Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon


Tel +64 3 479 7929


Research interests

Behavioural Ecology, Evolutionary Ecology, Molecular Ecology, Ecological Genetics, Reproductive Biology, Environmental Epigenetics, Behavioural Genomics, Insect Conservation and Behaviour

I am a behavioural ecologist with broad interests in sexual selection, mating system evolution, sperm biology and the effects of human-induced change on the reproductive ecology and behaviour of animals. Overall, my research programme investigates both genetic and environmental effects on behaviour and reproductive fitness. We currently use zebrafish, tree weta, stag beetles, and triplefins in our research, but I am open to working with different study systems.

Postgraduate students

I am currently accepting students interested in working on insect conservation and behaviour or transgenerational acclimation in fishes.

The University of Otago offers PhD scholarships to candidates with excellent academic records (irrespective of nationality). Please feel free to contact me if you are interested my research and would like to do your PhD in New Zealand. More information can be found on the Scholarships page.

Current students

Luna Thomas (PhD Zoology), The mating system of the endemic stag beetle, Geodorcus helmsi. Supervisors: Johnson, Jenny Jandt

Yasmin Foster (PhD Zoology), Integrating genomic and epigenomic approaches for kākāpō conservation. Supervisors: Robertson, Gossner, Dutoit, Johnson

Melita Busch (MSc Zoology). Foraging and defending in Vespula wasps. Supervisors: Jenny Jandt, Johnson

Sharn Milliken (MSc Zoology). Pollinators of rare limestone plants. Supervisors: Johnson, Janice Lord, Clement Lagrue

Breana Riordan (MSc Zoology). Thermal tolerances of triplefins fishes. Supervisors: Johnson, Tony Hickey

Zhuali Lim (MSc Ecology). Pollination and nesting behaviour of native NZ bees. Supervisors: Johnson, Janice Lord

Previous students

Mateus Detoni (PhD Zoology), Social wasp behavioural ecology and genomics. Supervisors: Jandt, Johnson

Meg Kelly (MSc Zoology), Examining behavioural differences between predator aware and predator naive tree wētā. Supervisors: Johnson, Priscilla Wehi

Fletcher Munsterman (MSc, Zoology), Impacts of microplastics on triplefin behaviour. Supervisors: Johnson, Bridie Allan

Dominque Harris (MSc, Zoology), Can territorial fish recognise each other as individuals? Supervisors: Closs, Johnson

Brad Lamont (MSc Marine Science), Investigating how a high predation environment during embryogenesis affects larval characteristics in triplefin fish using chemical alarm cues. Supervisors: Allan, Johnson

Adele Parli (MSc Zoology), Behavioural effects of brodifacoum bait exposure on Wellington tree wētā. Supervisors: Johnson, Priscilla Wehi, Anne Besson

Hilary Thomson (MSc Zoology), Repeatability of zebrafish personality traits. Supervisor: Johnson

Simon Lamb (MSc Zoology), Effects of atrazine on transgenerational epigenetics in zebrafish. Supervisor: Johnson

Carlos Lara Vasquez (PhD Zoology), Immunity, quality, and fitness in a bird with a variable mating system. Supervisors: Nakagawa, Robertson, Johnson

Benedikt Holtmann (PhD Zoology), Animal personality and social networks in a species with variable mating systems, the Dunnock. Supervisors: Nakagawa, Robertson, Johnson

Jordan Aria Housiaux (MSc Marine Sciences), Ecology of sevengill sharks using mark/recapture and connectivity analyses. Supervisors: Rayment, Hepburn, Johnson


Google scholar profile


Sanghvi, K., Vega-Trejo, R., Nakagawa, S., Gascoigne, S. J. L., Johnson, S. L., Salguero-Gómez, R., … Sepil, I. (2024). Meta-analysis shows no consistent evidence for senescence in ejaculate traits across animals. Nature Communications, 15, 558. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-44768-4

Besson, A., Johnson, S. L., Nakagawa, S., Meylan, S., & Cree, A. (2023). Do personality traits co-vary with baseline concentrations of glucocorticoids in a viviparous lizard? In D. J. Wilson & J. M. Monks (Eds.), Recent developments in research on the herpetofauna of Aotearoa New Zealand: Proceedings of the 18th Biennial Conference of the Society for Research on Amphibians and Reptiles in New Zealand (SRARNZ) 2021: DOC Research and Development Series 369. 2.4. Retrieved from

Thompson, L., Doogan, H., Thompson, C., Wehi, P., & Johnson, S. (2023). Are there differences in behaviour between the two colour morphs of the mountain stone wētā, Hemideina maori? New Zealand Journal of Zoology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/03014223.2023.2249408

Kelly, M., Wehi, P. M., & Johnson, S. L. (2023). Behavioural differences in predator aware and predator naïve Wellington tree wētā, Hemideina crassidens. Current Research in Insect Science, 3, 100058. doi: 10.1016/j.cris.2023.100058

Detoni, M., Johnson, S. L., Adams, C. I. M., Bengston, S., & Jandt, J. M. (2023). Older, but not wiser: Social wasp colony defensive behavior decreases with time, not experience. Insectes Sociaux, 70, 81-96. doi: 10.1007/s00040-022-00893-1

Back to top