Naturalis Biodiversity Center is a foundation established as a merger of the former natural history institutes of Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, Wageningen University, and the former National Natural History Museum Naturalis, Leiden, Netherlands. Collections kept by the former university institutes were integrated in the national natural history collection managed by Naturalis, in order to keep these collections, and the expertise related to the collections, available for research and academic teaching. Naturalis Biodiversity Center has been included on the National Roadmap for large-scale research infrastructure since 2009, on the base of the plan Making the Tree of Life Work (2008). Funding for investments was granted in 2009 (Fonds Economische Structuurversterking) and structural funding from the Dutch Science Ministry (OCW) and from the three universities earlier referred to was granted in 2008 and 2012-2013, respectively.
The integrated plant, fungal, animal, fossil, rock and minerals collections managed by Naturalis are, with 37 million specimens, in the global top tier. The collections have global coverage with especially strong representation of the Tropical South East Asia, West and Central Africa, the Neotropics and Western Europe. Images and data of more than 9 million specimens have been digitised, with the remainder of the collection digitised on higher aggregation levels. To date, about 6,6 million digitised images and other records are accessible via the Naturalis Bioportal, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and several other portals, thereby ensuring broad exposure and use. This unique collection is essential in our quest to understand life on our planet, but also to counter present biodiversity losses and to find solutions for a sustainable future.
The Naturalis research laboratories include molecular, morphological/imaging, culture and geological facilities and geographic information systems and bioinformatics capacities. The KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre (CBS-KNAW) and Naturalis jointly developed two facilities for DNA barcoding, one in Utrecht (fungi) and one in Leiden (plants, animals). Furthermore, Naturalis participates in the National facility for high-resolution in situ isotope and element analysis, Utrecht, with a Field Emission Gun-Electron MicroProbe (FEG-EMP), thereby completing the array of analytical capabilities for elemental and isotope surface analyses of geological samples and other materials in the micro to nano scale.
Naturalis Biodiversity Center has been conceived as the Dutch centre for academic teaching in collection-related biodiversity science, on the base of an ‘academische werkplaats’ (academic workplace) agreement with Leiden University, Wageningen University and the University of Amsterdam.
Naturalis is also a major natural history museum, receiving over 300,000 visitors per year, and with a strong programme in public outreach, education and heritage presentations and other services on the internet. More than 40,000 primary and secondary school children visit our facilities each year to learn about Life on Earth in all its facets.