Biodiversity — the biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals — is at the core of the Academy of Natural Sciences’ work. Since its founding in 1812, the Academy has been studying the variety and distribution of living things and their extinction and has amassed a research collection of more than 19 million specimens that serve as a treasured resource for scientists around the world. Measuring biodiversity with the aid of tools from the Academy’s collection is a critical means of gauging environmental health.
Today, as clear scientific evidence reveals that the effects of human activities over just the last few centuries have triggered a sixth mass extinction and significant loss of biodiversity, the Academy is dedicating 2023 as our Biodiversity Year. Throughout Biodiversity Year, the Academy will continue its research on biodiversity and extinction, enabling scientists to better understand the dynamics of the natural world and allowing policymakers, stakeholders and communities to make informed decisions about issues that impact our everyday lives.
Biodiversity Year will feature a rich slate of programming, exhibits, community science projects, learning initiatives and campaigns that provide platforms for audiences to understand the natural world and inspire them to care for it.
Academy Exhibits and Programming
Microsculpture: The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss
November 19, 2022-April 23, 2023
Microsculpture: The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss is a groundbreaking project that presents insect specimens from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History like never before. British photographer Levon Biss’ images reveal an unexpected and often breathtaking beauty that brings to life the many intricate adaptations of an insect’s form — what entomologists call their microsculpture.
Microscope Exploration With Academy Entomologists
Fridays through April 21, 2023
The invertebrates on display in Microsculpture are larger than life, both on the wall and under the microscope. Join Academy entomologists (scientists who study insects) as they bring their work to life by exploring specimens from our world-renowned collection of over 4 million insects. Each week, get a high-tech view of a different invertebrate, learn about some of the Academy’s most beautiful species and speak to our enthusiastic entomologists about their research.
Conversations With Birds
February 18–May 21, 2023
Opening in time for the 2023 spring migration, Conversations With Birds celebrates fascinating bird populations and how getting to know the birds around you can deepen your connection with the natural world.
May 13–October 15, 2023
An exhibition in the Dietrich Gallery focuses on drawing, writing, and close observation as ways of knowing birds.
Skin: Living Armor, Evolving Identity
June 24, 2023–January 21, 2024
Skin—it's deeper than you might think. Discover the shape-shifting, color-changing and ever-evolving nature of this complex organ.
Academy Science Camp
June 27–September 2
Spend your summer at the Academy with our fun educators, cool exhibits and wild science! Sign up for one week or sign up for them all; each day will feature hands-on activities, creative crafts and untold secrets of the museum. Learn about the naturally awesome science at the Academy, from fossils and dinosaurs to bugs, birds and botanicals! Get outside for lunch and explore the urban environment around the Academy. Meet live animals, see rare specimens and explore the museum as you never have before. Learn more about Academy Science Camp.
Small Actions Spark Big Changes
Explore our Small Actions Spark Big Changes page for tips and resources related to new sustainability topics each month. Topics include seasonal gardening, reducing plastic use, composting, local foods, locations to explore biodiversity and more.
Explore Stories From the Academy Blog
Fire in the Pine Barrens – BEES graduate Steve Mason discusses the environmentally important role fire plays in this local, rare and particularly stunning biodiversity hotspot.
Community Science to the Rescue, One Flipped Horseshoe Crab at a Time – In the Delaware Bay, many different species of birds, some endangered, rely on the annual but threatened mass spawning of horseshoe crabs — Drexel BEES instructor Ron Smith and his group of volunteers recommend ways and resources to help protect them.
Leave the Leaves for Understory Habitats – Fallen autumn leaves collecting in our neighborhood yards across the Northeast are actually one simple, but important, part of a complex system that supports and sustains insect, plant and animal biodiversity in this region, explains Academy Curator and Entomologist Jon Gelhaus.
Bird Migrations: Timeless and Threatened - New York Times bestselling author Scott Weidensaul talks about the wonders of bird migration, the Academy's leadership in Lights Out Philly and what we can all do to help our feathered friends thrive.