Vice President of Research & Collections and Chief
Kirk Johnson, PhD, is vice president of research and collections
and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Johnson joined the Museum in 1991 after earning his doctorate in
geology and paleobotany from Yale University. He is best known for
his research on fossil plants, which is widely accepted as some of
the most convincing support for the theory that an asteroid impact
caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Johnson has published many popular and scientific articles on
topics ranging from fossil plants and modern rainforests to the
ecology of whales and walruses. His research has taken him to
Alaska's Bering Sea, the Brazilian Amazon, the Canadian High
Arctic, the rainforests of New Zealand, the Gobi Desert, India,
Patagonia, and the American West. During his tenure at the Museum,
Johnson has been instrumental in the planning, content creation,
and construction of the Museum's award-winning exhibition
Prehistoric Journey. He also coauthored the book Prehistoric
Journey: A History of Life on Earth.
Presently, Johnson is studying the fossil history beneath Denver
and is overseeing the Denver Basin Project. Excavations of
construction projects in the Denver metro area over the last
several years have uncovered a variety of interesting fossils
including the remains of extinct tropical rainforests, mammoth
tusks, and the partial skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
The results of Johnson's research in the Denver Basin have led to a
better understanding of Colorado's ancient landscapes and the
formation of the Rocky Mountains.