Indiana University Bloomington

Claudia C. Johnson

Claudia C. Johnson

Associate Professor of Geological Sciences


Office:   GY501
Phone:   812-855-0646

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., 1993, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • M.S., 1984, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • 1982, University of West Indies, Jamaica, Coral Reef Ecology Course
  • B.A., 1981, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • 1979, Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico, Study Abroad Program

Research Interests

The focus of my research is to evaluate evolutionary processes in the paleotropics. The tropical reef ecosystem provides the empirical database that I analyze using statistical methods. I then synthesize patterns and processes affecting reef evolution and demise, and evaluate the biotic changes in the context of the tropical ocean-climate system. At present, I examine reefs that evolved under Cretaceous "greenhouse", Pleistocene "icehouse" and Oligocene transitional climate states.

Questions driving my research initiatives include the following: Why do biotic replacements of one group by another occur in tropical ecosystems? What are the rates and magnitudes of the replacements, and what are the processes involved? Will a similar biotic replacement occur in our future reef ecosystem as we move toward a "greenhouse" state?

As Distinguished Lecturer for the Paleontological Society, I’ve had the privilege of disseminating my research results to 17 institutions in three countries across geology, biology and geography departments.

I am the recipient of three major NSF grants on the subject of ancient ocean-climate systems, and I co-edited two research volumes and numerous papers on the topic. The peer-reviewed, federally funded grants demonstrate the significant support received for my Geobiology research program. Currently, two Ph.D. and two M.S. students are studying integrated geological aspects of the paleoocean-paleoclimate system. My graduate students received grants from The Paleontological Society, Sigma Xi, the Geological Society of America and the Latin American Foundation, as well as additional private and federal agencies.

My research area is focused in the Caribbean region, and my students and I pursue field investigations in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Barbados. We travel to museums such as the National Museum of Natural History, the Paleontological Research Institute, and the Texas Memorial Museum to acquire specific paleontological specimens for research.

The future focus of my work is to understand the complexity of paleobiologic and ecologic factors that combined to allow the reef ecosystem to persist over 600 million years of Earth’s history. With this knowledge, I anticipate that I will be able to make predictions about the future health of our modern reef ecosystem.

Courses Taught

Undergraduate courses
  • G114 Dinosaurs and their Relatives
  • G334 Principles of Sedimentation and Stratigraphy
  • G341 Natural History of Coral Reefs
  • G404 Geobiology
  • G411Invertebrate Paleontology
  • G410 Undergraduate Research in Geology
Graduate courses
  • G561, Paleoecology
  • G690 Evolutionary Paleoecology
  • G690 Form, Function and Evolution
  • G685 Evolution of Ecosystems
  • G690 Global Climate Change and the Fossil Record (co-taught)
  • G341 G700/G341
  • Natural History of Coral Reefs
Graduate seminars and team-taught courses
  • G700, Oligocene Reefs
  • Geologic Problems: Interpreting Paleoclimatic Tools
  • Cenozoic Climate Variations
  • Cretaceous Ocean-Climate System, co-taught informal graduate seminar
  • Processes Influencing Earth's Surface
       Theme 1: The Holocene
       Theme 2: Origins and Envelope of Life
  • Marine Micropaleontology and Paleoceanography
  • Stratigraphic Linkage between Continental and Marine Records of Cretaceous Climate Change

Teaching Philosophy

My philosophy and basic teaching methodology is to work with students through the levels of learning, from memorization of facts through comprehension, analysis and synthesis of disparate data sets, in order to demonstrate that there is a tangible process to learning science. My goal is to bring scientific research information to the classroom, and to develop informative, interactive classes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. A subsidiary goal is to provide field training to students in order that they may pursue independent studies for graduate degrees. My research emphasis on reefs lends itself easily to these goals, for reefs have immediate name recognition and provide a diversity of geologic topics for discussion and investigation from empirical and theoretical aspects.

At the undergraduate level I teach geology courses to both non-science students and geology majors. I’ve supervised the completion of at least five undergraduate research projects for Undergraduate Research in Geology in which the scientific method and the importance of data collection, analysis and interpretation were emphasized. In the past years I’ve been involved with the IU STARS program for which I worked with a student researcher in my laboratory, interviewed students for the program, and judged year-end poster presentations.

At the graduate level I teach courses that are related to my research, and team-teach seminars and courses that require information integrated from paleontology, geology and related scientific fields such as chemistry, physics and biology. A recent course resulted in an abstract co-authored by the class participants, a poster presentation for the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, and a manuscript in review for a peer-reviewed journal.

