Johnston has a doctorate in Ecology and works as the Geographic Information Manager for Science Action. Initially he was active in the Field Museum botany department as a graduate student under co-advisors D. Doel Soejarto (UIC/Field Museum) and Joel Brown (UIC). Johnston’s graduate studies were primarily on the ecology of the Awá indigenous people of Carchi in northern Ecuador. After graduate school in 2003, Johnston began working in the private sector doing GIS analysis work, cartography, remote sensing, database design and project management.
Johnston was hired by The Field Museum in 2010 in his current role in the Department of Science and Education where he oversees the Science Action "Tech-Team," co-leads the museum's GIS working group, and helps staff with geospatial analysis needs including support for rapid biological and social inventories in South America. Johnston typically manages GIS interns/ volunteers and is currently establishing an institutional GIS repository and server for the museum. Johnston is working to advance the museum's use of GIS by collaborating on research projects with collection managers, curators, and other scientists at the museum, and to help establish and improve the spatial access and utilization of the Field Museum's collection and research records.
His current research interests include mapping green infrastructure and vegetation within the Chicago region, developing map indices, and leveraging the museum's collection and research records to do niche modeling and other ecological studies in collaboration with museum scientists.
Johnston received his B.A. in biology from Knox College in 1993, and a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2003.