Discovery, origins and evolution

a fish swims through a kelp forest

California sheephead swims in kelp forest in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, image by Robert Schwemmer/NOAA.

We are studying the key transitions in the evolution of life on Earth and predicting the impact of environmental change in the future.

We are experiencing a period of unprecedented global environmental change.

From the origins of the solar system to the evolution of new species, our work and collections are helping us understand the response of natural and anthropogenic ecosystems to this change.

Extraterrestrial H20 hunters

Our planetary geologists are exploring new analytical techniques to determine the origins and history of water on planet Earth.

Size matters: responding to environmental change

Museum palaeontologists are predicting the impact of our rapidly changing climate on body size using well-preserved fossils.

PREDICTS: big data on biodiversity

PREDICTS uses data on local biodiversity around the world to model how human activities affect biological communities. 

UK seaweed biodiversity and conservation

The Museum's algal herbarium is particularly rich in marine algal collections from the UK. With over 60,000 specimens dating back to the 17th century, this phenomenal resource has enormous potential for informing algal conservation efforts.


We are studying chondrite meteorites in our collection to learn about conditions in the early solar system and the processes that formed the planets.

Unlocking the vault: UK plant collections

We are extracting flowering time data from our collection of 610,000 British and Irish plant specimens to study the phenology of selected orchid species.

The role of behaviour in evolution

Species behaviour has the potential to lead morphological evolution, by placing the organism under novel selection pressures.

Evolution of the snake visual system

We are asking what the biology of snake vision can tell us about snake evolution and the evolution of vertebrate visual systems.

Morphological development and evolution of bony fishes

We study the morphological development of bony fishes, and how it has changed over evolutionary time.