methods to capture species diversity and distribution in selected model regions with high biodiversity, from islands and archipelagoes to savannahs and deserts. The aim is to use these model regions to gain a comprehensive understanding of biogeographical patterns and biological processes as a prerequisite for long-term preservation of biodiversity.

QT 3 Biodiversity in the Anthropocene - Model region Baden-Württemberg
The number and variety of natural areas and high species diversity make Baden-Württemberg an ideal model region for biodiversity research. The influence of human activities on species distribution and population sizes is investigated within the framework of long-term collection and monitoring programs. The data - collected through the collaboration of researchers at the SMNS with local volunteers (citizen scientists) - serves as a basis for effective conservation efforts.

QT 4 Reconstructing fossil ecosystems
Baden-Württemberg provides a number of internationally renowned and scientifically important fossil Lagerstätten that are the focus of collection and study by the SMNS. These deposits cover ~ 250 million years, ranging from the Triassic Buntsandstein, Muschelkalk and Keuper to the Posidonia Shale and Jurassic lithographic limestones to the Miocene Randecker Maar and Quaternary localities. Ongoing scientific excavations and lab-based analysis of geological and palaeontological data enables the reconstruction of the paleoecology of ancient habitats.