Recent Research Projects

Geobiology Research Page

Graduate Student Projects

Ecology and ichnology of a Early Pennsylvanian tidal flat

An integrated multidisciplinary approach to evaluate the effects of environmental fluctuations on Late Cretaceous reef ecosystems, Caribbean Region

Quantification of taphonomic processes and low preservation potential of chitons (Mollusca, Polyplacophora): Applications and implications for interpretation of the fossil record

Carbonate sedimentology of an Oligocene reef ecosystem, Puerto Rico

Undergraduate Projects and Opportunities

Opportunities exist for laboratory research to address questions related to reef evolution or reef ecology. In-house samples from Pleistocene, Oligocene and Cretaceous scleractinian corals and for Cretaceous rudist bivalves can be utilized for undergraduate research projects.

Representative Publications

Simonelli, G.A., Johnson, C.C., Elswick, E.R., Kauffman, E.G., Eble, C.F., and Hasiotis, S.T. (2013) Sedimentology, geochemistry and paleobiology of a Pennsylvanian marginal marine depositional environment, Mansfield Formation, Indiana, USA. Indiana Geological Survey Occasional Paper 71.

Zhu, C., Rehrey, G., Treadwell, B., and Johnson, C.C. (2012) Looking Back to Move Ahead: How Students Learn Deep Geological Time by Predicting Future Environmental Impacts. Journal of College Science Teaching – A peer-reviewed journal published by the National Science Teachers Association. 41(3), 61-66.

Kay, R.F., Hunt, K.D., Beeker, C.D., Conrad, G.W., Johnson, C.C. and Keller, J. (2011) Preliminary notes on a newly discovered skull of the extinct monkey Antillothrix from Hispaniola and the origin of the Greater Antillean monkeys. Journal of Human Evolution, 60, issue 1, 124-128.

Elswick, E.R. and Johnson, C.C. (2010) Evaluation of a siliciclastic diamictite from the Maya Mountains of Belize. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 29, 676-684. doi:10.1016/j.jsames.2009.11.005

Liu, F., Le, C., McKnight-Whitford, A., Xia, Y., Wu, F., Elswick, E., Johnson, C.C., and Zhu, C. (2010) Antimony speciation and contamination of waters in the Xikuangshan antimony mining and smelting area, China. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, v. 32, no. 5, p. 401-413.

Puchalski, S. S., and Johnson, C. C., (2009). Preservation potential of Katharina tunicata and Mopalia muscosa (Mollusca, Polyplacophora) on two rocky shores of San Juan Island, Washington, USA.  Lethaia.  DOI 10.1111/j.1502-3931.2008.00125x

Elswick, E. R., and Johnson, C. C., (2009, in press) A siliciclastic diamictite from the Maya Mountains, Belize. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 35 ms pp.

Puchalski, S. S., Johnson, C. C., Kauffman, E. G., and Eernisse, D. J., in press.  A new genus and two new species of multiplacophoran chitons, Mississippian (Chesterian), Indiana, Journal of Paleontology, 28 ms pp, 7 figs.

Johnson, Claudia C., 2008.  Association of paleoenvironment and evolutionary grade of reef constructors through the Phanerozoic.  Abstract, 2008 Joint Meeting Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Assoc. Geol. Societies with Gulf Coast Section SEPM. 

Budziak, A., Beeker, C. de Leon, R., Johnson, C., and Kauffman, E., 2008. From barrels to augers:  Managing a transition in the mooring buoy systems of Bonaire National Marine Park.  Abstract, International Coral Reef Symposium, Reefs for the Future, July 7-11, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Please note:  even though I’m third author, I initiated the research presentation, wrote the abstract and prepared the entire poster. I also co-presented the poster at the conference.

Puchalski, S. S., Eernisse, D. J., Johnson, Claudia C., 2008.  The effect of sampling bias on the fossil record of chitons (Mollusca, Polyplacophora).  American Malacological Bulletin 25, p. 87-95. 

Kauffman, Erle G., and Johnson, Claudia C., 2009.  Cretaceous warm climates.  In, Gornitz, V., Editor, Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology and Ancient Environments, Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series, Springer, p. 213-217. 

Johnson, C. C., and Kauffman, E. G., 2007.  Notes on the Perkins Rudist Collection at PRI.  American Paleontologist, vol. 15, no. 3, p, 21,  Not listed on 2007 FSR

Hirano, H. and Johnson, C.C., Co-Editors, 2003, Land-Ocean Interactions of Carbon Cycle and Bio-diversity Change during the Cretaceous in Asia, Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, Special Issue V. 21, Issue 8, p. 803-977.

Johnson, C. C., 2002, The Rise and Fall of Rudist Reefs. American Scientist, v. 90, p. 150-155.

Johnson, C. C., Sanders, D., Kauffman, E.G., and Hay, W. W. 2002, Patterns and processes influencing Upper Cretaceous reefs. In Kiessling, W., Flugel, R., and Golonka, J (eds.) Phanerozoic Reef Patterns. Society for Sedimentary Geology, Special Publication 72, p. 549-585.

