Ichthyologist and Curator of Fishes

Close-up of Ichthyologist Dr. Dave Johnson in a blue plad shirt and a cowboy hat in front of the window of a cabin.
Dr. David Johnson. Smithsonian image.

Dr. Dave Johnson is Curator of Fishes and Research Scientist with the Division of Fishes. In 1970, following service as a naval officer on a hydrographic survey ship and ten months as reptile keeper at the Houston Zoo, Texas-born Dave Johnson entered the Marine Biology program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He had no definite idea about what he was going to do, except that he wanted to be a marine biologist and thought that whales and porpoises were really cool. In his second year, he took Dick Rosenblatt’s course, "Biology of Fishes," and entered a world of diversity that he had been largely unaware of. He never looked back. Within a matter of weeks he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

Dave became a systematic ichthyologist, and set out on a life full of discovery, problem-solving, and interactions with the most engaging, interesting, and, wonderfully eccentric people that he could ever imagine. He held research and postdoctoral positions with the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland, the Smithsonian Institution and the South Carolina Marine Resources Research Institute, Charleston, and came to his current position in 1983. His research is concerned with the systematics and early life history of teleost fishes, particularly acanthomorphs, with a central focus on comparative anatomy, ontogeny, phylogenetic reconstruction and classification.