Archive for Saturday, August 20, 1994


August 20, 1994


Leonard "Kris" Krishtalka has a year to chart a detailed plan for the KU's Museum of Natural History.

Leonard "Kris" Krishtalka is no revolutionary.

He's a fan of evolution, and plans to push for gradual change when he becomes director of the Museum of Natural History at Kansas University.

"Most revolutions are not very successful," said Krishtalka, who visited campus Friday to meet with KU officials and museum staff.

He won't assume his new job in Dyche Hall until July 1995, when director Philip Humphrey retires.

Until that time, Krishtalka will continue to work as assistant director for science at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

He said KU's museum was among the best in the country. However, he said the museum needs to do a better job of showing the public the value of natural history science.

Data gathered by this museum and others can help industry and government make better decisions about land and water use, plant genetics, human health and 100 other topics, he said.

The objective is to use artificial intelligence, geographic information systems, computer science and remote sensing technology to bring this warehouse of knowledge to the surface, he said.

Krishtalka said there was much about Earth's biodiversity yet to be discovered. Researchers know something about approximately 1.5 million species. The problem is that perhaps 100 million species could be studied, he said.

"That's less than 5 percent," he said. "Physics wouldn't be satisfied with that."

He said species could be saved from extinction if the country concentrated resources on biodiversity research. He'd like to see something like the Manhattan Project.

"There's only a short amount of time."

U.S. natural history museums need to do a better job of connecting with the public. One means of doing that is to pluck visitors' heart strings, he said.

"Art museums discovered this a long time ago," Krishtalka said. "We must go for the emotional impact."

If the contents of a natural history museum can reach people on an emotional level, they will come away with a desire to learn more, he said.

"If we can't engage the public in our enterprise, it's difficult for them to see why tax dollars should go here."

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