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Undergraduate Students

Ryen Hunsaker


Ryen Hunsaker is a junior undergraduate student who recently joined Dr. Johnson's research lab. He is a biology major and plans to attend dental school in a few years. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing volleyball and pickleball. While his research project is still in development, he is especially interested in male mating strategies in the Poeciliidae family, with a focus on male size vs gonopodium size.

Hallie Birdsong

I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and I’m currently working on my BS in Biology. Although I didn’t grow up my whole life with a passion to study freshwater fishes, at the beginning of my undergraduate studies I developed an admiration for the Tiktaalik fossil. Since then, my curiosity has only grown in wanting to better understand fish creatures. With my research I hope to focus on what forms of climate variability (if any) impact fishes in Costa Rica. I believe that by studying behavioral ecology with freshwater fishes we can mitigate the long-term impact of climate change. So far I have worked with other graduate students with their work on mate-choice copying behavior for Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora.

Maren Callaway


Lab Alumni

Erik S. Johnson

Erik Lab Pic.jpg


My research focuses on the link between handedness and behavioral lateralization. I use tropical freshwater fish as a model system. I am currently using a detour test approach to assay for lateralized behavior in response to different stimuli (potential mates, predators, food, novel objects). The question is whether or not fish use different eyes to view different types of stimuli, and does morphological handedness affect these choices. My general interests include the evolution of behavior, mating and predation interactions, and experimental design. I am a member of the Desert Fishes Council where I presented my findings at the 50th annual meetings in Death Valley in November 2018. In 2022, I finished my work at BYU and started a PhD in evolutionary ecology with Michi Tobler at Kansas State University.

Audrey Chou


My focus centers around fish genetics and behavior. I spent the Winter 2018 semester representing the Johnson lab at the University of Canberra in Australia. While I was there I worked on sequencing native freshwater fish mitochondrial genes to construct phylogeographic trees, as well as did some work looking at pesticide toxicity on freshwater invertebrates. My current project is now is seeking to determine whether phyologeography can predict behavior in fish populations. I will be comparing the bold and shy behavior of Rhinichthys osculus between newly colonized and ancestral populations to determine whether behavior plays a factor in dispersal.

Audrey is now at the University of California Davis studying veterinary medicine.

Megan Pew



I am an undergrad student majoring in Biodiversity & Conservation and minoring in Statistics. I joined the Johnson Lab to learn how I could use fish as models to answer important evolution and ecology questions. I am currently working on an independent project studying mate-choice copying behavior in Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora. Previous research has shown that some fish species will copy the mate-choice of another. For my research, I am trying to find out if socialization plays a role. Do females copy their "best friends" (females that they prefer to associate with), or is there another factor at play? My project will hopefully add a piece to the larger puzzle—how does copying persist in populations despite overwhelming costs? In general, my research interests lie in behavioral ecology and conservation. With the valuable experience I gain in Dr. Johnson’s lab, I hope to pursue a career in marine behavioral ecology, and dedicate my research to conservation solutions.

Teya Mathews



I began my research project my sophomore year, 2016, which at first dealt with whether female Brachyrhaphis roseni, a freshwater fish from Costa Rica and Panama, used personality (bold or shy) to choose a mate. Personality in animals is defined as behaviors that are repeatable and stable across time and different contexts. Due to findings from doing the behavioral trials, my research changed focus to deal with the question: does animal personality actually exists as it is defined, since we discovered that some individuals were not consistent in their expression of personality. Also, have previous studies dealing with animal personality not adequately or thoroughly tested enough to make sure behaviors are repeatable. These are the issues addressed through my research.

Henry Camarillo


2013 - 2016

Henry has conducted mentored research in our lab working on several different research projects. He recently returned from two week of field collecting in western Mexico. He is currently working as a curatorial assistant on fishes housed in BYU Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum. Prior to this, Henry contributed to a project examining individual-level swimming tradeoffs inBrachyrhaphis fishes that have evolved in the presence or absence of fish predators. This collaboration--with Spencer Ingley and Hannah Willis--has culminated with the following manuscript (currently in review).

Ingley, S. J., H. Camarillo, H. Willis, and J. B. Johnson. Evolving beyond paths of least resistance: repeated evolution of local adaptation where within population trade-offs are lacking.

Henry is currently a graduate student at Kansas State University with Prof. Michi Tobler.

Anna Gruszkiewicz


BYU International Biology Intern (University of Canberra, Australia) in 2014 and Mentored Research at BYU2013 - 2016

Anna's was an international intern in our program, working with Dr. Peter Unmack at the University of Canberra. Following her time in my lab at BYU, she completed an MS degree at Southeastern Louisiana University. She is currently employed with Assured Bio Labs in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

David Money

David Money.jpg

BYU International Biology Intern (Panama) in 2012 and Mentored Research at BYU2012 - 2016

David participated in our International Biology Internship program in 2012, living in Panama for three months where he conducted field experiments on freshwater fishes to explore the effects of predation history on fish behavior. In collaboration with my PhD student Spencer Ingley, he has written up these results and has submitted the following manuscript for publication.

Money, D. A., S. J. Ingley, and J. B. Johnson. Divergent predation environment between two sister species of livebearing fishes predicts boldness, activity, and exploration behavior.

David is currently a medical student at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Meaghan Weldele


BYU International Biology Intern (UNAM, Mexico) in 2013 and Mentored Research at BYU2012 - 2016

Meaghan's research is focused on life history evolution in Mexican livebearing fishes. She published her first paper on this work in 2014 in a collaboration between our lab and Professor Jaime Zuniga at UNAM. This paper is listed here:

Weldele, M. L, J. J. Zúñiga-Vega, and J. B. Johnson. 2014. Life history of Gambusia vittata. Southwestern Naturalist 59(4):449-460.

Meaghan is currently a graduate student at the University of Leeds, UK in a program of Environment and Development.