We believe that the next generation of interdisciplinary research needs access to collections across traditional disciplinary boundaries. We are promoting a new generation of interdisciplinary research that relies on collections through conferences, workshops and networking activities devoted to four global research challenges.


Parchment archives can provide a record of the origin of the material and help trace the movement of these documents


How do you research the next pandemic when you don't know what, where or when it will be?

Emerging Diseases

Infectious human diseases emerge when changes in climate and the distribution of wild habitats, agricultural lands and human-dominated areas bring pathogens, disease vectors and disease reservoir populations into new contact. Scientific collections provide unique opportunities to study these changing distribution patterns as well as the evolution of the pathogens and their hosts. We will catalyze the growth of a new global network of disease researchers and representatives of the diverse collections that can contribute to this interdisciplinary research. This health initiative will involve varied types of collections including microbes, parasites and pathogens; health data; wildlife, livestock and veterinary animals; and more.

How do you describe the environmental changes of the Anthropocene without the context of prior epochs?

Environmental Change

Earth’s environment has changed throughout its history and scientific collections provide the lenses through which these changes can be observed. New instruments allow data mining from new and old collections, offering new historical records of phenomena such as biodiversity (using ancient DNA, for example) or paleotemperature (using isotopes). Climatic change has left clues behind discovered in sediment cores, ice cores, fossils and more recent organisms in natural history museums, and the growth-rings of mollusks, corals and trees -- all preserved for study in scientific collections. SciColl will bring together researchers and collection specialists who will evaluate new sources of evidence that can be mined from scientific collections.

How do you feed the world when food demand could double in the next 40 years?

Food Security

As the global population continues to grow there is an increasing concern that crop and livestock production and harvesting of wild food sources will not meet society’s needs. Scientific collections from diverse disciplines will be needed for research to increase food production, mitigate losses due to pests, drought and other stressors, and to find new and sustainable food sources. Research on the role of Rhizobium bacteria in the production of legume crops in nitrogen-deficient regions is one example that will involve the use of collections of microbes, plants and their natural pests, soils, sediment cores and others that support the study of local environments.

How do you understand ancient human migration when the ethics of using human DNA are not black and white?

Human Migration

Oceania is a region with important, unresolved questions concerning the history of civilization's spread, yet many samples from the region have become distributed among scientific collections around the world. Collections of human remains, early historical samples of human hair and tissue, pottery artifacts and ancient DNA from human and animal remains found in archaeological sites offer unique insight into the early occupation of Oceania. Access to these collections can be extremely controversial (in the case of human remains) and competitive (in the case of rare and limited quantities of ancient DNA). SciColl hopes to have a significant impact on this research by promoting the creation of best-practice guidelines for the ethical sharing and accessing these critical samples.