Maggie Johnson recently earned her Ph.D. in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego in La Jolla, Calif..

After graduating from Rockland District High School in 2001, Johnson pursued a bachelor's degree at Colby College. She completed her undergraduate degree in biology, with a minor in art, in 2005, and started advanced studies of marine science with Northeastern University’s Three Seas Program. She was SCUBA certified in Rockland in the summer of 2005, and trained as a scientific diver through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences that fall.

Johnson completed a professional master's degree in marine biology through Northeastern, where she traveled and lived in French Polynesia and California. After completing the program, she interned as a scientific diving assistant in the Gulf of Maine, American Samoa and Baja Sur, Mexico. She then returned to graduate school and pursued a traditional master's degree in biology at California State University, Northridge, where she studied the coral reefs of French Polynesia. Johnson has continued studying coral reefs throughout her doctoral program with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and was recently awarded a Ph.D. in marine biology after five years of intense research and teaching.

Johnson's research interests are in understanding how humans are changing natural ecosystems, particularly how increasing carbon emissions are affecting coral reefs. She uses a combination of experiments underwater, by SCUBA, and experiments in the lab to monitor how warming ocean temperatures (global warming) and decreasing ocean pH (ocean acidification) affect the biology and growth of coral reef seaweeds. During her doctoral studies, Johnson traveled to some of the most remote coral reefs on the planet. She spent time working in the Line Islands in the central Pacific, including Palmyra Atoll and the Southern Line Islands in the Republic of Kiribati, French Polynesia and Hawaii.

The results of her doctoral research show that global change has negative consequences for coral reef seaweeds, which could change the persistence of coral reefs over the next several decades. Johnson's master's and doctoral research has been published in several peer-reviewed scientific journals. In addition to research, she has been actively involved in teaching at the university level at Scripps, and at San Diego City and Mesa colleges.

Johnson will continue her research on coral reefs and human impacts with the Smithsonian Institution starting in October. She was the sole recipient of the MarineGEO post-doctoral fellowship for 2016. The Marine Global Observatory (MarineGEO), directed by the Smithsonian’s Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network, is a global coastal observation and research network designed to improve understanding of coastal ecosystems.

Johnson will work with Drs. Andrew Altieri, Valerie Paul and Nancy Knowlton to conduct research on the coral reefs of Panama, at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution’s field station in Bocas del Toro, and the oyster reefs of the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, with the Smithsonian’s Ft. Pierce research station. Her post-doctoral research will explore baseline ecosystem metabolism of coral and oyster reefs, and determine how ocean acidification and warming affect both biodiversity and ecosystem function.