World Class Research Programs

Since its foundation in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History has played a leading role in exploration, discovery, and theoretical advances in the natural sciences. Through a global program of expeditions and collecting, the AMNH has amassed a collection of more than 32 million specimens and artifacts, inspiring research and publications that have forged new theories on the way we look at cultures, biological organisms, and the evolution of life.
Today, science at the American Museum of Natural History thrives and expands on these earlier accomplishments. The work of scientific research, training, laboratory work, and collections management concern more than 200 scientific personnel, including more than 40 tenure-track curators/faculty. The museum's doctoral training program represents the largest and most diversified program of its kind offered by any unaffiliated museum. The collections and research assets are cultivated by continued exploration-over 120 expeditions and field projects annually.

These achievements notwithstanding, the Museum continues, as science advances, to be vigilant about its effectiveness. In the late 1990s the Museum established several new research programs and directions in order to enhance the quality and competitiveness of its scientific research, develop new multidisciplinary endeavors, and improve databasing, access, and care of the scientific collections and library holdings.


Painted ceremonial mask representing a human face.
The Division of Anthropology is dedicated to the study of human culture and biology, continuing in the tradition established by Franz Boas and Margaret Mead. Members of the Division carry out ethnological research in Asia, Africa, North, Central and South America, and study such global topics as warfare and the origins of the state. Projects include the archaeology of Native American peoples from South America, Mesoamerica, and North America; the ethnology of Asia and South America; and the physical anthropology of humans from all times and places.


Invertebrate Zoology

The Division of Invertebrate Zoology brings together a broad range of systematic and methodological expertise, including all aspects of research dealing with non-vertebrate animals at the American Museum of Natural History. Current research projects focus on the taxonomy of leeches, spiders, scorpions, rove beetles, plant bugs, and parasitic bees; higher level systematic studies of Hymenoptera, Araneae, and Protostomia; research on the earliest true flies, from the Triassic; and the development of new algorithms and approaches for phylogenetic analysis, which are being combined with geographic modeling to give insights into the origins and prediction of pathogenicity. The Division is a leader in DNA sequencing and sequence analysis, fostering research that led to the establishing of the Institute for Comparative Genomics.



RGGS Paleo
The Division of Paleontology seeks to describe the diversity of extinct invertebrates and vertebrates and explore the mechanisms driving their evolution and extinction. The Division’s research programs focus on a variety of fossil organisms, including trilobites, ammonites, sharks, turtles, dinosaurs, and mammals, and cover a range of topics, encompassing higher level systematic studies of mammals and archosaurians; the use of fossil mammal faunas to investigate patterns of global climate change; using information on the early ontogenetic development of ammonoids and nautiloids to reconstruct the phylogeny of these groups; and exploring the evolution of the Carnivora through a combination of traditional paleontological techniques with molecular biology through a combination of paleontological techniques with molecular biology and fieldwork.


Physical Sciences

The Division of Physical Sciences incorporates scientists from the Departments of Astrophysics and of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Research in Astrophysics at the Museum focuses on the formation and evolution of planets, stars and galaxies.  The program includes observations from major ground and space-based observatories including the Hubble Space Telescope, instrumentation development for direct imaging of extrasolar planets, and computational modeling using resources of the Division, the AMNH Parallel Computing Facility, and national supercomputer centers. Research in Earth and Planetary Sciences investigates the mineral and chemical origins of solar systems, the seismic and volcanic behavior of Earth, the formation of minerals, gems, rocks, and mineral deposits; and the role and behavior of volatile elements (carbon, chlorine, fluorine, sulfur, and water) during seismicity and volcanism and in the formation of rocks, minerals, gems, and ores.


Vertebrate Zoology

The Division of Vertebrate Zoology, which includes scientists from the Departments of HerpetologyIchthyologyMammalogy, and Ornithology is currently undertaking research on fish conservation in Madagascar, central Africa, Vietnam, Brazil, and Venezuela; phylogenetics of catfishes, cichlids, and other groups of fishes; biogeography and systematics of reptiles and amphibians of Madagascar and Guyana; phylogenetics of lizards; mammal inventories in French Guiana, Peru, the Central African Republic, and Vietnam; systematics and phylogenetic studies of rodents, marsupials, and bats; studies of recent mammal extinctions on Caribbean Islands; studies of mammalian pathogens and possible links to extinctions; surveys of bird diversity and distribution patterns in South America, Southeast Asia, and Australasia; and studies of molecular and morphological phylogenetics of many groups of birds.


The Institute for Comparative Genomics

Female scientist working in lab.
The Institute for Comparative Genomics was established in 2001 as a center for collections, research, and training in the field of non-human comparative genomics. In support of this objective, the Institute supports seminal research in the study of gene variation which informs the understanding of the human genome and the broader evolutionary tree of life, advancing the use of comparative genomics in biodiversity and conservation, and exporting innovative approaches to areas of human health and infectious diseases. That effort has now become the focus for more than 70 research staff using facilities that include modern molecular laboratories, substantial bioinformatics capacity, and a frozen-tissue collection facility. These, together with research partnerships with other prominent scientific institutions, such as the New York Botanic Garden, position the Museum to enhance its important contributions to genomics research, particularly in microbial science.


The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation

Two women looking down at the grassy ground in a forest.
The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC), which was founded in 1993, brings together AMNH scientists, collections, library resources, technology, and external collaborators to respond to the regional, national, and global biodiversity crisis. The center strives to integrate scientific knowledge into conservation practice and resource management and disseminates that knowledge widely. It also supports the training of professionals and graduate students from developing countries and assists institutions in the United States and abroad with outreach programs. The CBC carries out a broad range of integrated research programs that focus on world areas where biodiversity is richest and most threatened, with current projects in The Bahamas, Bolivia, Madagascar and southern Africa, Vietnam, and the United States.