Johnson, C. C., and Kauffman, E. G., 2002, Cretaceous evolution of reef ecosystems; A regional synthesis of the Caribbean tropics. In Stanley, G. D., Jr. (ed.) The History and Sedimentology of Ancient Reef Ecosystems. Topics in Geobiology Series, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, p. 311-349.

Awards and Honors

Academic Honors and Awards

Fellow, Faculty Learning Community, Indiana University, 8/04 to present

The Paleontological Society, Distinguished Lecturer, 2000-2002, 2002-2004

Fulbright-Hays Award to Peru 1986 (declined award for Univ. Puerto Rico Instructorship)

Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, Honorable Mention, co-authored paper, 1984

American Association of University Women, Boulder Branch Award, 1991, 1990

Association for Women Geoscientists Award, Denver Chapter, 1994

Recent Federal Research Grants

NSF EAR 9/1/09-8/31/13, $475,302, L. Schieber, C. Johnson, P.D. Polly, E. R. Elswick. Title: Infrastructure upgrade, curation and data basing of Indiana University collections.

USAID, 10/201012/2011, $100,000, C. D. Beeker, C. Conrad, C. C. Johnson and others. Title: Living Museums of the Sea: A Network of Marine Protected Areas in SE Dominican Republic.

USAID, 9/08-8/10, $200,000. C. D. Beeker, C. Conrad, C. C. Johnson and others. Title: Living Museums of the Sea: A Network of Marine Protected Areas in SE Dominican Republic.

NSF SGER, 8/1/07 7/31/08. $10,000, E. G. Kauffman, E. R. Elswick, C. C. Johnson. Title: A Search for the Oldest Metazoan Trace Fossils in the Northern Hemisphere.

University and Corporate Research Grants

National Geographic, 2008, $80,000. C. D. Beeker, G. Conrad, C. C. Johnson and others. Title: Shipwreck! Captain Kidd.

IU HPER FRSP, 12/08-1/10. $25,000, Z. Bonilla-Vega, C. C. Johnson, P.D. Edwards, F. Ona. Title: Community-based participatory research, community health, and the use of underwater resources in the SE of the Dominican Republic: Exploring the Nexus.

IU Overseas Research Grant, Office VP for International Affairs, 12/08-11/09, $2,000, Johnson, C. C., Title: Investigation of Environmental Conditions Favorable to the Sustainability of Modern Reefs.

IU Grant-in-Aid of Research, 2008, $2,500, Johnson, C. C. Title: Biological Assessment of Coral Cover for the Establishment of a Marine Preserve, Dominican Republic.

Teaching Awards and Recognitions

Teaching Excellence Recognition Award, Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, 2000, 2012

Nominated for the Student Choice Awards, Student Alumni Association, 2009

Fellow, Faculty Learning Program, Indiana University 2004 to present


My interest in teaching extends beyond the college classroom to the greater geologic community and to the general public interested in geology. Many of my service-related works to professional societies and communities are oriented toward educational activities.

Departmental service includes membership in the Graduate Committee, Chair of the Owen Award Committee, Faculty Advisor for Sigma Gamma Epsilon and Departmental Representative for Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. Beyond the departmental level, service for Indiana University includes sponsoring Dr. W. W. Hay as an External Academic Visiting Fellow in 1999 through IU’s Institute for Advanced Study, participating in the Honors Division Exploring Majors Series and in the Careers in Geology Program for IU’s JobTraks initiative. I’ve worked with a group to develop the science curriculum for IU’s Global Village Living and Learning Community, and participated in the selection process for the Cox Scholars Program. Professional society service includes committee membership on the Research Grants Committee of the Geological Society of America, Panel Member for the Earth Science Post-Doctoral Research Fellowships Program, a two year membership on the Paleontological Society Strimple Awards Committee and as noted above in the Research section, Distinguished Lecturer for the Paleontological Society.

In our local Bloomington community my students and I participate in Wonderlab’s Fossil Days Program, the Kids Coalition Event in Salem, Indiana, the Fossil Event for the Science Olympiad, and the IU-sponsored Brownie Math and Science Event for the Girl Scouts. I am the contact person for Paleontology and Geobiology on our departmental website, and through this position I am able to answer 20-30 questions per year from local fossil collectors, teachers, parents and children.

Laboratory Facilities

Sample preparation laboratory and associated equipment; namely, thin section lab, rock saws, polishers, & shale washing and processing facilities; Microscopes, including a SMZ1500 Zoom Stereo Optical Microscope with a 0.75x to 11.25x zoom range (15:1 zoom ratio) and a DXM 1200 digital camera all attached to a Dell OptiPlex GX400, Pentium 4 with 1.0 GB of RAM and a 40 GB hard drive.

SEM, cathodoluminescence, organic geochemistry laboratory, and mass spectrometers are also available to geobiological researchers

Specimen repository; teaching and research collections; extensive fossil collections from Indiana and beyond

Access to field vehicles

A dedicated, extensive geology library in the building - one of the most comprehensive geology libraries in the nation