Dr. Kirk Johnson
Sant Director National Museum of Natural History
Dr. Kirk Johnson is the Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where he oversees the world’s largest natural history collection. The Museum hosts more than 6 million visitors each year. In 2018, its scientists published 586 scientific research papers and named 310 new species. In 2019, the museum opened The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils-Deep Time, an exhibition that interprets the history of life on Earth and its relevance to the future of humanity.
Before his arrival at the Smithsonian in 2012, Johnson was a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where led expeditions in 18 states and 11 countries. His research focuses on fossil plants and the extinction of the dinosaurs. In 2011, he led an ice age excavation near Snowmass Village in Colorado that recovered parts of more than fifty mastodon skeletons. He is known for his scientific articles, popular books, museum exhibitions, documentaries, and collaborations with artists.
His recent documentaries include Making North America and The Great Yellowstone Thaw, both of which aired on PBS channels. He is presently working on Polar Extremes, a documentary about the ancient climate of the Arctic and Antarctic. His latest book, Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline, The Travels of an Artist and a Scientist along the Shores of the Prehistoric Pacific explores the deep history of the West Coast from California to Alaska.
Johnson is originally from Bellevue, Washington, has a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in geology and paleobotany from Yale University.