Plants, Animals, Humans: We Are All of One Original Genome
There’s a woven web of ecology that ties humans deeply to the rest of the living things on this planet.
Kirk Johnson is the Sant Director of the National Museum of Natural History. He oversees more than 460 employees, an annual federal budget of $68 million (museum’s federal budget in FY 2012) and a collection of more than 126 million specimens and artifacts—the largest collection at the Smithsonian. The Museum of Natural History hosts an average of 7 million visitors a year, and its scientists publish about 500 scientific research contributions a year.
As a vice president of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Johnson was part of a team that led the museum and managed its $40 million annual budget. The museum, which receives 1.4 million visitors per year and has a staff of 400, launched a $170 million capital campaign in 2005.
As chief curator at the Denver museum, Johnson oversaw a 70-person research and collections division that included curators, archivists, conservators and technicians and managed its $3.5 million annual budget. He was responsible for the museum’s 24 collections, and he led the completion of the museum’s first comprehensive long-term collections and research plan. He served as a curator of paleontology since joining the museum in 1991.
Johnson is the author of numerous scientific papers, and he has edited seven scientific volumes. He has written nine books, including his most recent, Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies, which was published by the museum and the People’s Press in 2012.
I’ve been really impressed by the amount of knowledge that’s gleaned by simply sequencing the genome of one species – that of the human.
The surprises we’ve gained from that are immense but think about how humans are embedded in the fabric of the planet. We eat plants and animals. We live with plants and animals. We obtain diseases from plants and animals. They obtain diseases from each other. They eat each other.
There’s a woven web of ecology that ties humans deeply to the rest of the living things on this planet. If our genome is important then the genomes of all those other organisms must be important for understanding that fabric of life, the ecology of the planet.
As we dig into this there is this pervasive realization that Darwin was right – that all living things are genetically related. We are all of one original genome. So the human genome is just the tip of this great bushy tree of life that started 3.8 billion years ago and today is manifest by millions of species living in all sorts of ecosystems – high in the sky and deep in the Earth that underpin and support the nature of life on the planet today.
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