AboutThe KU Biodiversity Institute studies past and present life on Earth to educate, engage, and inspire.  The institute, including the KU Natural History Museum, accomplishes this mission through the acquisition, curation and study of collections of plants, animals, fossil material and cultural artifacts for undergraduate, graduate and public education, as well as research and public and professional service.

The Biodiversity Institute’s worldwide collection of over 10 million specimens and 1.5 million archaeological artifacts encompass the study of archaeology, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, mammals, plants, parasites, insects, and fossil plants and animals. More than 100 research scientists and graduate students in the institute study the species, ecosystems, evolution and cultures of the planet. 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.

The KU Natural History Museum is home to four floors of public exhibits including the historic Panorama; live snakes and insects; vertebrate and invertebrate fossils; parasites and microbes; and the flora and fauna of the Great Plains. The museum provides content-rich, hands-on informal science learning for school groups in grades K–12. These programs have reached more than 40,000 participants over the past decade. The museum also offers a wide range of public programs and events.

Spring in the woods

Partnerships and Collaborations

The KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum has alliances and partnerships with many organizations at KU. They include:

The Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Geology. Many Biodiversity Institute research scientists have joint appointments in these campus departments, dividing their time across teaching, research and service.

The KU Biological Survey and Field Station. Botany scientists hold joint appointments with the Survey, and the KU Natural History Museum conducts joint public events with Survey and Biodiversity Institute scientists at the KU Field Station, located north of Lawrence.

The Paleontological Institute. Publisher of The Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, the Paleontological Institute is housed in Lindley Hall. An international encyclopedic reference for invertebrate paleontology, the Treatise has been published for 50 years and comprises 49 volumes.

The Commons. Together with the Hall Center for the Humanities and the Spencer Museum of Art, the Biodiversity Institute is a partner for the Commons. The Commons, based in Spooner Hall, is dedicated to exploring nature and culture across the sciences, humanities and arts, and was established to be a catalyst for unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries.

The KU Center for Research. KUCR is the entity responsible for submitting all proposals for external support of research, instructional and service projects. In addition, KUCR helps research investigators by negotiating contracts, providing proposal and post-award services, administering compliance oversight, managing and constructing research facilities, and handling financial services, including investment of corporation resources.

Insect on a rock

Research and Collections

From searching through the jungles of the Philippines for frog specimens to building computer models of ecological change, Biodiversity Institute researchers strive to understand the forces behind evolution, extinction and evolutionary change. Supporting that research are the more than 10 million specimens of plants and animals — prehistoric to living species, microscopic to colossal — gathered from every continent and ocean, as well as 1.5 million archeological artifacts that document the past cultures of the Great Plains. Our collections include DNA samples, sound recordings, images, tissues, skeletons and field notes. Ours is one of the world’s most comprehensive biodiversity research resources. Read more...

Dyche Hall


What began as a small natural history collection at the time the University of Kansas was founded has transformed into a hub of biodiversity research.

In 1864, as part of the university's charter, the Kansas legislature mandated that the university compile "a cabinet of natural history." For 40 years, under the leadership of Francis Huntington Snow, the museum amassed biological collections, and at the turn of the last century the Kansas legislature allocated funds to construct a new building to house them. Dyche Hall, now on the National Register of Historic Buildings, was completed in 1903 and named for early KU naturalist and explorer Lewis Lindsay Dyche.

In 1963, the university added a north wing to create additional laboratory and office space and 30 years later it expanded again with the addition to house ethanol-preserved collections. Read more...

People touring herbarium

The Biodiversity Institute Board

The KU Biodiversity Institute Board of Advisors is comprised of up to 18 people who meet quarterly to assist the Biodiversity Institute by improving the quality, abundance and scope of the Biodiversity Institute’s services. They advocate on behalf of the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum to university, local and regional communities, and to state, national and international audiences. The board joins the institute in discovering, documenting and disseminating knowledge of life on earth, past and present.

Each advisory board member volunteers to serve a three-year term and may be elected for up to three consecutive terms. Members use their diverse backgrounds to provide counsel to Biodiversity Institute staff, serve as ambassadors on behalf of the organization, offer financial support and develop resources, and craft strategic goals. Read more...