William S. Johnson

William Johnson

Lillian Welsh Professor of Biological Sciences, Emeritus
Goucher College WSJ AK

 Ph. D. Biology, Stanford University, 1974

I have enjoyed teaching marine biology and introducing zooplankton to undergraduates, graduate students, technical staff, and pre-college teachers in summer courses and institutes.I began teaching marine ecology as a graduate student at Stanford and later as a postdoctoral fellow at Lehigh University where I met Dennis Allen, then a graduate student at Lehigh. In 1975, I moved to Goucher College in Maryland and also taught Marine Ecology courses at the West Indies Laboratory on St. Croix. There I began research on planktivorous fishes.

Planktivorous fishes form a key link between planktonic food webs and the larger predatory fishes, including the primary food and sport fishes. I am particularly interested in the feeding dynamics of plankton-feeding fishes and the nature of prey selection. Since 1980, Dennis Allen and I have been investigating the interplay between fish and zooplankton in the saltmarsh creeks of South Carolina. These zooplanktivores  constitute an important connection in transferring marsh based productivity to oceanic systems.

Zooplankton of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts: a guide to their identification and ecology stems from a common frustration with trying to use existing guides to identify East Coast zooplankton both in our professional research and in teaching. We created a guide made specifically the Atlantic and Gulf coasts that blends scientific accuracy with ease of use. Zooplankton contain an amazing diversity of forms and lifestyles. In addition to providing information related to zooplankton identification and ecology, we hope to share our fascination with these animals. We hope that this web site provides a more interactive forum for all engaged with zooplankton of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Current Research Interests:

  1. Biology of the giant predatory water flea, Leptodora kindti iin the Chesapeake Bay. Goucher Honors research student Marilyn Yorgey and I initiated a survey of the near-bottom zooplankton in the Back River/Middle River region of the Chesapeake Bay. The most significant finding was large numbers of  Leptodora kindtii) in the Chseapeake. Leptodora is typically restricted to fresh waters, especially lakes and reservoirs. Its presence in the Bay in large numbers raises questions about its role in the overall plankton dynamics and in estuarine food webs.
  2. Community structure and dynamics of near-bottom marine zooplankton that lives just above the bottom (epibenthic or suprabenthic) off of the sandy beaches of Assateague, VA. This near-bottom fauna is unstudied along the entire Atlantic coast. There are two major objectives of this field research:
    • Further define the overall community structure of the unique and extremely abundant near-bottom epibenthic community found near sandy beaches. I want to link nearshore zooplankton distributions to upwelling, downwelling, along-shore currents, and bottom topography.  Since we don’t even know the composition of this epibenthic assemblage, even the most basic data documenting its spatial and temporal distribution would be new information.
    • To locate the planktonic larval forms of the most common crabs found on sandy beaches including (sand crabs (Emerita), lady crabs (Ovalipes), Green shore crabs (Carcinus) Ghost crab (Ocypode), and others, hitherto almost entirely missing from most plankton collections. If the missing crab larvae are located in the near-surf zone, this would supply a missing link in the life cycles of these species. Where do these larvae go? How do they get back? What hydrographic factors affect their recruitment to the sand beach habitat of the adult?

Selected Publications:

Gladfelter, W. B. and W. S. Johnson (1983) Feeding niche separation in a guild of tropical reef fishes (Holocentridae). Ecology 64: 552-563.

Johnson, W. S., Ruben, P. (1988) Behavior and cleaning activity of Bodianus rufus, Thalassoma bifasciatum and Gobiosoma evelynae along a depth gradient at Salt River Canyon, St. Croix. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 23: 225-232.

Johnson, W. S., Allen, D., M.. Ogburn, M.V and Stancyk, S.E. (1990) Short-term predation responses of adult bay anchovies Anchoa mitchilli to estuarine zooplankton availability. Marine Ecology Progress Series 64: 55-68.

Allen, D., M.,. Johnson ,W. S,,. Ogburn, M.V (1995) Trophic relationships and seasonal utilization of salt marsh creeks by zooplanktivorous fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 42: 37-50.

Johnson, W. S., Stevens, E.,. Watling, L (2000/2001) Reproduction and development in marine peracaridans. Advances in Marine Biology 39: 107-261. (Review article)

Johnson, W. S.. Allen D. M (2012). Zooplankton of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts: A Guide to Their Identification and Ecology. Johns Hopkins University Press. 453 pages.

Teaching Experience/Courses:

  • Goucher College 1975 present. Retired to emeritus status in 2006.
    • Environmental Physiology and Toxicology
    • Environmental Alternatives
    • Ecology and Evolution
    • Field Ecology
    • Animal Diversification I & II
    • Marine Ecology Seminar
    • Chesapeake Bay Ecology
    • Tropical Marine Biology (taught at Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences, Honduras)
    • Biometry: Experimental Design & Analysis
  • West Indies Laboratory 1978 (As sabbatical replacement for lab. director)
    • Tropical Marine Ecology
  • Lehigh University 1975 (As postdoctoral fellow at Wetlands Institute, NJ)
    • Biology of Marine Animals
  • Stanford University 1973
    • Marine Ecology (Ten week summer course at Hopkins Marine Station)