Arizona State biologist to become next leader of KU Biodiversity Institute, Natural History Museum

photo by: University of Kansas

KU's Natural History Museum is shown on the left, and its new director, Nico Franz, is shown on the right in this photo illustration.

An evolutionary biologist who is an expert in how to manage biological collections has been named the next leader of KU’s Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum.

Nico Franz, a professor of ecology and director of biocollections at Arizona State University, has been selected by KU leaders to serve as the director of the institute and museum, which have a collection of more than 10 million plant, animal and fossil specimens that are used by researchers across the globe.

Franz said KU’s position as a “global leader” in research using biological collections played a key role in his decision to seek the job.

“Societal engagement and understanding of biological diversity are fundamental for prosperous communities and for a sustainable planet,” Franz said in a KU press release. “For 160 years, the Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum has grown outstanding intellectual, collections and data resources. Those accomplishments and the values that drive them will enable us to invent the future of biodiversity science.”

Franz was chosen for the position, in part, because of his work at Arizona State that created infrastructure that makes it easier for collections to be accessed by researchers and students, KU said in the release.

“He is passionate about making collections accessible and integrated with coursework, and I look forward to supporting the growth and impact of the Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum under his leadership,” said Belinda Sturm, interim vice chancellor for research.

The Biodiversity Institute is a key piece of KU’s research portfolio, serving as one of 11 designated research centers in the university.

Franz will begin his new role in mid-August. In addition to serving as director of the institute and the museum — one of KU’s more heavily visited attractions — Franz will have a full faculty appointment within the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.

Franz has a master’s in biology from the University of Costa Rica and a doctorate in systematic entomology from Cornell University.


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