Rebecca Johnson

Invertebrate zoologist

About me

I grew up in Thousand Oaks, California but now live and work in San Francisco. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where I first began research on nudibranchs as a student in the Moorea Course at the Gump Biological Station in Moorea, French Polynesia. I was initially drawn to work on nudibranchs because I was interested in the evolution of color in the sea, specifically the phenomena of crypsis, aposematism and mimicry. Chromodorid nudibranchs are beautiful, brightly colored sea slugs found primarily in tropical and subtropical coral reef habitats. They are a perfect group with which to explore these questions. They are the most species rich family of all opisthobranchs (16 genera, 300 described species). While in Moorea, I was lucky enough to discover an undescribed species of chromodorid and I was hooked. I later described this species, Hypselodoris zephyra, as part of my Master's degree at San Francisco State University.

My doctoral research at the University of California, Santa Cruz focused on the evolution, nomenclatural history and molecular phylogeny of the chromodorid nudibranchs. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the California Academy of Sciences with Terrence Gosliner. I am broadly interested in the evolutionary history and biodiversity of invertebrates, especially chromodorids and particularly interested in the history of naming and how names influence study design and our interpretation of findings across biology. I have just published a molecular phylogeny that helps resolve some issues of chromodorid family membership and continuing work on chromodorid phylogeny and classification. I am looking forward to using my species level phylogenies to explore color pattern evolution within this group. This better understanding of evolutionary relationships, will allow me to get back to some of the original questions I had as an undergraduate.

As a Rubenstein Fellow, I will be able to use the EOL as an organizing tool for these new findings, historical data and information on chromodorid nudibranchs that is scattered across the web. Chromodorids are some of the most photographed coral and rocky reef inhabitants and their beauty made them the dominant group on many photography and identification websites. Unfortunately, although the most thorough of these web resources include authorship details and are moderated by experts, there is not a single portal through which to access all of this disparate information. This funding will enable me to supplement the varying amounts of information found for different species on different websites and to link all of the valuable data found on across the web to a classification and original literature. Continuing and consistent access to a unifying current classification, original descriptions, and archival literature is integral to bringing professional malacologists and amateurs together.

In addition to my work with chromodorids, I also coordinate the Rocky Shore Partnership, an education and public programs partnership between the Academy and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. In this role, I develop and teach classes on invertebrate zoology and intertidal natural history for volunteers, coordinate their research and interpretation in the rocky intertidal in Marin County, conduct field work on the Farallon Islands and work to build other connections between the Sanctuary and the Academy. As part of my job, I spend time in local tidepools and teaching about local nudibranchs. My experience with local fauna will allow me to add pages and information about California intertidal nudibranchs to the Encyclopedia of Life.

My info

Full name
Rebecca Johnson
I am
a professional scientist
Curator level
Full Curator


27 objects curated
2 taxa curated
0 images set as exemplar
0 articles selected for Overview
0 preferred classifications selected

0 common names added
0 common names removed
0 common names curated

8 taxa commented
15 comments submitted
1 article added
0 data records added
*counts are refreshed daily

Curator qualifications

EOL Rubenstein Fellow and Postdoctoral Researcher Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology California Academy of Sciences 55 Music Concourse Dr. Golden Gate Park San Francisco, CA 94118
Curation scope
Animalia Lifedesks