W. John Kress
Interim Under Secretary for Science
W. John Kress serves as Interim Under Secretary for Science. He oversees the operations of the National Museum of Natural History; the National Air and Space Museum; the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute headquartered in Front Royal, Va.; the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.; the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md.; the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute in Suitland, Md.; and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.
W. John Kress is also director of the Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet, one of the four grand challenges of the Smithsonian’s strategic plan. The Grand Challenges are the priorities that will guide the Smithsonian’s work over the next decade. The consortia directors and their committee consider proposals for innovative research, exhibitions and programs from all over the Institution and determine which ones will receive funding. Kress also serves as curator of botany at the National Museum of Natural History. He is an expert on tropical biology, with interests in the evolution and ecology of tropical plants and animals. Working with geneticists and computer scientists, he has devoted some of his research effort to applying new technologies—such as DNA barcoding and computerized image recognition—to increase understanding of the diversity of plants.