Longtime director of KU natural history museum plans to retire

photo by: Kevin Anderson/Journal-World File Photo

In this 2011 file photo, Leonard Krishtalka, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of KU's Natural History Museum, stands next to a triceratops fossil.

The longtime director of the University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, Leonard Krishtalka, will retire at the end of the year, KU announced Wednesday.

Krishtalka has led the institute and museum since he arrived at KU in 1995, and his last day will be Dec. 31, KU said in a news release.

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Krishtalka is a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, as well as a professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at the university. He is also a fiction author who has published two novels and will publish a third this spring.

As director of KU’s Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, he oversaw 13 research divisions and 120 scientists, graduate students and staff, as well as research collections of more than 10 million specimens of animals, plants and fossils and 1.2 million archaeological artifacts, the university said in the release.

“He has long championed the vital role of research in understanding the diversity of life on Earth and predicting its future in changing environments, and he has nurtured a world-class team of scientists dedicated to that cause,” KU Vice Chancellor for Research Simon Atkinson said in the release. “On top of that, thousands of people have learned more about the natural world and their place within it through museum education and outreach programs during his tenure.

“Dr. Krishtalka’s impact on KU is indelible,” Atkinson said.

KU will conduct an international search for a new director “soon,” the university said.

KU Endowment also announced Wednesday that an anonymous donor had committed $900,000 to endow the directorship, with $300,000 contributed up front and the remainder pledged over several years.


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