Kris Krishtalka is someone who thinks deeply about genomic biodiversity, evolutionary patterns, and the history of science. He is professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics – Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. He also serves as director of the KU Biodiversity Institute.

Kris declares that humans are the newest and most powerful geologic agents transforming the planet.  As evidence of the impact of human activity, he notes that the earth stopped vibrating for four months in early 2020 when people stopped their normal routines in order to control the coronavirus.  We create, transform, and destroy life of earth.

He names five urgent challenges now facing mankind: 

  1. Appreciating the diversity of life by documenting more of the 3.6 to 18 million species estimated to live on the planet.
  2. Figuring out how are species related.
  3. Learning the language of life in genomes and their coding.
  4. Exploring how ecosystems fit together and their interdependencies.
  5. Accepting that natural history and human history are now one and the same.

To address the challenges at hand, Kris believes we must focus attention on microbial life. As a recent article in The Economist entitled “Microbes Maketh Man” explains, human metabolism and health are controlled by microbes.  They are ubiquitous, ever-changing, superabundant, diverse, and comprise 95% of the biosphere. 

Read more of Kris’ ideas in the Biodiversity blog at KU.