Helgen, Kristofer M. (Former Member)
Kris was born in Fridley, Minnesota, on March 14, 1980, and was raised in Minnesota. Always keenly interested in nature, and particularly in mammals, he realized from a very early age that he wanted to be a zoologist. He attended Harvard University especially to study at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and graduated with an A.B. cum laude in 2001. During his undergraduate years, Kris worked extensively in the mammalogy collections at Harvard and in many major museums, traveled in southern Africa and Australia to study mammals, and mentored under many notable biologists, especially Donald R. Griffin, Timothy F. Flannery, and Don E. Wilson. In 2001, Kris began fieldwork on the mammals of New Guinea, and moved to Adelaide, Australia, to study at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum, first under a Fulbright Fellowship, and then under a PhD scholarship. He studied under Tim Flannery and Russell V. Baudinette, with his PhD focused on the systematics and biogeography of the mammals of the Melanesian region. During these years in Australia he took great interest in the Australian fauna, participated in field expeditions in Borneo, Timor, Vanuatu, and throughout the island of New Guinea, and worked in museums in 30 countries. In 2006, while in Australia he married an Australian and fellow biologist, Lauren Elizabeth Johnston. He then finished his PhD and moved to Washington D.C., to take up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History under Don Wilson. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian, Kris worked on problems in the systematics of many different groups of mammals, and engaged in fieldwork in Ecuador, Borneo, New Guinea, and elsewhere. In 2008 he was hired as a Research Zoologist and Curator of Mammals at National Museum of Natural History, and he became Curator-in-Charge of the Division of Mammals in 2009. His work focuses on the mammals of all continents, especially systematics, biogeography, ecomorphology, and conservation. He has worked in more than 60 countries and more than 80 museums, has produced more than 100 peer-reviewed publications on the biology of mammals, and in his research has documented approximately 100 species of mammals previously unknown to science. He holds honorary or affiliate positions at George Mason University, the American Museum of Natural History, the Bishop Museum, and the National Geographic Society. He serves on various editorial and advisory boards, and is an active member of the American Society of Mammalogists, where he has served on many committees and on the Board of Directors. Kris resides in Arlington, Virginia. His wife Lauren is a research assistant and museum specialist in the Department of Entomology at National Museum of Natural History. Kris was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2010.