Dr. Jerald B. JohnsonBrigham Young University

Dr. Jerald B. Johnson, PhD, director

Brigham Young University
Taxonomic Focus: Fishes

Address: 4033 LSB Provo, UT 84602, USA
Phone: 1 (801) 422-4502
E-mail: jerry.johnson@byu.edu


Dr. Johnson’s research focus is in evolutionary ecology. He is interested in understanding the interplay between ecological processes and evolutionary diversification. His work spans several traditional disciplines in ecology and evolution, ranging from population ecology to molecular phylogeography. Current projects in his laboratory include demographic analyses of fishes and lizards, studies of parallel life history evolution and incipient speciation, including the evolution of mating strategies, and conservation genetics of fishes in desert springs.

Dr. Johnson’s research in Patagonia examines evolutionary diversification and population histories of catfishes. Recent work has focused on understanding the geographical and ecological mechanisms that underlie genetic differentiation in the pencil catfish Trichomycterus areolatus of Chile. His research team is now expanding this effort to include other catfish species, most notably the widespread species Hatcheria macraei found throughout Patagonia. Related projects focus on morphological adaptation and ecological differentiation in Patagonian fishes. In the end, his team hopes to understand how Patagonian fishes have diversified and what environmental and abiotic factors are responsible for this remarkable variation.

His lab group is working closely with other members of the Patagonia fish team (see Taxonomic Groups) to understand the broader impact of historical events in this region on overall fish diversity. Patterns discerned from these data will eventually be combined with patterns found in other Patagonian taxa (crabs, plants, lizards, frogs, etc.) to reveal the overall impact of earth’s history on biodiversity in this important region of the world.

Related Publications

Adams, M., S. D. Wedderburn, P. J. Unmack, M. P. Hammer, and J. B. Johnson.  2011.  Congeneric assessment demonstrates the linked genetic histories of two threatened fishes (Atherinidae: Craterocephalus) in Australia's Murray-Darling Basin. Conservation Biology 25:767-776.

Johnson, J. B.
and J. C. Bagley.  2011.  Ecological drivers of life-history divergence in Poeciliid fishes.  In Ecology and Evolution of Livebearing Fishes.  Eds. J. Evans, A. Pilastro, and I. Schlupp. University of Chicago Press.  Pp. 38-49. 

Hammer, M. P., P. J. Unmack, M. Adams, J. B. Johnson, and K. F. Walker.  2010.  Genetic conservation units in the Yarra pygmy perch Nannoperca obscura (Teleostei: Percichthyidae): the significance of phylogeographic structure for declining populations in southeastern Australia. Conservation Genetics 11:213-223.

Johnson, J. B.
, S. Peat, and B. J. Adams.  2009.  Where’s the ecology in ‘molecular ecology’?  Oikos 118: 1601-1609.

Lee, J. B. and J. B. Johnson.  2009.  Biogeography of the livebearing fish Poecilia gillii in Costa Rica: are phylogeographic breaks congruent with fish community boundaries?  Molecular Ecology 18: 4088-4101.

Jones, C. P. and J. B. Johnson.  2009.  Phylogeography of the livebearer Xenophallus umbratilis (Teleostei: Poeciliidae): glacial cycles and sea level change predict diversification of a freshwater tropical fish.  Molecular Ecology 18: 1640-1653.

Johnson, J.B.
and M. C. Belk.  2007.  What the status of Utah chub tells us about conserving common, widespread species.  Pages 165-173 in M. J. Brouder and J. A. Scheurer, eds.  Status, distribution, and conservation of native freshwater fishes of western North America: a symposium proceedings.  American Fisheries Society, Symposium 53, Betheseda, MD.

Johnson, J. B., T. E. Dowling, and M. C. Belk. 2004. Neglected taxonomy of rare desert fishes: congruent evidence for two species of leatherside chub. Systematic Biology 53:841-854.

Johnson, J. B. and K. S. Omland. 2004. Model selection in ecology and evolution. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 19:101-108.

Johnson, J. B. 2002. Evolution after the flood: phylogeography of the desert fish Utah chub. Evolution 56:948-960.

Ruckelshaus, M. H., P. Levin, J. B. Johnson, and P. M. Kareiva. 2002. The Pacific salmon wars: what science brings to the challenge of conserving species. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 33:665-706.

Academic Background

  • BA (’93) University of Utah  - Biology, Minor in Chemistry
  • MS ('95) Brigham Young University  - Zoology, Graduate Minor in Statistics
  • PhD (’00) University of Vermont  - Biology
  • Associate Professor in the Department of Biology & Assistant Curator of Fishes at the M. L. Bean Museum, Brigham Young University (’04–present)


Dr. Johnson is the director of the PIRE Speciation in Patagonia Project. He has long maintained an interest in international field research, especially throughout the Americas. As an undergraduate he spent time in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador and later in Brazil, solidifying his desire to understand patterns of global biodiversity. He is currently working on fish life history evolution and speciation in Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama), on fish conservation genetics and demography in North America (deserts of the Great Basin and southern Mexico), and on comparative phylogeography and parallel evolution research for the PIRE project in South America (Chile and Argentina).  Dr. Johnson is a past recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Training Fellowship in molecular ecology at the University of Vermont and of a National Academy of Sciences NRC Postdoctoral Associateship at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He is currently on the faculty at BYU where he teaches courses in ecology and evolutionary biology.  In 2012, he will help launch a new International Biology Internship (IBI) program at BYU to provide opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct 'research abroad' for a semester at one of several host labs across the globe.


Personal: http://lifesciences.byu.edu/~jbj59