Research within the five science departments is divided into seven interdisciplinary research themes.
- Biomedical sciences
The aim is to record and explain the taxonomy, molecular diversity, distribution and ecology of various organisms detrimental to human and animal health. Scientists working in this area study organisms associated with major diseases such as malaria, bilharzia and river blindness.
- Collections management
This theme underpins the research in all other themes. Its aim is to apply the highest standards in the curation, conservation and enhancement of the Museum's collections. It also aims to develop electronic resources to support these activities and to widen and increase access to the information the collections contain. The theme promotes use of the collections to further knowledge of the natural world through loans, visits and collaborative projects, in addition to supporting the Museum's own research programmes.
- Earth materials, history and processes
The aim is to study the properties and relationships of minerals, meteorites, rocks and fossils so as to further our understanding of the origin and history of the Earth. Areas of study include the use of fossils in locating oil and gas reserves and investigations of the environment of Mars using meteorites.
- Ecological patterns and processes
The aim is to investigate the distribution of organisms in space and through time, and the processes by which these patterns are generated, thereby providing a sound scientific basis for the conservation and management of biological diversity. Areas of research range from the ecology of individual groups to large-scale assessments of ecosystems such as tropical forests and the deep sea.
- Environmental quality
The aim is to assess the impact of mineralogical, geochemical and human disturbances on environmental quality. Scientists study the mobility of metals in the environment and assess the impact of mining, nutrient enrichment, aerial pollutants and problem organisms on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
- Faunas and floras
The aim is to make known the diversity of the natural world through description and naming of animals and plants, with particular emphasis on those from threatened habitats. Scientists produce field guides, identification keys and regional or global studies of particular groups to meet the needs of users of biodiversity information working in agriculture, forestry, conservation or science.
- Systematics and evolution
The aim is to discover and investigate the broad patterns of biodiversity and evolution as a foundation for comparative biology and its uses. Scientists use both traditional and modern techniques, the latter frequently derived from molecular biology, to investigate the systematics and evolution of key groups ranging from microbes to fish.