We have an archive of antique and, in fact, fossil DNA in museums that compliments the DNA and the genomics that we acquire from living humans and living animals.
There’s a woven web of ecology that ties humans deeply to the rest of the living things on this planet.
We’re literally learning as much about the evolution of life on Earth by looking at what happened in the past as we are at looking at the breakthroughs in genomics and DNA of living things.
Paleontology is an amazing field because there’s this curious fact that our planet buries its dead. That didn’t have to be the case but it does turn out that in many parts of the planet when an animal or plant dies it can be buried by things like landslides or mudflows or river mud or tar or ice.
The awareness that we can choose our future is new to us as a species.
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.