The university possesses several biological collections with about 1,3 million specimen.
The histories of major nature collections at the University of Life Sciences are different. The first group is indigenous – collections which served as a basis in teaching agronomy, forestry and veterinary medicine.
The second group came under university governance as a result of restructuring process of Estonian scientific institutions:
The relative share on scientific research and teaching in collection varies and their distinction is always somewhat arbitrary. The soil museum and Zoomedicum are intensively engaged in teaching of bachelor students in agronomy and veterinary medicine. In a way all collections participate in graduate studies.
The history of the collections have quite turbulent. In the 1990ties in general the taxonomy and faunistic research was in some disregard and the financing of the maintenance of collections was a problem. The donations from Soros foundation brought some alleviation but main income source for collections in this period were overheads from research grants and target financed research projects. This financing mechanism resulted in persistent disagreements while the fair estimate of the involvement of certain collection in scientific research project is a very complicated issue.
Agricultural collections – the basis for breeding – were in a more favorable situation. Their existence itself was indisputable and they were within jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture.
After lengthy preparations the governement programme “Collections of Humanities and Natural Sciences” (2004-2008) was launched. Programme declared two main goals:
Allocations from state budget for these activities in 2004 -2008 totalled ca 58 Mio EEK (3,7Mio €). Divided between 40 collections this was a considerable contribution to collections maintenance and databasing. Allocations from the programme to the collections of the university: 2004.- 610 000EEK ( 8 collections), 2005. - 1 417 000EEK (8), 2006. - 1 387 000EEK (9), 2007. - 1 245 000EEK (8), 2008.- 1 665 000EEK (11). Starting from 2009, the financing principles underwent some changes. The collections of the Estonian University of Life Sciences received from state budget: 2013.- 124 355€, 2014.- 124 405€, 2015.- 133 850€, 2016.- 133 220€, 2017.- 152 000€, 2018.- 152 000€, 2019.- 152 000€, 2020.- 152 000€, 2021. - 170 367€.
In 2010 the Estonian Research Infrastructure Roadmap was started which comprises investments in joint efforts and shared use of research facilities. Natural history collections in various institutions lack general infrastructure to exchange information with one another. In the framework of the roadmap the project "Natural History Archives and Information Network " (NATARC) is focussing on digital web based public information infrastructure available for researchers and general public.
Considering size and geographical scope of collections the cooperation in the framework of Interreg project with Nordic countries was inevitable. In 2008-2010 university participated in the project „Estonian biodiversity data base and information network supporting natura 2000“ and starting 2011 in the project "Balticiversity: Towards transboundary access of nature observation data"(2011-2013).
Last but not least - the status of the collection is primarily determined by the attitude of the owner. In june 29, 2005 the University Council approved decree about establishing interdisciplinary unit “Nature Collections” which amalgamates nature and agricultural collections of the university. The statute was approved by the University Council in november 29, 2007 and unit started its activity in 2008. Regarding the trends of annual income sources 2008-2015 asserts relative high share of international projects. Contributions from owner are fickle and sometimes quite modest.