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What we study – Our research program

Exploring the Earth’s plant diversity is a highly topical research field with countless new discoveries. Building upon the ground-breaking work of Carl L. Willdenow, Adolf Engler and Ignatz Urban as well as long-standing international partnerships, the Botanic Garden Berlin holds a crucial position in the global network of botanical institutions.

Our research is to a large extent based on our scientific plant collections. Taxonomic research, through which plants are identified, described, named and classified, is a central element of our daily work. Furthermore, we study the phylogenesis of plants and the mechanisms of their evolution. We focus our research on the following model groups of flowering plants and microorganisms: Asterales, Caryophyllales and Diatoms.

Besides this, our research activities are focused on particular regions of the world, where we carry out inventories and investigations of plant diversity together with our local partners. The results of our activities include contributions to Floras, identification guides (including genetic ‘Barcodes’) and concepts for the conservation and sustainable use of plant diversity. Our focal regions are: Europe and Mediterranean area including the Caucasus and Cuba and the Caribbean region.

It is essential to link information about organisms and specimens in the collections, to secure this data sustainably and to make widely accessible and usable. This is the main task of Biodiversity Informatics. To develop efficient software solutions and services that help to process knowledge on biodiversity in a “taxonomically intelligent” way is one of the major tasks of this research and development group.  Thereby, we make our collections accessible and work together with our international partners in order to make information on biodiversity available to everyone.

How we conduct our research – Modern research infrastructure

Our research infrastructures and expertise links collections with information resources and up-to-date laboratory technology:

  • The scientific collections of living and preserved plants as well as our library represent a comprehensive resource for research.
  • In the greenhouses and outdoor beds of the botanic garden it is possible to grow plants for research purposes and to carry out experiments in a controlled environment.
  • Our laboratories support all up-to-date methods for analyzing the genome of plants as well as their morphological and anatomical features (light and electron microscopy).
  • Comprehensive databases on biological diversity are developed, updated regularly and made available online.
  • Our IT service supports not only our Biodiversity Informatics group but helps to link and coordinate all of our research and collection activities.

For bachelor, master and PhD students we provide research and training opportunities on evolution, systematics and diversity of plants, in cooperation with the Freie Universität Berlin’s Department of Biology, Chemistry and Pharmacy (Working group of Prof. Borsch, Institute of Biology / Botany). Our research infrastructures, our long-term research programs and international partnerships provide an excellent professional learning environment.