Dr. Kirk Johnson is the Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He oversees more than 460 employees and a collection of more than 128 million objects—the largest natural history collection in the world. Johnson is a paleontologist who has led expeditions in 11 countries and 19 states that resulted in the discovery of more than 1,400 fossil sites. His research focuses on fossil plants and the extinction of the dinosaurs. He is known for his scientific books and articles, popular books, museum exhibits, presentations, and collaborations with artists. In 2010-11, he led the Snowmastodon Project, the excavation of an amazing ice age site near Snowmass Village, Colorado. This dig recovered more than 5,400 bones of mammoths, mastodons and other ice age animals and was featured in the NOVA documentary, Ice Age Death Trap, and in Johnson’s book, Digging Snowmastodon, Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies. Most recently, Johnson hosted the three-part NOVA series Making North America, which aired on PBS networks in November 2015, and authored the book Ancient Wyoming: A Dozen Lost Worlds Based on the Geology of the Bighorn Basin. Before coming to the Smithsonian, Johnson was vice president and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where he established the museum’s first comprehensive, long-term research and collections plan.
Emily Graslie is Chief Curiosity Correspondent for The Field Museum, and the creator, host and writer for its educational YouTube series, The Brain Scoop. Launched in January 2013, The Brain Scoop aims to share the research and collections work of natural history museums with a broad audience, and across a variety of digital platforms. To date, Emily and her team have created more than 160 videos, which have been viewed 16 million times by passionate learners from all over the world.
Linda S. Ford is Director of Collections Operations for the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. She oversees museum-wide projects and initiatives that encompass the museum's ten research collection departments, including the museum-wide database and IT infrastructure.
I’ve always loved natural history. In graduate school at the University of Texas at Arlington, my colleagues and I used to work in the collections for fun. It was exciting to be able to figure out a problem or at least document its status. The idea that the result of this work could potentially be utilized by other researchers, both today and in the future, was exhilarating. When I moved to the University of Kansas, I met John E. Simmons, who introduced me to best practices in collections work and to SPNHC. I was intrigued to find a group of like-minded people, who were striving to standardize concepts that I considered fun and to ensure that these standards had lasting and constructive effects on collections. I was converted and proud when John and I published a paper advocating for managers of such collections to be seen as professionals in their own right. After study at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, I became the project manager on an NSF project to digitize a natural history collection. At that point my career path was set. I not only love natural history collections, but I learned to believe in museums and feel committed to their mission.
Since joining SPNHC in 1997 and attending my first meeting in 1998 in Edmonton, Canada, the dedication and commitment of the society's members to further its mission has been a constant motivation for my own involvement. It is the understanding that we are all working on something bigger than ourselves and a commitment to do our very best to infuse meaning into the concept of “in perpetuity” that continues to fuel my continued involvement. I’m very honored to do my part in my new role in the Society and look forward to SPNHC continuing to advocate for the improvement and advancement of our treasured collections.
Austin Mast is a Professor in Florida State University’s Department of Biological Science, Director of FSU's Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium, Executive Committee Member of iDigBio, and President of the Society of Herbarium Curators. Austin's recent collaborations have produced innovative education and outreach opportunities for the natural history collections community, including the Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections (WeDigBio) Event, the Libraries of Life Augmented Reality Cards and Mobile App, and the Biospex Project Management Software. Austin teaches courses on the topics of Field Botany, Plants and Society, and Citizen Science using field opportunities in the species-rich Florida Panhandle.
Dr. Eric Dorfman Eric is Director of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History and President of the International Council of Museums Committee for Museums and Collections of Natural History (ICOM NATHIST). Dorfman did a masters in marine ecology in Monterey California and a doctorate on waterbirds in eastern Australia. He undertook postdoctoral research on waterbirds in both Australia and South Africa and his current research interests focus primarily on museology and interactions between humans and the natural world.
Dorfman is active in the natural history museum sector internationally, authoring the ICOM Code of Ethics for Natural History Museums, as well as chairing the ICOM NATHIST Wildlife Trafficking Working Group and a Board Member of ICOM USA. He is an author of popular books on natural history, scholarly papers on museum operations, public programming, and the ecology of wetland birds. His most recent book is as editor of Intangible Natural Heritage (Routledge 2012) and he is currently editing The Future of Natural History Museums, also for Routledge. Prior to his current position, he was Director of Whanganui Regional Museum in New Zealand and lectured in the Museums and Heritage Studies Department of Victoria University of Wellington.