Kirk Johnson is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History where he oversees more than 460 employees and a collection of more than 127 million objects—the largest collection at the Smithsonian. His research includes the study of the geology and fossil plants of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains from 34 to 145 million years ago. He also studies the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary extinction event and the origin of major ecological communities known as biomes. Kirk led an excavation in Snowmass Village, Colorado, that recovered more than 5,400 bones of mammoths, mastodons, and other ice age animals. The findings inspired him to publish the book, "Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies."
He earned 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 Ph.D. from Yale University.