Marine biologist & wildlife filmmaker
Tel: +27 (0) 72 629 6669
My life as a marine scientist began in 1999, when I moved onto a tiny rock named Dyer Island. Armed with little more than a diminutive boat, I spent the next 16 months fulfilling a simple research brief – learn about the great white shark, and anything else interesting. Since that stark induction, I have worked continuously to understand the hidden life of the Great White Shark, whilst grabbing any opportunity to assist or collaborate in the many marine programs being conducted throughout Southern Africa, many in collaboration with South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marine and Coastal Management branch. My white shark research, which formed the basis of my masters thesis, has been published in local and international journals, and has featured extensively in written and visual media such as National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery, and the BBC. My credo as a scientist is to achieve academic excellence through both practical and theoretical skills…. To be equally comfortable reconditioning an outboard, free diving to 40 meters, trolling the academic libraries for new research. Since 2014, I have expanded my career into wildlife documentary filmmaking and have produced five hours of documentary. I have also provided logistics, fixing, underwater camera work, research and drone services to a range of international and local producers.
Birth Jan 1977
Citizenship: New Zealand
Residence: South Africa (since 1998)
Marital status: Life partner – Fiona Ayerst
Children: 1 son (Finn Johnson)
Activities and interests
- Marine research and conservation
- Wildlife filmmaking
- Free diving
- Rugby, lifesavers, swimming
- Scuba diving
- Reading and writing
1995-1997 Bachelor of Science in Zoology University of Otago, New Zealand
1998 Bachelor of Science in Biological Science University of Wiakato, New Zealand
1999 Bachelor of Science (honors) in Zoology University of Pretoria, South Africa
2000-2002 Masters of Science in Zoology University of Pretoria, South Africa
2003- 2012 Doctorate of Philosophy (incomplete) University of Pretoria, South Africa
2006 Diploma in Presenting for Television City Varsity, Cape Town, South Africa
Commercial skipper’s ticket
First aid (level 3 – SAAASA)
Radio operator, VHF, 29 kHz
Open, advanced, medical scuba diving (PADI)
- 2008 – 2017: Owner / Director of Oceans Research (https://oceans-research.com)
- 2013 – present: Owner / Director of Blue Wilderness Shark Adventures (https://bluewilderness.co.za)
- 2012 – present: Owner / Director of Africa Media (https://africa-media.org)
- 2014 – present: Owner of Fly me to the moon guesthouse (https://flymetothemoon.travel)
- 2017 – present: Founder of Blue Wilderness Research Unit (https://shark-research.com)
- Johnson, R.L. (1999). The effect of afforestation fragmentation on small mammal assemblages at Groenvaly grasslands. Honous thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria. (B.Sc. Honours Thesis)
- Johnson, R.L. (2003). Behavioural ecology of the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) at Dyer Island, South Africa. M.Sc Thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa (M.Sc. Thesis)
- Johnson, R.L. (incomplete). The behavior and management of white sharks (Carcahadon carcharias) at Mossel Bay, South Africa. Ph.D Thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa. (Ph.D. Thesis)
Scientific writing (selected)
- Ryklief, Pistorius, Johnson (2014) Spaital and seasonal patterns in sightings rate and life history composition of the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, as Mossel Bay, South Africa.
- D. Delaney, R.Johnson, M.N.Bester (2012) Accuracy of using visual identification of white sharks to estimate residency patterns. Plos One
- O. Jewell, M.Wcisel, A.Towner, M.N.Bester, R.Johnson, S.Singh (2011) Effects of smart positiononly (SPOT) tag deployment on white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias) in South Africa. Plos One
- O. Jwell, R. Johnson, M.N.Bester (2013) Fine scale movemebts and activity areas of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in Mossel Bay, South Africa. Environmental Biology of Fishes.
- Enrico Gennari, Paul D. Cowley, Ryan L. Johnson (2018). Performance and reliability of active acoustic biotelemetry to best track marine pelagic species in temperate coastal waters. Marine Biology.
Matthias Vignon, Pierre Sasal, Ryan L. Johnson and René Galzin (2010) Impact of shark-feeding tourism on surrounding fish populations off Moorea Island (French Polynesia). Journal of Marine Freshwater research.
- Johnson, R., Bester, M.N., Dudley, S.F.J., Oosthuizen, W.H., Meÿer, M.A., Hancke, S. & Gennari, E. (2009) Coastal swimming patterns of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) at Mossel Bay, South Africa. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 85(3):189-200
- R. Johnson, T. Keswick, M.N. Bester and W.H. Oosthuizen (2008) Encounters between white sharks and Cape fur seals in a shallow channel. Journal of the Marine Biological Association – Biodiversity Records.
- Johnson, R.L., Venter, A., Bester, M.N., & Oosthuizen, W.H. (2006) Seabird predation by white shark, Carcharodon carcharias and Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus at Dyer Island. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 36(1): 23-32.
