A director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History will discuss Nebraska’s fossil record and its contribution to Earth’s history on Wednesday.

Kirk Johnson, a senior director of the museum, is giving a lecture titled “From Fossils to Freeways and from Shovel-Tuskers to Cornhuskers,” in the Nebraska Union Auditorium at 4 p.m on Wednesday.

“Kirk Johnson is one of the stars of the museum world, one of the nation’s best science communicators,” said Priscilla Grew, the University of Nebraska State Museum director and a professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “I want UNL students to hear directly from Kirk about why Nebraska’s fossil record has such a prominent place in the science of paleontology.”

Johnson has been the sant director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History since October 2012 where he supervises the National Fossil Hall’s renovation. His research focuses on fossil plants, dinosaur extinction and methods for dating rocks and fossils.

Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in geology and fine arts, a master’s degree in geology and paleobotany from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from Yale University. “He’s focused a lot on late Cretaceous – when dinosaurs roamed the Earth,” said Ross Secord, an assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences. “And he’s focused a lot between the boundary of the late Cretaceous and the Cenozoic, where non-avian dinosaurs go exist. He uses fossilized plants to say things about ancient environments and ancient climates. So he’s looking at the big picture.”

Johnson’s research has involved work at many fossil sites in the American West. While at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, he curated the Prehistoric Journey exhibition and wrote the book, “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-mile Paleo Road Trip.” Johnson led the Snowmastodon Project in 2010-2011, an excavation of an ice age site near Snowmass Village and was featured in the NOVA documentary, “Ice Age Death Trap.”

The lecture is partially connected to Morrill Hall’s recent affiliation with the Smithsonian Institute back in February. The Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program which develops relationships with museums, educational and culture organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The NU state museum joins 184 museums, educational and cultural organizations in its affiliation.


What: “From Fossils to Freeways and from Shovel-Tuskers to Cornhuskers” lecture by Kirk Johnson

When: Wednesday, 4 p.m.

Where: Nebraska Union

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.