John was born 18 December 1951 in San Diego, California. As a youngster he was keenly interested in natural history, especially butterflies. Annual family vacations across the country helped fuel these interests. He attended Southwestern Junior College in Chula Vista, California, and graduated from San Diego State University in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in zoology. During his undergraduate career, which was exceedingly long, John worked as a part-time assistant in the Entomology Department of the San Diego Natural History Museum (1977-84) and as an agricultural technician for the San Diego County Department of Agriculture (1981-84). During this time, John spent considerable time in the field throughout southern California and Baja California, Mexico.
In 1984, John, with his wife and two kids in tow, left San Diego for Berkeley. There he earned his doctorate in entomology in 1988 under the guidance of Jerry A. Powell. It was during this time that John began to focus on Microlepidoptera, particularly the family Tortricidae. Field work during his time at University of California, Berkeley included forays to northern Mexico (Jalisco, Durango, Nayarit) and Costa Rica.
Following graduate school, John had a one-year Smithsonian Post-doctoral Fellowship (1988-89), followed by a year as a technician at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (1989-90). Unable to obtain a position in insect systematics, John and family returned home to San Diego, where he worked as an environmental consultant (1990-96). In 1997, John was hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Systematic Entomology Laboratory at the National Museum of Natural History to work on the pest family Tortricidae. There he works as a research entomologist; he served as the location leader for the laboratory's staff of 25 stationed at the Smithsonian Institution from 1998 to 2004.
John served as editor of the Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society (1991-1993), editor of the Entomological Society of America's Thomas Say Publications in Entomology (1998-2002), section editor of Annals of the Entomological Society of America (2002-2005), section editor of Zootaxa (2003-2009), and section editor of the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington (2008-2009). John was president of the Lepidopterists' Society in 1999-2000, the Entomological Society of Washington in 2001, the Washington Biologists' Field Club in 2008-2009, and the American Association for Zoological Nomenclature in 2009.
John's research interests include the systematics of leaf-roller moths (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae), especially those of the New World tropics and species of importance to agriculture, the biogeography of Baja California, conservation biology, and faunal surveys. He has authored or co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed and/or popular articles. John lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with his wife Poody. He has two grown children, John and Allisen, of whom he is exceedingly proud.