Estonia’s natural history collections and data become part of the new European Science Infrastructure

Published 09.10.2018

On 11 September 2018, six new priority projects of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures were announced in Vienna. One of these projects includes the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, the Estonian University of Life Sciences and the Estonian Natural History Museum.

The project Distributed System for Scientific Collections (DiSSCo) aims to create access to the natural history collections and data held by Europe’s major museums, universities and research institutions.

"This will provide our researchers with the opportunity to use the world’s largest virtual natural science archive and give them a say in developing e-services that are of specific importance to Estonia," said Urmas Kõljalg, Director of the UT Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden, also the representative of the Estonian partners of the project and prime mover of the eBiodiversity portal that brings together data on Estonia’s living nature.

Kõljalg added that the project will create Europe-wide support services and research projects. It will also set up a single framework for the digitization of biodiversity and geodiversity data and for their extensive use in research, applied sciences and nature education.

Professor Olle Hints of the Institute of Geology of Tallinn University of Technology noted that the Estonian research institutions that participate in the project share a history of close cooperation in the framework of Natural History Archives and Information Network (NATARC), a roadmap project of the Estonian national science infrastructure.

Natural history archives, which include collections of protozoa, plants, fungi, animals and rocks, tell the story of the diversity of our planet’s living and non-living nature and of its development in space and time. The collections form the foundation of the classification system of living nature which in its turn serves as the basis for other life sciences and for comprehensive nature education. Natural history collections also play a role in providing answers to many practical questions in fields such as the monitoring of environmental change, analyzing the spread of invasive species, organizing nature protection or mineral exploration.

Estonia will participate the most in DiSSCo plans concerning the development of future-oriented software and data management services. The Estonian partners will also be responsible for the availability of Estonia’s biological and geological data and collections. Owing to the joint project which involves a total of 115 institutions and 21 countries, Estonia’s natural history collections will become part of the common European research space.

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Additional information: Urmas Kõljalg, Director of UT Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden,