About our Natural History research

Find out about our Natural History research areas and who we are.

Our Natural History research underpins New Zealand’s natural resource sector, supporting conservation management, biosecurity, and primary industry, as well as education and public engagement.

Publications and digital media

Research areas

Our Natural History research projects fall under five themes.

Classification and discovery

We classify species by working out how they’re related to each other (taxonomic research). To do this, we statistically analyse DNA and other biological data – known as biosystematics. Te Papa is a leading agency for taxonomy and biosystematics in New Zealand across broad biological groups.

We undertake field trips to find and monitor species populations, and act as a hub for citizen science discoveries.

Adaptation and biogeography

We seek to understand the living organisms that made New Zealand their home over millions of years – how they evolved (adaptation), and where they lived and how they redistributed over time (biogeography).

This work contributes to the conservation and restoration of New Zealand’s present-day ecological communities. As part of this, we explore the effects that changes in the environment have on our country’s plants and animals.

Biology and ecology

We determine the biology, ecology, and genetic diversity of New Zealand’s living organisms – working closely with other science agencies and universities to carry out molecular and anatomical research.

Best practices

We research and develop new collection management practices, including collection conservation. We contribute this knowledge to the international community and keep abreast of related developments overseas.

Society and science

We interpret science for the public and seek to make our research relevant, available, and useful.

Our collections are used for teaching and public exhibitions. We also examine the ways New Zealanders value biodiversity, generating research that supports the biological economy (aspects of New Zealand’s economic sector that relate to the environment and natural resources).

We recognise that mātauranga Māori is integral to our broader understanding of natural history.

We also document the history of Natural History collecting.


See our Natural History team