Indiana University Bloomington

Claudia Johnson

Claudia C. Johnson

Associate Professor of Geological Sciences


Office:   GY501
Phone:   812-855-0646

Course Wesbsites:
G114 Dinosaurs and Their Relatives
G411 Invertebrate Paleontology

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

A primary focus of my research is to evaluate evolutionary processes in the paleotropics. My research initiatives address:

  • biotic replacement of one group by another in tropical ecosystems
  • rates, magnitudes and timing of the replacements
  • tropical environmental processes.

The reef ecosystem provides the empirical database from which I synthesize patterns and processes affecting reef evolution and demise. I examine reefs that evolved under Cretaceous "greenhouse", Pleistocene "icehouse" and Oligocene transitional climate states, and evaluate biotic changes in the context of the tropical ocean-climate system. I have an active program examining modern reefs to ascertain if a biotic replacement will occur as we move rapidly toward a warmer climate state. The ultimate focus of my work is to evaluate 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 predictions about the future health of our modern reef ecosystem can be made.

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

An extension of my research to the Olduvai Gorge basin focuses on evaluation of the finer points of paleotropical environmental reconstructions at the time of evolving lineages of hominids. 2013 and 2014 field seasons in Tanzania concentrated on ~1 million year-old bivalve taxonomy and systematics and depositional environments. Sequence stratigraphic analyses will allow for further interpretations of the evolving paleoenvironments.

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

I am the recipient of NSF grants on the subject of ancient ocean-climate systems, and I co-edited two research volumes and numerous papers on the topic. Currently, three Ph.D. students are studying integrated geobiological aspects of the paleoclimate paleocean system. My graduate students receive grants from The Paleontological Society, Sigma Xi, the Geological Society of America and the Latin American Foundation, as well as private and federal agencies.

The IU Paleontology Collection is under the umbrella of the Center for Biological Research Collections. The 5th floor of the Geology Building houses a fossil specimen repository with over 1.25 million specimens, as well as teaching and research collections. We house extensive fossil collections from Indiana and beyond, and our students work on the collections routinely as part of their academic education.

Current Courses

Undergraduate courses
Graduate courses
  • G700 Natural History of Coral Reefs
Teaching Philosophy

My philosophy and basic teaching methodology are 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 further goal is to provide field, laboratory and museum training to students so they may pursue independent studies for graduate degrees and academic and industry careers.

At the undergraduate level I teach geology courses to both non-science students and geology majors, and I research student learning. I supervise the completion of undergraduate research projects for Undergraduate Research in Geology in which the scientific method and the importance of data collection, analysis and interpretation are emphasized. I conduct research with the IU STARS and Hutton Honors programs for undergraduate researchers. 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.

Recent Research Projects

Geobiology Research Page

Graduate Student Projects

Local Environmental Dynamics on the Atlantic and Caribbean Coasts of Prehistoric Dominican Republic: A Geoarchaeological Approach to Midden Shells and Associated Ceramics

Indigenous utilization of shallow-water resources from archaeological marine shells in the Dominican Republic

Fidelity of chitons in the fossil record

Paleoecology of the Maastrichtian El Rayo Formation, Southwestern Puerto Rico

Depositional environments of the Barrancas and Rio Maton Limestone Members, Albian Puerto Rico.

Analysis of Coral Reef Variation in Bonaire

Sedimentology, geochemistry and paleobiology of a marginal marine depositional environment, the Mansfield Formation, Martin County, Indiana

Undergraduate Projects and Opportunities

Opportunities exist for field, laboratory, and museum-based research questions that address evolutionary processes in the paleotropical and temperate ecosystems. In-house samples from Pleistocene, Oligocene and Cretaceous scleractinian corals and for Cretaceous rudist bivalves can be utilized for undergraduate research projects.

Representative Publications


Maus, M.J., Beeker, C.D., Wasylenki, L.E., and Johnson, C.C. Preliminary analysis of Columbus-era wrought iron: Caballo Blanco, Dominican Republic. Underwater Archaeology Proceedings, 18 ms pp.

Johnson, C.C., Middendorf, J., Rehrey, G., Dalkilic, M.M., Zhu, C., and Cassidy, K. Geological time, biological events and the learning transfer problem. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 27 ms pp.


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


Zhu, C., G. Rehrey, B. Treadwell, C.C. Johnson 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. 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, v. 60, issue 1, p. 124-128.


Elswick, E.R. and Johnson, C.C. 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. 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.

ABSTRACTS, * indicates invited

Nold, Kathryn D., Conrad, W. Geoffrey, Johnson, Claudia, C., Roush, Cody C., Glascokc, Michael D., 2014. Compositional analysis of ceramic sherds from southeastern Dominican Republic. Society for American Archaeology. Austin, Texas.

