Alumni on the move
Smithsonian scientist discovers new mammal
Internationally renowned mammalogist Kristofer Helgen (PhD 2007) has discovered the newest rare mammal species, the Olinguito.
Kris is a research scientist and head of mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the largest collection of mammals in the world.
His discovery of the Olinguito—a small carnivorous mammal in the raccoon family—marks the first time in 35 years that a new mammal species has been discovered in the Americas.
Studying the evolution of mammals on the island of New Guinea for his PhD at the University of Adelaide and graduating in 2007, Kris has gone on to work as a zoologist in 50 countries and discovered 100 species of living mammals.
"My work focuses especially on biological expeditions to the tropics and historical research in museum collections to document mammalian biodiversity and to study environmental change," says Kris.
"The Olinguito is a great indicator of how much more life on our planet remains to be documented, and how discoveries often arise from just looking a little more closely at what we think we know."
Originally from Minnesota, Kris now lives in Virginia with his wife Lauren Helgen, also a zoologist and graduate of the University of Adelaide (BSC (Hons) 2002).
story by Genevieve Sanchez
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