Entomology Department, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Data Center Description
The purpose of a natural history museum is to collect, describe, organize, and finally to explain life?s diversity and evolution through education. "Systematics" (once famously defined as "the study of any and all organisms and the relationships between them") is the discipline most essential to this purpose. About two-thirds of the scientists at NMNH (including all NMNH entomologists) are systematists.
Because systematists are experts on life?s diversity, they constantly experience pressures (and temptations) to focus on short-term, applied research projects. However, there are many universities, research institutes, government agencies, and privately endowed organizations dedicated to relatively straightforward practical tasks: tracking locust plagues in Africa, researching treatments for Lyme disease, or combating the Mediterranean fruit fly. In contrast, very few organizations are dedicated to providing the collection-based systematic support on which the former organizations must depend; fewer still have the size, history, influence and opportunity that NMNH provides to excel at this task. We are unique and we make a uniquely valuable, nearly irreplaceable contribution to society.