Dr. Kirk Johnson has been selected to lead the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.  He is currently chief curator and vice president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Dr. Johnson will start his new position on 29 October 2012.

“Kirk brings an established national and international reputation as a top scientist, educator and museum administrator to the National Museum of Natural History,” said Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian.   “He is a perfect match to lead the museum—among the very best in the world—into the next decade.”

Johnson will oversee more than 460 employees, an annual federal budget of $68 million, and a collection of more than 126 million specimens and artifacts—the largest collection at the Smithsonian.  The Natural History Museum hosts an average of 7 million visitors a year.  Its scientists publish about 500 scientific research contributions a year.

Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in geology and fine arts from Amherst College, a master’s degree in geology and paleobotany from the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in geology and paleobotany from Yale University.

Johnson succeeds Cristián Samper, who is leaving the Smithsonian to become president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society headquartered in New York City.  Jonathan Coddington, associate director for research and collections, will serve as acting director of the museum until Johnson’s arrival in October.