Memorandum of Understanding Signed by Prominent Scottish Institutions

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Thursday, 14 May 2015

Three historic Scottish institutions today, Thursday 14 May 2015, made a public commitment to further strengthen their relationship and future collaborations.  

The leading institutions of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), National Museums Scotland and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), signed a five year Memorandum of Understanding in the library of RZSS Edinburgh Zoo's historic Mansion House, which will encourage further collaboration on a range of biodiversity projects and activities.

Signatures were recorded from the three Chairmen of each organisation: Jeremy Peat, Chair of RZSS, Bruce Minto OBE, Chair of National Museums Scotland and Sir Muir Russell, Chair of RBGE. Scientific representatives from each organisation were present to oversee the signing: Sarah Robinson, Head of Conservation Programmes and Science at RZSS, Professor Pete Hollingsworth, Director of Science at RBGE and Nick Fraser, Interim Director of Collections at National Museums Scotland.

Current conservation science initiatives among the three organisations include RZSS's collaboration with RBGE on a bamboo research project - which is investigating the types of bamboo eaten by pandas in the wild to determine which plant species to use in habitat restoration. Likewise all three organisations are sharing expertise in genetics, conservation, and classification to help distinguish wildcats from domestic cat-hybrids as part of the Scottish Wildcat Action Plan.

National Museums acted as RZSS's dinosaur experts for theDinosaurs Return!exhibition, providing a wealth of knowledge on dinosaurs as well as relevant content. They provided advice on the Dinosaur Dig Hut which is part of the exhibition and will continue to work with RZSS's dinosaur exhibition by providing updates from their palaeontology research on the Isle of Skye.

Future collaborative projects are currently in the pipeline, including a joint public engagement programme on reintroductions planned for the Science Festival in 2016, exploring shared storage of DNA samples, and investigating options for shared facilities across all three organisations. RBGE and National Museums will also look to hold joint discussions on protocols to increase effectiveness of specimen curation and digitisation.

Chris West, CEO of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: "I am extremely pleased that our organisations are coming together to sign a Memorandum of Understanding which will provide a formal framework for further collaborations. It is the joining of three great Scottish institutions, which are all culturally important and have a great educational impact. Whilst there is a lot of crossover between the three organisations, the Memorandum of Understanding signals the start of what I believe to be a beautiful initiative.

"The three organisations are complementary and natural partners, without competing with each other, and I believe there is enormous potential for wider collaboration. I look forward to developing tangible fruit from the relationship and working with National Museums Scotland and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on both a national and international level. The signing is a celebration of the expertise that each organisation has to offer."

Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, commented:

"The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh hugely welcomes the opportunity for three great national collections to work even more closely together in pursuit of high-quality science, conservation and public engagement. Working at the global and national level we look forward to many joint projects over the coming years to the benefit of our natural environment and people."

Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland, added:

"We are delighted to build on our existing relationship with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Formalising our partnership with them strengthens our longstanding association, bringing greater opportunities to collaborate across the disciplines on academic research and public engagement."

Each of the three organisations brought an item to the signing to embody their organisation. National Museums Scotland's Interim Director of Collections, Nick Fraser, brought a 4,000 to 6,000 year old fossil beaver skull, which through carbon dating has demonstrated that beavers once lived in Scotland quite naturally. RBGE's Director of Science brought anAraucaria(monkey puzzle) tree from New Caledonia, an emblematic species at threat from fire and mining and the subject of conservations science research at RBGE. RZSS's Head of Conservation Programmes and Science brought a bearded dragon to symbolise the great animal collections within RZSS.

 Notes to editors:

  • The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is a registered charity, charity no SC004064. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland was founded by visionary lawyer Thomas Gillespie, the Society was set up in 1909 'to promote, facilitate and encourage the study of zoology and kindred subjects and to foster and develop amongst the people an interest in and knowledge of animal life'. The Society still exists to connect people with nature and safeguard species from extinction. For further information on all our conservation projects and events, please visit our website:
  • The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education and plant conservation action in more than 80 countries around the world. In Scotland its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan attract nearly a million visitors each year. It operates as a Non Departmental Public Body established under the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, principally funded by the Scottish Government. It is also a registered charity, managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by Ministers. Its mission is "To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future. Learn more:
  • National Museums Scotland looks after museum collections of national and international importance and provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum.  The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.


For further information please contact:

Rachel Goddard, PR Manager for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, on 0131 314 0312 or

Gavrielle Kirk-Cohen, PR Coordinator at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland on 0131 314 0383 or



Susan Gray, Communications Manager, National Museums Scotland on 0131 247 4088 or email

Shauna Hay, Press and Marketing Manager, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on 01312482900 or email

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