Skip to main content

Jerry Johnson

Professor and Curator, Bean Museum

4033 LSB
Provo, UT 84602


As a first-generation college student, I have been profoundly changed by higher education and the many ways it has blessed my life. My academic history includes study at Snow College (AA), University of Utah (BA), BYU (MA), University of Vermont (PhD), University of Nebraska (postdoc) and University of Washington/NOAA Fisheries (postdoc). I am currently a Full Professor of Biology and Curator of Fishes at Brigham Young University. My wife and I and our now grown children have enjoyed the fruits of an academic life, including a sabbatical leave in Spain and Italy, and field work and research across the globe, most recently in Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Mexico, and England.

Research Interests

Research in my lab is currently focused in four main areas. We do much of this work using freshwater fishes as our models.

(1) Understanding how ecological interactions drive evolutionary diversification. Much of our work examines the effects of predation on the evolution of prey traits, including life history, functional morphology, and behavior.

(2) Understanding how reproductive isolation evolves in the wild. Prior work suggests that differences in predator-mediated mortality among populations can lead to so-called 'magic traits' that directly affect reproductive isolation. We are currently studying differences among populations within a single species in Costa Rica. We are also studying how species boundaries break down due to hybridization between two species in Costa Rica and Panama.

(3) Understanding the evolution of cognition. Current projects focus on how fish count, how they problem solve, why they copy one another, and if differences in mortality risk improves or diminishes (social brain hypothesis) cognitive ability.

(4) Understanding the genetic basis for parallel evolution in livebearing fishes. We are initially focusing on parallel life history but plan to expand to other traits as well.

(5) Conservation of freshwater fishes. We have partnered with the University of Costa Rica to focus on generating conservation and recovery plans for the most threatened livebearing fishes in Costa Rica. Closer to home, we are working to cause a fundamental shift to the protection of western North American fishes, arguing that the protection of evolutionary diverse populations within common widespread species is essential for the long-term conservation of this depauperate fauna.

Teaching Interests

I currently teach Introductory Biology for majors (Bio130), Evolutionary Medicine (Bio250), Evolution (Bio420), Capstone in Conservation Biology (Bio450), Peer Reviewed Publishing (Bio517), Tropical Biology (Bio530), and Evolutionary Ecology (Bio652). I also oversee students in our department engaged in internships (Bio399R).


  • PhD, Evolution & Ecology , University of Vermont (2000)
  • BA, Biology (Minor: Chemistry) , University of Utah (1995)
  • AA, Liberal Arts , Snow College (1993)

Honors and Awards

  • Young Scholar Award, Brigham Young University (2014 - 2017)
  • University Devotional Speaker, Brigham Young University (2014 - 2014)
  • Outstanding Research Award, College of Life Sciences, Brigham Young University (2011 - 2011)
  • Outstanding Contributor in Science Education, Utah Science Teachers Association (2009 - 2009)
  • Karl and Mollie Butler Young Scholar Award, Brigham Young University (2007 - 2007)
  • U.S. National Academies of Science and Engineering Postdoctoral Research Award, U. S. National Research Council (2001 - 2001)
  • Raney Award, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (2000 - 2000)
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Training Fellow, U.S. National Science Foundation (1995 - 1995)
  • Stoye Award - Honorable Mention, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (1995 - 1995)
  • Cottam Award, Brigham Young University (1994 - 1994)

Professional Citizenship

  • Editor, Associate Editor, Zoological Society of London - Animal Conservation (2009 - 2014)

Courses Taught


Andrea Roth-Monzon Jose Jaime Zuniga-Vega Mark C Belk Jerald B Johnson Kandace M Hugentobler Jerald B Johnson Trevor J Williams Mark C Belk Jerald B Johnson Andrea J Roth-Monzon Laura E Scott Ashley A Camargo Eliza I Clark Eric E Schott Jerald B Johnson Spencer J Ingley Jerald B Johnson Spencer j Ingley Jerald B Johnson Spencer J Ingley M R Asl C Wu R Cui M. I. A. Gadelhak W. Li J. Zhang T. Veen Jerald B Johnson Wei Yan Gil G. Rosenthal Justin C Bagley Jerald B Johnson Spencer J Ingley Jerald B Johnson Jose Jaime Zuniga-Vega Spencer J Ingley Peter J Unmack Jerald B Johnson Justin C Bagley Michael W Sandel Joseph Travis Manfred L Lozano-Vilano Jerald B Johnson Peter J Unmack Michael P. Hammer Mark Adams Jerald B Johnson Thomas E Dowling April D. Larson Patrick L. Scarborough Casey L. Sayre Jerald B Johnson Jose Jaime Zuniga-Vega F. R. Rodriguez-Reyes C. Olivera-Tlaheul J. Maceda-Cruz C. M. Molina-Zuluaga Jerald B Johnson Peter J Unmack Juan P. Barriga Miguel A. Battini Evelyn Habit Jerald B Johnson Matthew J Baker Leilani F. Williams Andrew H Lybbert Jerald B Johnson M. Adams S. D. Wedderburn Peter J Unmack M. P. Hammer Jerald B Johnson Brian R Barber Peter J Unmack Marcos Perez Losada Jerald B Johnson Keith Alan Crandall Jerald B Johnson Justin C Bagley Laura E. Scott Jerald B Johnson J. G. Zamora-Abrego Y. C. Chang Jamie J. Zuniga-Vega A. Nieto-Montes De Oca Jerald B Johnson M. J. Hickerson B. C. Carstens J. Cavender-Bares Keith Alan Crandall C. H. Graham Jerald B Johnson L. Rissler P. F. Victoriano A. D. Yoder Jerald B Johnson Scott Peat Byron James Adams Jared Lee Jerald B Johnson Jerald B Johnson Jamie J Zuniga-Vega Jerald B Johnson Marta Jean Adair Byron James Adams Daniel Fairbanks V. Itamura Duane E Jeffery Duane B Merrell Scott Myers Ritter Richard R. Tolman Carissa P Jones Jerald B Johnson