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University Museum of Zoology appoints new Director

Professor Rebecca Kilner has been appointed as Director of the Museum of Zoology, following the retirement of Professor Paul Brakefield.

Professor Kilner, who will take up the post on 1st October 2019 is Professor of Evolutionary Biology within the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge. She joins the Museum at a key point in its development as it builds on the excitement of last year’s relaunch. The Museum also plays a significant role in Cambridge - encouraging audiences to engage with the incredible work going on relating to conservation, evolution and animal diversity.

Professor Rebecca Kilner said ‘I feel privileged to start this new role at such an exciting time for the Museum. Here in Cambridge we are incredibly lucky to have one of the largest and most important natural history collections in the UK. The Museum’s new galleries and displays showcase the finest parts of these collections and generate excitement and interest amongst all our visitors. The Museum is a treasure trove, inspiring research into the way that the natural world evolves and functions yet reminding us of our responsibilities to conserve these wonders against the threats of climate change and habitat destruction. The Museum is amazing and I am proud to become a part of the team.’

The Museum of Zoology re-opened its doors in 2018, after a five year, £4.1 million re-development – including almost £2 million of funding raised by National Lottery players. It holds over two million specimens, including giants such as whales, elephants, giraffe, an ice-age giant ground sloth as well as many insects, birds, fish, molluscs and corals.

Some specimens have been collected by Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle voyage and the Museum also displays one of the world’s most complete dodo skeletons.

A major new permanent display of reptiles including birds opened during summer 2019, this is the largest addition to the Museum’s galleries since re-opening.

The outgoing Director, Professor Paul Brakefield said ‘I am delighted to hand over this prestigious role to Professor Kilner. It has been an honour to have been Director of the Museum throughout its fantastic re-development, and a pleasure to work alongside a dedicated team of people who have worked tirelessly to create the new Museum we have today.

He continued; ‘Visitor numbers in the first year of over 150,000 have significantly exceeded the targets that were set, and feedback has been extremely positive. I couldn't be more confident that Rebecca will take the Museum forward with momentum and passion. She is the perfect person to make the most of the Museum's core position within the new David Attenborough Building in central Cambridge that is dedicated to conserving biodiversity for future generations. I look forward very much to seeing how this exciting and highly relevant Museum evolves over the coming years.'


Notes for editors

Professor Rebecca Kilner has spent her academic career at the Department of Zoology in Cambridge, though fieldwork has taken her to Australia, New Zealand, and New York State as well as to the fens and woodlands around Cambridgeshire. Her current research focuses on sexton beetles, insects that build their family home on the body of a small dead animal like a mouse or a bird, and then diligently guard and feed their offspring. By combining ecological studies of natural populations with experimental evolution in the lab, Rebecca’s research group investigates how animal behaviour evolves under natural selection, and how behaviour contributes to the evolution of new biodiversity.


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University of Cambridge Museums is a consortium of the eight University Museums and the Botanic Garden, supported by Arts Council England. The consortium includes: Fitzwilliam Museum, Kettle's Yard, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Museum of Zoology, Museum of Classical Archaeology, Whipple Museum of the History of Science, The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and The Polar Museum. The University's collections are a world-class resource for researchers, students and members of the public representing the country’s highest concentration of internationally important collections, all within walking distance of the City Centre.