Matthew Johnson

Dr. Matt Johnson


Research Interests

Habitat Ecology...a unifying theme

I am fascinated by all aspects of wildlife Habitat Ecology - from the theoretical to the practical. Habitat ecology is the study of how animals interact with their habitats, which my lab investigates by identifying animals' critical resources and the factors that constrain their use. Such studies advance our ecological understanding and refine our conservation and management efforts. I purposefully work with a variety of taxa to better understand emergent relationships between animals and their habitats. Therefore, students in my lab work on a diversity of study systems, yet share a unified focus on habitat.

Learn more about my lab's research

Current & former graduate students in the lab

Top-cited Publications

  • 2007 Johnson, M.D. Measuring habitat quality: a review. Condor 109:489-504 PDF
  • 2011 Wenny, D., T.L. DeVault, M.D. Johnson, D. Kelly, C.H. Sekercioglu, D.F. Tomback, and C.J. Whelan. The need to quantify ecosystem services provided by birds. Auk 128: 1-14. PDF
  • 2001 Johnson, M.D. and T.W. Sherry. Effects of food availability on the distribution of migratory warblers among habitats in Jamaica, West Indies. Journal of Animal Ecology 70:546-560 PDF
  • 2008 Kellermann, J.L., M.D. Johnson, A.M. Stercho, and S. Hackett. Ecological and economic services provided by birds on Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee farms. Conservation Biology 22:1177-1185 PDF
  • 2006 Johnson, M.D., T.W. Sherry, R.T. Holmes, and P.P Marra. Assessing habitat quality for a migratory songbird wintering in natural and agricultural habitats. Conservation Biology 20:1433-1444. PDF

See all publications

Inclusive Excellence

In recent years, my professional work at Cal Poly Humboldt has increasingly emphasized inclusive excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. 

Read about my work for inclusive excellence

Interested in joining the lab? 

If you share some of my research interests (see research below) and would like to inquire about being a part of my graduate lab, there are a few steps you can take to let me know of your interest. Understand that space is limited and competition can be strong; I typically only accept 1-3 new students per year from among top candidates (see my current students). Successful applicants send me a sample of their writing in a 1-2 page thesis project idea proposal via email along with a CV and references ( Be sure to also mention possible funding sources if you have them. If I have space and we share interests, you may also want to arrange for a visit to the Humboldt campus. If requested, you will send a formal application to the Graduate School

Current & former graduate students in the lab

Courses Taught

SCI 100 - Becoming a STEM professional in the 21st century
WLDF 309 - Case Studies in Environmental Ethics
WLDF 311 - Wildlife Techniques & Scientific Method
WLDF 365 - Ornithology
WLDF 431 - Upland Habitat Ecology
WLDF 531 - Advanced Habitat Ecology
WLDF 585 - Graduate Seminar

Awards & Recognition

  • California State University, Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award, with Dr. Amy Sprowles. 2020.
  • Fulbright Scholarship to India. 2013.
  • Humboldt Scholar of the Year. 2010.
  • Alistair McCrone Promising Young Scholar Award. 2004.
  • Cooper Ornithological Society A. Brazier Howell Award for outstanding presentation. 1999.
  • Southern Graduate Student Biological Symposium Award for Outstanding Presentation. 1998.
  • Louisiana Educational Quality Support Fund Graduate Fellowship. 1993-1997.
  • U.S. Forest Service Award for work on Neotropical Migrant Habitat Summaries. 1992.
  • U.S. Forest Service Award firefighting. 1992.
  • President’s Award for Outstanding Freshmen, UC Davis. 1988.

Professional Service, Memberships & Activities

  • The Wildlife Society, Society for Conservation Biology, American Ornithologists' Union, Cooper Ornithological Society.
  • Regular reviewer of papers submitted to Auk, Condor, Conservation Biology, Journal of Wildlife Management, Journal of Animal Ecology.
  • Reviewer for National Science Foundation
  • Board member, Friends of the Dunes
  • Science Chair, Cooper Ornithological Society annual meeting, June 2005.


  • Since 2000, I have been the Principle Investigator or co-Principle Investigator on grants and contracts totaling over $9 million.
  • We’ve received grants from a variety of funders, including the National Science Foundation, US Dept of Agriculture, US Dept of Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Agricultural Research Initiative, and the National Geographic Society.


Ph.D. Ecology, Tulane University, 1999
B.S. Wildlife Biology, UC Davis, 1992

Current Graduate Students

Name Thesis
Tiana Williams-ClaussenTiana Williams-Claussen in the field holding a large bird
Ximena Gil
Jadzia Rodriguez
Eleanor MacDonald
Christian Cortez
Katherine Larson
Elizabeth Meisman
Dabid GarciaDabid Garcia
Fatime Jomaa

Former Graduate Students

Name Thesis
Jaime Carlino
2024Jaime Carlino
Maddie Ybarra
Laura Echávez
2023Laura Echávez
Samantha Chavez
2023Samantha Chavez
Ashley Hansen
2022Ashley Hansen holding an owl
Frank Juma Ong'ondo
2021Frank Juma Ong’ondo standing in front of a tree with binoculars in his hands
Deven Kammerichs-Berke
2020Deven Kammerichs-Berke - holding a small bird
Brooks Estes
2019Brooks Estes smiling with a horse
Allison Huysman
2019Allison Huysman - Holding an owl in a vineyard
Dane St. George
2019Dane in a vineyard holding an owl
Xerónimo Castañeda
2018Xerónimo Castañeda - Holding a bird in the forest
Dawn Blake
2018Dawn Blake in the forest with a bird
Carrie Wendt
2016Carrie Wendt - Holding an owl in a vineyard
Shannon Mendia
2016Shannon Mendia with a large cat
Jennifer Brown
2016Jennifer Brown in a field of plants with an animal
Wendy Cristina Willis
2015Wendy Cristina Willis with a man in a blue shirt
Megan Milligan
2014Megan Milligan hiking with a backpack in the mountains
Chris Smith
2014Chris Smith with a bird out in the forest
Stephanie Eyes
2014Stephanie Eyes in the forest with her hand in the air
Megan Garfinkel
2013Megan Garfinkell with a baby goat on her shoulders
Ryan Kalinowski
2012Ryan Kalinowski - in the field holding a specimen rat in a bag
Brent Campos
2012Campos out in the wilderness with binoculars around his neck
Sacha Heath
2011birds and trees
Marlene Wagner
2011Marlene with binoculars at the river looking into the sky
Jared Wolfe
2009a bird biting someones finger
Amy Roberts
2008Amy Roberts bio photo
Dominic Bachman
2008Dominic Bachman bio photo
Jeanne Hammond
2008Jeanne Hammond bio photo
Amy Leist
2007Amy Leist bio photo
Jherime Kellermann
2007Jherime Kellermann bio photo
Eric Wood
2007Eric Wood with a bird
Rebecca Green
2007Rebecca Green in the forest cheering
Jim Tietz
2006Jim Tietz bio photo
Chris Tonra
2006Chris Tonra bio photo