The KU Biodiversity Institute is a research center with a worldwide collection of more than 8 million plants and animals that document the life of the planet, past and present, and 1.2 million archeological artifacts that document the past cultures of the Great Plains. Research and collections at the Biodiversity Institute encompass birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, mammals, plants, sea anemones, parasites, insects, and fossil plants and animals.
More than 120 scientists and graduate students in the institute study the species, ecosystems and cultures of the planet to understand the history, composition, geography and evolution of life. They use this information to model and forecast environmental phenomena that are critical to human well-being, including threatened and endangered species, the potential spread of diseases and pest species, and the effect of climate change on Earth’s biodiversity and habitats.
Current research includes:
- Tracking and predicting the spread of avian influenza and other animal-borne diseases worldwide
- Documenting the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, insects and parasites from world’s biodiversity hotspots in parts of South America, Africa and Southeast Asia
- Using plant fossils as past climatic and environmental indicators, especially the use of fossil tree rings as proxy climate records
- Understanding the evolution of leaf beetles, which are part of the hunting culture of the San Bushmen of Namibia
- Reconstructing past climates and environments using fossil plants, particularly fossil tree rings