Dr John Tweddle, Head of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum 

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The Natural History Museum partners with Amazon Web Services to transform and accelerate scientific research

The Natural History Museum has announced a multi-year partnership with leading cloud computing services provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

  • The Natural History Museum and Amazon Web Services will create a ‘digital twin’ for UK biodiversity, by building a data platform to store, enrich, and compare urban biodiversity and environmental data
  • The data platform aims to give the Museum’s scientists and researchers the world over unprecedented access to a wealth of UK biodiversity and environmental data to support the discovery of solutions to the planetary emergency

The Natural History Museum today announced a multi-year partnership with leading cloud computing services provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS), which will help transform the Museum’s scientific research and community science capabilities by bringing together a broad range of UK biodiversity and environmental data types in one place for the first time. This will help the Museum’s scientists to build on scientific understanding of the UK’s biodiversity and environment, encourage more integrated cross-disciplinary research programmes, and drive forward science-led nature recovery in the UK’s urban spaces.

The organisations will develop a new data platform, the Data Ecosystem, which will be built using AWS technologies. By building the Data Ecosystem on the AWS Cloud, the Museum can capture, store, combine and compare data in a secure, resilient, and scalable way.

The Museum will make the Data Ecosystem available to the Museum’s 350 scientists, which represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into the natural world, as well as researchers at the Museum’s partner institutes across the UK. The Data Ecosystem will help researchers build a deeper understanding of the UK’s urban biodiversity, including its composition, how it relates to environmental conditions, and how it responds to direct conservation action.

Scientists will be able to study biodiversity data types alongside environmental data such as soil and atmospheric chemistry or noise pollution, rapidly and accurately. This, combined with access to the Museum’s 27 years of historical wildlife data from their South Kensington gardens, will build an increasingly detailed picture of biodiversity functioning and health and is expected to open up large-scale opportunities for research and nature positive action. The intention, over time, is to capture all new UK biodiversity and environmental data from Natural History Museum projects and create a ‘digital twin’, a real-time virtual representation of the UK’s biodiversity.

Dr John Tweddle, Head of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum says: “Working with AWS to develop the Data Ecosystem will revolutionise the scientific work we undertake at the Museum. The data will form an essential tool in unlocking new solutions to the planetary ecological emergency; from monitoring the UK’s wildlife to furthering science-informed nature recovery in our towns and cities.”

Darren Hardman, VP & General Manager, UK & Ireland, Amazon Web Services said: “We are proud to partner with the Natural History Museum to help them to embrace new digital technologies and accelerate new scientific discoveries. Gaining access to a wide range of data is crucial for the Museum’s scientists to build a better understanding of the UK’s urban biodiversity and help address the planetary emergency. Cloud is an important enabler for this. For the first time, scientists will have a way to securely store and process research data using the Data Ecosystem, which can easily scale up as more and more data is collected over time. We’re looking forward to working with the Museum to drive innovation across the organisation in the coming years as the partnership grows.”

In addition, the Data Ecosystem will help accelerate the biodiversity monitoring already carried out by the Museum, starting with its Urban Nature Project (UNP), which will transform the Museum's five-acre site into a biologically diverse green space in the heart of London. As well as an onsite learning and activity centre to host science activities, powered by AWS, the UNP gardens will provide “living galleries” within which Museum scientists can develop and test new methods to monitor, protect and enrich the urban nature that is so important to human wellbeing.

Visual and environmental DNA-based observations its of plants and wildlife, as well as environmental and acoustic monitoring data from a high spatial resolution sensor network in the Museum’s gardens will be curated and combined within the Data Ecosystem. The richness of data will enable the Museum’s scientists to build scientific evidence of the impacts that habitat creation, restoration, and translocation have on the UK’s urban wildlife, from grassland to pond habitats.

The Data Ecosystem is also designed to enable the Museum’s globally-recognised Community and Citizen Science Programme, by providing a platform through which individuals, community groups and schools can join, contribute to and steer world-class research relating to their local wildlife and environment.

Lucy Robinson, Citizen Science Manager at the Natural History Museum said: “It has never been more critical to speed the pace at which local observations feed into world-class research, and back into real action for the planet. Supported by the Data Ecosystem, our Community Science Programme puts power in the hands of people across the UK to study and protect the local environment they care about.”

Lisa Chilton, Chief Executive Officer, National Biodiversity Network Trust said: “The National Biodiversity Network Trust has partnered with the Natural History Museum for more than 20 years on pioneering biodiversity data projects. We’re excited by the development of the Museum’s innovative new Data Ecosystem, built on AWS, which will help to answer critical questions about the health of the natural world and how we can stop the biodiversity crisis.”

Development for the Data Ecosystem is underway, and the gardens are due to be open to the public in 2023.


Notes for editors

Natural History Media contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5654/ (0)779 969 0151 Email: press@nhm.ac.uk

The Urban Nature Project

The Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project is designed in response to the urgent need to both monitor and record changes to the UK's urban nature. Working in partnership with museums and wildlife organisations across the UK, the project will develop online, onsite and national monitoring and citizen science programmes as well as transform the Museum’s five-acre gardens in South Kensington into a globally relevant urban nature ‘epicentre’, helping to safeguard nature’s future. Amazon Web Services is lead sponsor of the Urban Nature Project.

For more information about the Urban Nature Project visit https://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/urban-nature-project.html

The Natural History Museum 

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited indoor attraction in the UK last year. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens accessed by researchers from all over the world both in person and via over 30 billion digital data downloads to date. The Museum’s 350 scientists are finding solutions to the planetary emergency from biodiversity loss through to the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome millions of visitors through our doors each year, our website has had 17 million visits in the last year and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 20 million people in the last 10 years.

Supporters and sponsors 

A wide variety of trusts, foundations, companies and individuals are supporting the Urban Nature Project including AWS, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Evolution Education Trust, the Cadogan Charity, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Kusuma Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, Charles Wilson and Rowena Olegario, Huo Family Foundation (UK), Johnson Matthey, Workman and the Trustees and Executive Board of the Museum.