Bringing Natural History to Life

TAU's Steinhardt National Collections are preserving and sharing Israel’s natural treasures
27 November 2012
Bringing Natural History to Life

The Middle East’s last cheetah, the earliest modern humans out of Africa, the only evidence found in the world of crucifixion by the Romans. These are a few among approximately 5 million unique specimens found at the TAU’s Steinhardt National Collections of Natural History. Serving as Israel’s largest center for biodiversity, conservation and education, the Collection attracts tens of thousands of youth annually through its Nature Campus program and facilitates the research of TAU’s leading zoologists, marine biologists, entomologists, botanists and more.


Connecting Youth with Nature

Since 2007, Liron Goren has served as a guide to TAU’s Nature Campus – a public outreach program that uses the Steinhardt Collections together with the University’s research zoo and botanic gardens to introduce visitors of all ages to Israel’s plants and animals. Liron, an amateur wildlife photographer and painter, loves being a guide because “no matter what their age or background, I feel that most of them, if not all, learn something new.”


For many of these kids coming from Israel’s outlying towns and disadvantaged communities, Nature Campus is their first encounter not only with nature, but with the world of higher education in general. By expanding accessibility to the academy, environmental education and nature in general, Nature Campus is championing social and environmental justice in Israel.


Advancing Understanding of Nature’s Smallest Creatures

In addition to serving as an educational resource for youth, the Steinhardt Collections facilitate important scientific research. Liron Goren’s supervisor and curator of invertebrates, Dr. Frida Ben-Ami, analyzes specimens from the Collections to further her study on water fleas. She seeks answers to an unresolved question of evolutionary ecology: why do more species use sexual versus asexual reproduction?


Frida also investigates water flea parasites, such as fungi, bacteria, worms, and unicellular creatures. Formerly underestimated, it is now known that parasites’ effect on host species is as destructive as that of predators on their prey. By focusing on host and parasite together, she wants to understand the evolution of parasitism and its influence and impact on natural ecosystems, and, it follows, on people.


A Permanent Home for National Treasure

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, which recognized the Collection as a national resource with immense scientific and cultural value, helped prompt the decision to construct a dedicated home for the Steinhardt Collections on the Tel Aviv University campus. Supported by Michael and Judy Steinhardt along with other private and governmental sources, the 7,000 square meter building will form the centerpiece of the most comprehensive center in Israel for biodiversity research, education and conservation.





The Steinhardt National Collections are supported by major TAU benefactor Michael H. Steinhardt, a former Chairman of the TAU Board of Governors, and today, Honorary Chairman. Mr. Steinhardt is the benefactor of numerous projects at TAU across the campus and a TAU honorary doctor. A legendary hedge fund founder and active philanthropist, Mr. Steinhardt is one of the founders and benefactors of the Taglit-Birthright Israel program and numerous other causes. Upon the cornerstone laying of the new home for the Steinhardt National Collections, Mr. Steinhardt said: "Past, present and future generations will benefit from what is being done here."


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