Johnson, C.C., Njau, J., Kauffman, C.E., Kauffman, E., Toth, N., Schick, K., and Kearney, J. Bivalve mollusk assemblage of Bed III, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. 10th North American Paleontology Convention, Abstract Book, p. 35.

Nold, K.D., Johnson, C.C., Elswick, E.R., Conrad, G.W., and Beeker, C.W. Isotopic evidence of Recent, coastal paleoclimate from archaeological gastropod shells. 10th North American Paleontology Convention, Abstract Book, p. 29.

Beeker, C.D., Budziak, A.T., Maus, M., and Johnson, C.C. Living Museums in the Sea: Model for protection of underwater cultural heritage and associated marine ecosystems through sustainable tourism. IUCN World Parks Congress, Australia.

Beeker, C.D., Budziak, A.T., Maus, M., and Johnson, C.C. Living Museums in the Sea: a globally valid model for protection of biological and cultural resources through sustainable tourism. 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress, Glasgow, Scotland.


*Johnson, Claudia C. Coral resiliency in Bonaire National Marine Park. South Central GSA Section Meeting. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 45, No. 3, p. 8.

*Johnson, Claudia C. Unraveling Caribbean geology and linking tropical events to regional and global climate and biodiversity issues. Southeastern GSA Section Meeting. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 45, No. 2, p. 3.

Johnson, Claudia C. Establishing a bioenvironmental database for future ocean acidification and coral resiliency analyses. Southeastern GSA Section Meeting. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 45, No. 2, p. 9.

*Beeker, C.D., Johnson, C.C., Clark, L, Maus, M., and Palmer, E. Living Museums of the Sea in the Dominican Republic: Bridging the gap between cultural and biological resources. Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference 2013, 46th Annual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology, January 9-12, 2013 Leicester, Great Britain.

Dalkilic, M.M., Jenne, M., Rosenthal, C., and Johnson, C. Examining climate effects on coral ecosystems using Bloom Explorer – A data-driven ontology builder. The Third International Workshop on Climate Informatics, September 26/27, 2013. NCAR Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences.


Johnson, C.C., Elswick, E.R., Beeker, C.D., Kauffman, E.G., Budziak, A.T., and Wiegand, N. Best-fit analysis for future coral reef survivors on Bonaire: A lifeline to the reefs’ future in the region. Presented at 2012 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA Fall Meeting, San Francisco, 3-7 December 2012.

Green, R.M., Polly, P.D., Johnson, C.C., Elswick, E.R., and Cross-Najafi, I. The repository within a department – unique challenges and special opportunities. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 44, No. 5, p. 65.

Nold, K.D., Johnson, C.C., Elswick, E.R., Conrad, G.W., and Beeker, C.D. Proxies of paleoclimate from archaeological midden shells, Atlantic Coast, Dominican Republic. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 44, No. 7, p.194.

Green, R.M., Johnson C.C., Beeker, C.D., and Jones, B.H. Analysis of coral reef decline in Bonaire. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 44, No. 7, p.398.


Johnson, C.C., Beeker, C.D., Green, R.M., and Kauffman, E.G. Submerged cultural resources in the Caribbean reveal successional stages of biota. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs v. 43, no. 5, p. 292.

Green, R.M., Johnson, C.C., Beeker, C.D., De Leon, R., Elswick, E.R., and Wiegand, N.R. Spatial and temporal variation in Bonaire scleractinian coral communities. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 43, no. 5, p. 502.

Morgenthien, J.N., Johnson, C.C., Kauffman, E.G., Elswick, E.R., Martinez-Colo, M., and Santos, H. Paleoecology of the Maastrichtian El Rayo Formation, Suthwestern Puerto Rico. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs v. 43, no. 5, p. 614.


Johnson, C.C., Kauffman, E.G., Elswick, E.R., Davis, A., and Santos, H. Tropical carbonate sequences of Albian age depict sea level rise of regional extent. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs v. 42, no. 5.

Awards and Honors

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, 10/2010–12/2011, $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.

Teaching Awards and Recognitions

Teaching Excellence Recognition Award, Depart. Geological Sciences, IUB, 2000, 2012 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. My service-related work with professional societies and communities is oriented toward educational activities. 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.

Current departmental service includes Curator and Collections Co-Manager, IU Paleontology Collections, Member of the Undergraduate Assessment Committee, and Member of the Undergraduate Committee.

Laboratory Facilities

Sample preparation laboratory and associated equipment in the department: 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

Access to field vehicles

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