Written by Fernando A. Cervantes, Professor and Curator of Mammals, Department of Zoology, Instituto de Biología, UNAM.
Mexico is a megadiverse country and has 10% of the world’s species. The Institute of Biology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (IBUNAM) houses the National Biological Collections (NBC), which contain the largest and most important representation of museum specimens of Mexican biodiversity in Mexico. These include 10 zoological collections, a herbarium, and a botanical garden (Zambrano and Reynoso, 2003). Among the highlights are the National Insect Collection (CNIN), with more than 3,000,000 specimens, the National Herbarium (MEXU), with more than 1,500,000 specimens, and the living collections of the Botanical Garden. They all collaborate in the elaboration of the national biological inventory and their specimens provide knowledge on the presence, distribution, and evolution of biological diversity (Cervantes et al. 2016).
The NBC are located at the IBUNAM facilities in the Ciudad Universitaria campus, south of Mexico City, Mexico, where they have been for approximately 22 years now. However, the rapid growth in the number of specimens in each of the collections over the last few decades has meant that the space in which they are currently housed is no longer sufficient. At the same time, the number of academic personnel associated with the NBC, students, equipment, and materials have grown in parallel and demand the need for more space to allow for the proper functioning of the NBC.
In spite of these problems and in contrast to the worldwide trend to reduce support for biological collections (Yong 2016), Mexico continues to support the existence and work of biological collections in favour of biodiversity knowledge and conservation (Cervantes, 2016). For this reason, a new building has just been constructed to provide both additional spaces to properly house the NBC specimens and space for the growth of the NBC for years to come: the National Biodiversity Pavilion.
From the IBUNAM biological collections, this new space will house only the vertebrate collections (fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds, and mammals), the molecular biology and genomic sequencing laboratory, and the wood section of MEXU. On the other hand, the invertebrate collections (mites, arachnids, crustaceans, helminths, insects, and mollusks) will also benefit as they will occupy the space left by the vertebrate collections, which will allow for a significant expansion. At this moment, the National Reptile and Amphibian Collection has already finished moving to the new facilities of the Pavilion. Undoubtedly. The expansion of the facilities of IBUNAM’s national collections will allow them to work efficiently and continue contributing to the institutional objectives of supporting scientific research, teaching, and dissemination of culture.
In addition, this new building will also house a space destined to function as a museum where Mexican specimens of biodiversity from all the NBC will be exhibited (Fig. 2). The Pavilion has three floors, and 12 exhibition halls, including a digital library for all types of museum users, particularly students. The goal is to inspire children and young people to pursue degree programs related to biodiversity conservation and biology and showcase the country’s diversity. A unique space in Latin America, the Biodiversity Pavilion serves a dual role as both museum and research center in a 12,000-square-meter (129,000-square-foot) space. The coexistence and joint work of the NBC and the museum will allow for a wide range of flora, fauna, and mycobiota.
The Pavilion was built as a donation from the Slim Foundation of Mexico to IBUNAM with the purpose of strengthening the knowledge and conservation of Mexican biodiversity as well as promoting environmental education for the general public. The following show short videos in Spanish of the National Biodiversity Pavilion:
Cervantes, F. A. J. Vargas-Cuenca, and Y. Hortelano-Moncada. 2016. An overview of the Mammal Collection of Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Journal of Natural Science Collections 4:4-11.
Cervantes, F. A. 2016. Uso y mantenimiento de colecciones biológicas, IB, UNAM. Revista Digital Universitaria 17(12):1-12.
Yong, E. 2016. Funding Freeze Hits Natural History Museum Collections. The Atlantic, March 25
Zambrano, L, and V. H. Reynoso. 2003. National Collections of Mexico. Copeia, 4: 923-926.