Sonke  Johnsen

Professor of Biology

Professor in the Division of Marine Science and Conservation
Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society
  • For my work, I go on research cruises around the world, where we go down in deep-sea submarines to study bioluminescence, vision, light, and camouflage in the deep-sea.
  • The most recent cruise I ran in 2019 captured the first ever footage of a giant squid in US waters. Because of this research, I have consulted for the magic treehouse kids book series, the Pixar Movie "Finding Nemo", and various government agencies.
  • I was originally trained in math, physics, art, and modern dance, and was a carpenter, kindergarten teacher, and a programmer for the very first Macs before going to Biology graduate school.
  • I'm also interested in outreach and have written two books on light and vision, and am writing a third on ocean life and the people who study it.
  • I am the immigrant child of war refugees, and am married to another immigrant who is also an immigration attorney, so I care deeply about immigrant and refugee issues.
  • My wife and I live on a 25 acre horse farm half an hour west of campus, where I spent the summer painting our barns, clearing pastures, cutting up trees, and running our dog, Bonnie.
  • My daughter Zoe is a junior at UC Boulder, which has caused me to see undergraduate concerns in a new light.