- Johnson, R. & A. Kock. (2006) White shark cage diving – cause for concern? (2006) In Nel D.C. & Peschak T.P.(eds) Finding a balance: white shark conservation and recreational safety in the inshore waters of Cape town, South Africa: proceedings of a specialist workshop. WWF South Africa Report Series – 2006/Marine/001
- Kock, A. & Johnson, R. (2006) White shark abundance: not a causative factor in the numbers of shark bite incidents. In Nel D.C. & Peschak T.P.(eds) Finding a balance: white shark conservation and recreational safety in the inshore waters of Cape town, South Africa: proceedings of a specialist workshop. WWF South Africa Report Series – 2006/Marine/001
- Oelofse, G., Kock, A, Johnson, R. & Haskins, C. (2006) Is there a relationship between white shark presence and the management of city estuaries and river mouths?. In Nel D.C. & Peschak T.P.(eds) Finding a balance: white shark conservation and recreational safety in the inshore waters of Cape town, South Africa: proceedings of a specialist workshop. WWF South Africa Report Series – 2006/Marine/001
- Bonfil, R., Meyer, M.A., Scholl, M.C., Johnson, R.L., O’Brian, S., Oosthuizen, W.H., Swanson, S., Kotze, D. & Patterson M. (2005). Transoceanic migration, long-distance return migration and local movement patterns in the great white shark. Science 301:100-103.
- Johnson, R.L. 2003. Behavioural ecology of the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) at Dyer Island, South Africa. M.Sc Thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
- Ferguson, J.W.H., van Jaarsveld, A.S., Johnson, R., Bredenkamp, G.J., Foord, S.H. & Britz, M. 2003. Rodent induced damage to a pine plantation: a southern African case study. Agri., Eco. Environ. 95: 379-386
- Johnson, R., Ferguson W., van Jaarsveld, A., Chimimba, C. and Bronner G. 2002 The effect of afforestation fragmentation on small mammal assemblages at Groenvaly grasslands. Journal of Mammalogy.
Scientific presentations & posters
- Johnson, R.L., Oosthuizen, W.H., Bester, M.N., Meyer, M.A., Swanson, S. & Kotze, D. (2004). Habitat utilization of the white shark in South Africa, using acoustic telemetry. In Abstract of workshop: Conservation Research of Great White Sharks. 20-22 January (Wildlife Conservation Society, New York)
- Johnson R. (2002) Prey preference in the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). 6th Annual Indo-pacific fish conference. Durban 2002 (poster presentation)
- Johnson, R. (2006) Residency patterns and habitat use of white sharks at Mossel Bay, South Africa. American Elasmobranch Society, New Orleans, 2006
- Johnson, R. (presented by E. Gennari). (2006) Acoustic telemetry offers new insight into the hunting behaviour of white sharks at Seal Island. American Elasmobranch Society, New Orleans, 2006
- Johnson, R, Oosthuizen, H, Bester, M.N. (2000) The impact of cage diving on the great white shark (Carchardon carcharias). International Association for impact assessment – South African Affiliate. Annual conference, Bloemfontain.
- Johnson, R., Scholl, M.C. Oosthuizen, W.H., Bester, M.N., Sadie, D. (2002). Activity patterns of thei white shark (Carcharodon carchaias) at Dyer Island, South Africa. South African Zoological Society annual conference. Port Elizabeth.
Onscreen Media (select)
- 2000 Diving shark alley with Brady Barr (National Geographic) – Scientific Talent
- 2002 Earth pulse Beyond Productions (National Geographic) – Scientific Talent
- 2004 Naked Science Pioneer Productions – National Geographic – Scientific Talent)
- 2007 Earth Investigated – Pioneer Productions – National Geographic – Scientific Talent)
- 2007 Sharkville – Obsessively creative – National Geographic – Host
- 2007 Secret Shark Pits – National Geographic – Host
- 2009 Meg – Prehistoric predators – Creative difference – History Channel – Scientific Talent
- 2010 Escaping the Great White – African wildlife films – National Geographic – Host
- 2010 River Shark – Hoff Productions – National Geographic – Scientific Talent
- 2010 Squid vs. whale – Off the Fence – National Geographic – Host
- 2011 Shark Attack Experiment Live – Aquavision – National Geographic – Scientific Talent
- 2006 Dirty Jobs – Jobs That Bite – Piligian Productions – Discovery Channel – Scientific Talent
- 2006 Surviving a Shark Attack Piligian Productions – discovery Channel – Scientific Talent
- 2006 After the Attack – Triosphere – Discovery Channel – Scientific Talent
- 2007 Shark Tribe – Creative Difference – Discovery Channel – Host
- 2005 Spy on the Wild – BBC Natural History – Scientific Talent
- 2003 Animal Camera – BBC Natural History – Scientific Talent
- 2013 Shark Wranglers Series (10 Episodes) Fischer productions – History Channel – Chief Scientist
- 2009 Predator X – Atlantic productions – Hostory Channel – Scientific Talent
Chasing Tails (Ep.1) – The last supershoal
Chasing Tails (Ep.2) – The lost Manta Rays of Mozambique
Hammertime – 50/50 – SABC
Bitonga Divers – Peoples Weather – DSTV
Nudibranchs – Peoples Weather – DSTV
2018 – Hostile Planet – Plimsol Productions – National Geographic – Logistics
2019 – The whale that ate jaws – National Geographic
2019 – Eye witness shark attack – National Geographic