Paleontology is at the interface between Biology and Earth Sciences. We aim at documenting the patterns and discovering the mechanisms of diversification and extinction of organisms and contribute to our understanding of current biodiversity. Research performed in the institute encompasses many topics in organismal biology and include for example reconstructing the tree of evolution of diverse groups of organisms and the impact of global palaeoenvironmental changes upon the course of transformation in biodiversity. Profound abiotic changes in deep time largely shaped the evolution of plant and animals, and these are studied in fieldwork-based efforts that have a multidisciplinary approach. To study extinct and extant organismal diversity the palette of methods used is broad and includes taxonomy, comparative anatomy, morphometrics, palaeohistology, sedimentology, geochemistry, and theoretical approaches to diversification and macroevolution.

The palaeontological and zoological teams of the museum work together in providing a well-visited and highly visible venue for science communication near the center of Zurich. The rich collections, in particular those from the Middle Triassic UNESCO world heritage site Monte San Giorgio, are a magnet for scientific visitors from all over the world.