Nature Research Center

Nature Research Center

The Nature Research Center (NRC) is the new 80,000-square-foot wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Its goal is to bring research scientists and their work into the public eye, help demystify what can be an intimidating field of study, better prepare science educators and students, and inspire a new generation of young scientists. 

The Nature Research Center features research labs where scientists from the Museum, University of North Carolina system schools, the Department of Environment & Natural Resources, or visiting scientists from industry or agency partners conduct their research while visitors observe “science in action” through floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

A main visitor experience will be Meet the Scientist at the Windows on Research areas, casual seating spaces that allow scientists from the labs to have direct interactions with visitors.


The SECU Daily Planet
The centerpiece of the NRC is the SECU Daily Planet, an immersive, three-story multimedia space that links virtual to real nature and is the site of live programming on breaking science news. At regular intervals during the day, scientists present to NRC visitors using the cutting edge technology and media of the SECU Daily Planet and its 40×40-foot, high-definition screen. These presenters discuss the science research behind current issues and their societal impacts. At special times, this venue will transmit programs into schools, libraries, senior citizen centers, hospitals and other community organizations through the Internet. Periodic Global Town Halls will also be held in the SECU Daily Planet to have conversations with science researchers and youth engaged in Citizen Science projects worldwide. Read more >>

Research Labs
The NRC features research labs where scientists from the Museum, UNC System Schools, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or visiting scientists conduct their research while visitors observe “science in action.” A main visitor experience will be meeting these scientists at the Window on Research areas, casual seating spaces that allow scientists to have direct interactions with visitors.

Investigate Labs
In addition to the working scientists’ labs, there are also three Investigate Labs designed for visitors. These spaces provide visitors with a set of hands-on activities and research skill-building exercises to guide them through the process of using scientific tools and conducting scientific inquiry. Most experiences here are designed and led by Museum educators, scientists and their graduate students. Working together, these scientists and visitors generate mutual research questions — both will learn from the experience. Possible activities include assessing biodiversity in soil samples, modeling hurricane events or using analytical microbiology tools to examine soft tissue in dinosaur bones. Some activities will lead to Citizen Science projects that encourage long-term research activities.

Window on Animal Health
The Window on Animal Health provides visitors a unique opportunity to peer into the world of veterinary medicine and to interact with vet staff, students, and interns working on real medical cases and performing real procedures including physical exams and surgeries.

Window on Animal Health

Citizen Science Center
This area serves as a clearinghouse for NRC guests that wish to enlist in “Citizen Science” projects. Visitors can become participants in ongoing, active research projects by collecting, submitting and/or analyzing data on the Museum floor or at the Museum’s 46-acre field station, Prairie Ridge. Citizen Science opportunities afford NRC scientists the ability to accomplish research objectives more feasibly than would otherwise be possible.

Science Panorama
Watch short science clips covering everything from ocean life to the formation of galaxies on this 170-degree panoramic screen that you can control using a touch screen computer. Located on the second floor of the NRC, the Science Panorama is a high-tech presentation space that broadcasts live satellite images from NOAA and NASA and other high definition productions. Visitors can get a 170° view of natural science phenomena on the Earth, such as the effects of rapid population growth, rising sea levels due to climate change, fires and hurricanes.