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How Museums can Influence Africa’s Research Agenda

Museums have also been integral in advancing science over the past couple of centuries. Natural science researchers at South African museums have contributed a great deal to the advancement of biological, geological and palaeontological sciences. Museum scientists have collected, analysed and mapped biological collections. This has added to our understanding of modern terrestrial and marine ecological and environmental change. South African natural science museum research has also moved with the times. As climate change, pollution, sustainable resource management and water scarcity have become important discussion points, so the research done at natural science museums has aligned to these concerns. Exhibitions are also increasingly becoming more relevant in addressing and discussing these issues. At Cape Town’s Iziko South African Museum, scientists are turning to a little-known field of research to better understand past and present climate and environmental change. We are among those studying microfossils in a field called micropalaeontology. It allows us to learn from the past in a bid to mitigate the present effects of a changing climate.