Doing what little one can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as respectable an object of life, as one can in any likelihood pursue.
The Museum’s scientists, as part of the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias (BRCC), conduct original research that follows in the footsteps of the pioneering work of Charles Darwin. Whether it is leading expeditions to wonderful and remote places in Peninsular California, collecting native plants in urban canyons, studying the evolution of whales, or surveying the response of plants and other organisms to climate change, BRCC scientists rely on the theoretical strength and predictive power of Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection to guide their investigations.
“On the 200th anniversary of his birth, what better place than a natural-history museum to celebrate Darwin's life and legacy? Darwin: Evolution | Revolution reveals insights into the development of evolution as a central principal in biology. More importantly, it reveals he held both the enthusiasm for discovery and insecurities of doubt, as he pressed forward to understand the mechanisms of biodiversity. Darwin would be at home in the BRCC, working in the deep corners of the research collections, and marveling over the intricacies of life’s creatures.”
—Bradford Hollingsworth, Curator of Herpetology, and co-curator of the Darwin exhibition.
Modern contributions to evolutionary theory provided by genetics and developmental biology further inform the investigations of our scientists. As a particularly strong example, Dr. Tom Deméré, Curator of Paleontology, was first author in 2008 of a paper in Systematic Biology investigating the evolutionary history of baleen in the colossal filter-feeding whales of our modern oceans.
San Jacinto Centennial Resurvey:
In 1908 the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley mounted an expedition to the San Jacinto Mountain region, pioneering the exploration of southern California’s biology. On the 100th anniversary of this expedition, from 2008 to 2010, the San Diego Natural History Museum is retracing its path to see how the area’s wildlife has changed over the last century.
Darwin was fascinated by biological diversity and to this day much of the planet’s diversity remains unnamed. In 2006, Dr. Michael Wall, Curator of Entomology, described 24 new species of insects.
The Museum’s Botany Department conducts local climate-change research using botanical data. The goal is to compile and analyze all available plant-specimen data that has been collected from San Diego County as well as identify locations and key indicator species that exhibit measurable responses to climate.