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For 90 years, the Institute has focused on the taxonomy, ecology and conservation of mammals and birds.


Today, working with colleagues in UK, Europe, USA, and the tropics, it is involved in studies and networks that include: 

  • biodiversity inventories, taxonomy and discovery

  • citizen-science and community-led conservation

  • rodents as pests of tropical agriculture

  • bat-borne and rodent-borne viruses, including coronavirus

  • avian malaria

  • environmental change and its impact on faunal diversity, composition and abundance

  • mammal, bird, and amphibian conservation

  • conservation in the context of human behaviour

  • biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.


Currently, all of the Institute’s projects and networks are focused on the tropics and subtropics.

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Since its inception as a zoological museum in 1930, the Institute has built up an extensive collection of some 62,000 recent and fossil specimens. It has specialised particularly in small mammals from Europe, Arabia, tropical Asia and Africa.


There is also a bird collection of almost 19,000 specimens of 900 species. These originate from the 19th and 20th centuries and were collected in 95 different countries, with the majority from the Palaearctic region. The collection is a fine resource for biodiversity researchers and is recognised as being of national and international importance.


Based on their research, Harrison Institute staff, with international colleagues and students, have published more than 350 scientific papers, reports, and action plans on the world’s biodiversity.


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Since 1956, Institute staff have jointly described 23 mammal species new to science (bats and rodents) from Asia, Arabia and Africa (see map of type localities above). Despite a generally held belief that there are no more 'new mammals' to be discovered, seventeen of these descriptions have been since 2004. In addition, they have described three new genera and twelve new subspecies of mammal.

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Staff have also published monographs on 'The Mammals of Arabia', 'Bats of the Indian Subcontinent' and 'Small Mammals of Nepal'.

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Between 1970 and 2015, Institute staff researched and published extensively on the evolutionary history of mammals. This comprised scientific papers on the fossil faunas of the UK, Poland, and Thailand, ranging from the late Pleistocene back to the early Eocene, and included the description of two new genera and four new species of fossil mammal.