Universities are crucial for holding specimen collections in megabiodiverse, developing regions such as Brazil (see Nature 471, 164–165; 2011). Only local institutions can gather information with the necessary resolution to answer biological questions at a regional scale.But such collections suffer from serious funding shortages, mostly because they are not included in a permanent university budget.
A huge volume of material is already stored in university collections throughout Brazil, and these are proliferating as higher education expands in the country. Universities with scientific collections provide a rich environment for recruiting and training evolutionary biologists who will ultimately deal with pressing biodiversity issues. Institutional support would guarantee the collections’ continuation beyond the working life of their curators.
The University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, is now uniting its scattered collections into a biodiversity museum — an initiative sparked by a grant of almost US$800,000 this year from FAPESP, São Paulo state’s research funding agency. Other universities could follow this lead in coordinating biodiversity research to help meet conservation and management priorities.
Flávio A. Bockmann and eight co-authors*, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. email@example.com
*A full list of authors is online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/471295d.