Berkeley Natural History Museums

California Spotted Owl
Strix occidentalis occidentalis; California Spotted Owl photographer is Kameron Perensovich, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 contributed to the UCJepson Slide Collection

The BNHM and field stations are internationally recognized laboratories for analysis of the evolution of biological diversity in response to environmental change. They have grown out of a strong tradition of collection in paleontology (UC Museum of Paleontology), botany (University & Jepson Herbaria and UC Botanical Garden), entomology (Essig Museum), vertebrate zoology (Museum of Vertebrate Zoology), and anthropology (Hearst Museum of Anthropology), coupled with an emphasis in field research at diverse field sites, including Angelo, Sagehen Creek, Hastings, and Blue Oak Ranch Reserves in California and the Gump South Pacific Station in French Polynesia.

The world-class collections (> 15.5 million specimens) and facilities enable research, teaching, and outreach in biological and environmental sciences at the world's leading public university. With their historical collections, strategically placed field stations, and strong organismal focus, faculty associated with the BNHM are now making use of new technology in genomics, computational biology, and environmental analyses. Researchers are combining these domains with biodiversity informatics to understand how morphological and genomic diversity mediates response to a changing environment. This in turn illuminates the most pressing environmental issues of today, including climate change, conservation biology, invasion biology, and land management.

Areas of research

Evolution of biodiversity - Combining species discovery, phylogenetic and biogeographic analyses, BNHM faculty and students test hypotheses about what generates diversity, from genes and individuals through species to communities. With a strong focus on biodiversity hotspots, California landscapes, and the tropics, the results identify strategies for improving conservation by focusing on the processes, as well as products of evolution.

Climate change - BNHM researchers use uniquely detailed historical datasets to identify responses to past climate change, from geological to recent timescales. In addition, ecological studies at field stations have identified how species interactions can affect ecosystem responses. Results improve forecasts of species and ecosystems responses to future climate change. Understanding how species responds to climate change, both prehistorically and in the modern anthropocene, is critical to understanding and facing the challenges of our future. Read more about the Grinnell Resurvey Project.

Child playing with a net in a field

Informatics pipelines to biodiversity data: Holos and the Ecoengine API - The Holos project, originally funded by the Keck Foundation, aims to rescue hidden data by digitizing and aggregating many diverse biological and environmental collections into the Berkeley Ecoinformatics Engine ('Ecoengine'), a web service that can be searched and visualized via graphical tools. The data in the Ecoengine is global in scope, like our research foci, and since much of the data is sourced from the University of California museums, reserves and partners, the data coverage for California is high. Come explore our tools, learn more about our mobilized data, and see how you can use our Ecoengine web services in your applications.


Students sitting at a tableThe BNHM provide numerous research opportunities for undergraduates, students receiving training in field work, specimen preparation, curation, molecular labs, and organismic evolution. In addition, hundreds of undergraduates visit the field stations every year, mostly for weekend classes. The BNHM also provides a rich environment for graduate education and postdoctoral research. BNHM has hosted over 30 Miller awardees (both postdocs and visiting professors) as well as recipients of the UC Berkeley's presidential fellowship.

The BNHM faculty teach many UC Berkeley courses in the sciences including a team-taught course in natural history museums (recently taught as ESPM/IB 105) where students gain an understanding of both curation and research at the BNHM.

Online services that BNHM supports further our educational reach with highly used sites such as Understanding Evolution, Understanding Science and AmphibiaWeb, which are used regularly by students in K-12 and universities around the world.


Children learning about science.Each BNHM sister museum and field stations offer research seminars, public events, workshops, and educational opportunities.
These include:

The BNHM is a regular and popular presence on Cal Day, with numerous displays and activities held in the Valley Life Sciences Building and its courtyard, with themes changing yearly.

The BNHM participates in Science at Cal and its mission of advancing public understanding of science. Meet and engage with BNHM scientists at Science at Cal events and talks such as Science on Solano or Grounds for Science. Check their listings or request one!

Member Museums

Member Field Stations

Staff contact
Mailing address

3101 VLSB, Berkeley, CA 94720-3060