The museum's scientists conduct basic biological and archaeological research, along with user-oriented research that helps build knowledge-based management of our natural and cultural resources.
The most important research areas are:
- Taxonomy and the evolutionary history of species, including the historical and ecological processes that help determine the creation and expansion of species.
Projects range from a study of skate distribution in Norwegian waters to the use of museum insect collections to conduct DNA barcoding of red-listed beetles in Norway.
- The interactions between humans and nature, cultural landscapes and the development of material culture and forms of culture over time.
Projects range from comparative studies of early human uses of the seascapes in Tierra del Fuego and Norway to an examination of cultural landscapes in Norway from the Second World War.
- Field methods for archaeology, with a priority on developing methods for dating, documentation and geophysical technologies, maritime cultural heritage and conservation technology.
Projects range from studies of prehistoric artefacts that have melted out of perennial high-mountain snow patches to a biographical analysis of wetland hoards from Central Norway c. 2350–500 BC.
- Museology as a foundation for science communication and museum's as institutions of culture and knowledge.
Projects include an examination of the technologies available to shift from the museum's traditional role of educating the visitor to creating a dialogue with the visitor.
Other important research projects fall under the broad umbrella of conservation biology, and encompass studies of the long-term ecological effects of sheep grazing in alpine ecosystems, an examination of the climate and human-driven changes in populations of moose, red deer and wild boar after the last ice age, and the effects of land use history and climate on orchid populations.