Personal profile: Dr Robert Johnson
Dr. Robert Johnson researches and thinks about the microscopic life that lives in the sea – the phytoplankton. These are the microscopic plants responsible for almost half the photosynthesis and primary production on our planet; they produce oxygen and soak up carbon in every body of water on earth. Consider that the oxygen in every second breath we take comes from phytoplankton, and their vital importance to our everyday lives and the health of the planet then becomes apparent.
Rob is a senior environmental scientist with the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology where he uses and develops bio-geochemical satellite remote sensing algorithms for the monitoring of marine water quality, including algal blooms, around the Australian coastline. He completed his undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Tasmania, then a Masters degree working on photosynthesis in Southern Ocean phytoplankton – when he began developing a wide network of international collaborators and held a visiting fellowship at the University of Magallanes, Chile. He spent three years working for the Australian Antarctic Division as a Southern Ocean phytoplankton specialist responsible for running their phytoplankton analytical chemistry laboratory, and undertook three Antarctic expeditions during this time. This work led to him completing a PhD in biological oceanography combining his expert knowledge of in-situ observations and computational modelling to reveal that NASA’s mathematical models were significantly unreliable in the Southern Ocean and to develop new, more accurate, bio-geochemical satellite remote sensing models that are now used by several international research institutes.
Rob has been a visiting scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Researc in Germany; an inaugural ocean colour Fellow with the International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group in France; an Australian representative on the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research; the editor of the biological component of a review of Southern Ocean remote sensing commissioned by the World Meteorological Organisation and Southern Ocean Observing System; and is currently the phytoplankton and remote sensing expert advisor to the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program.
The mission of the Royal Society of Tasmania aligns with Rob’s personal interests in advancing and communicating scientific knowledge beyond the traditional boundaries. He aims to contribute by providing diligent service, harnessing his international network of collaborators and scholars to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in Tasmania and beyond, with a particular focus on quality science communication. He is strongly committed to giving back to the community that supported him during his education and training by aligning himself with an agency that has a strong reputation and impact on the community