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Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson, outdoors portrait
Associate Professor
Wilson 101

Recent News


Ph.D., Michigan State University

Courses Taught

  • BIOS 3420/5420 Principles of Animal Physiology
  • BIOS 4360/5360 Field Entomology
  • BIOS 4620/5620 Animal Physiological Ecology

Research Interests

  • Lab: Wilson 107/109

My research interests are primarily in the field of insect physiological ecology, with a particular emphasis on responses to aquatic organisms to environmental stressors related to acid mine drainage (acidity, sulfate, and elevated metals). A secondary but related interest is the digestive physiology and energy expenditure of herbivorous and detritus feeding insects.

Acid mine drainage is a common legacy of coal and mineral extraction, and understanding how aquatic communities respond to this complex stressor has direct application to bioassessment and restoration efforts in the region. Many effects of acid mine drainage are toxic at acute exposures, but sub-lethal or episoidic exposures are more common and less well-understood. Moderate physiological stress can significantly influence feeding rates, energy expenditure, dispersal and other behaviors of aquatic macroinvertebrate, with significant effects on population abundances, food web dynamics, and key ecosystem processes (algal grazing, leaf litter processing). To better understand how environmental variables and physiological stress affect community structure in streams, my research group relies on laboratory-based toxicity trials, metabolic/physiological measures, and mesocosm experiments. A set of artificial stream channels housed in a research greenhouse allow year-round investigation of effects of stressors on entire macroinvertebrate assemblages. Data from laboratory and mesocosm experiments are complimented with field surveys and manipulations in nearby streams.

My research group also helps coordinate long-term biological sampling at over 70 long-term monitoring sites in eastern Ohio, in cooperation with local watershed groups, the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, and several state and federal agency partners. These data are valuable for tracking the success of remediation efforts in the region. These and other historical statewide fish and macroinvertebrate distribution data are used to develop more predictive models of ecological recovery of these highly-impaired streams.

Representative Publications

Aluma, E., Johnson, K. S., and Hassett, P. 2017. Mercury bioaccumulation in crayfish in acid mine impaired Appalachian streams. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 228.6: 200-213.

Johnson, K. S., P. C. Thompson, L. Gromen and J. Bowman. 2014. Spatial Patterns in Macroinvertebrate Recovery and Leaf Litter Breakdown in an Acid Mine Impacted Stream Treated with an Active Alkaline Doser. 2014. Environ. Monitoring and Assessment 186(7):4111-4127.

Kruse, N. A., DeRose, L., Korenowsky, R., Bowman, J. R., Lopez, D., Johnson, K. S. and Rankin, E. 2013. The role of remediation, natural alkalinity sources and physical stream parameters in stream recovery. J. Environ. Management, 128, 1000-1011.

Dsa, J. V., Johnson, K.S., Lopez, D., Kanuckel, C. and Tumlinson J. 2008. Residual toxicity of acid mine drainage-contaminated sediment after transplantation to a clean stream: contribution of acidity versus metals. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 194:185-197.

Johnson, K.S. and D. Rabosky. 2000. Phylogenetic distribution of cysteine proteinases in beetles: evidence for an evolutionary shift to an alkaline digestive strategy in Cerambycidae. Comp. Biochem. and Physiol. B 126:609-619.