Paula T. DePriest

  • Ph. D.
  • Deputy Director
  • Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute
  • Biological Sciences

Research Interests

Lichenology Evolutionary Biology Molecular Systematics Biodeterioration

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Dr. Paula T. DePriest is the Deputy Director of the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute. Previously she was a scientific advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian Institution, and a research scientist and curator of the Lichen Collection at the Department of Botany of the National Museum of Natural History. Dr. DePriest completed her Ph.D. in Botany at Duke University in 1992, and held positions as Adjunct Professor at Duke University (1997-2004) and George Mason University (1998-2004). She served as Chair of the Smithsonian Congress of Scholars (2001-2002) and Chair of the National Museum of Natural History Senate of Scientists (1999).

Dr. DePriest’s early research focused on the systematics and evolution of lichens, especially the lichen-forming fungi. She pioneered the use of Group I introns in ribosomal DNA as evolutionary and population genetic marker. Her research and fieldwork has taken her throughout Europe, the Scandinavian countries, and Central and South America. Dr. DePriest’s earliest lichenological studies were conducted in the Southern Appalachians and Southeastern United States. Her research has been published in over 70 professional papers, and has been featured in various journals and newspapers: BioScience; Science; Science News; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; New York Times; and Svenska Dagbladet. Since 2002, she has conducted fieldwork in the reindeer herding regions of Mongolia, exploring the plants, landscapes, and worship structures that comprise their annual nomadic migration.
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Professional experience

Deputy Director

Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute

March 2005 - Present

Education history

Duke University


September 1986 - March 1992 (5 years 6 months)