Kirk Johnson, PhD


Vice President of Research & Collections and Chief Curator

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.

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