Emma Johnston at the 2016 NRM Science Conference, University of Adelaide
|Alma mater||University of Melbourne|
|Awards||2012 NSW Science and Engineering Awards;|
2014 Nancy Willis Medal for Women in Science;
2018 Clarke Medal
|Institutions||University of New South Wales|
|Doctoral advisor||Mick Keough|
Johnston is head of the Applied Marine and Estuarine Ecology Lab at UNSW and has led major projects for industry, government, the Australian Research Council and the Australian Antarctic Science Program.
Johnston's research group at UNSW investigates the ecology of human impacts in marine systems, combining the diverse disciplines of ecology, microbiology and ecotoxicology to expand fundamental understanding and provide recommendations for management. Her research is conducted in such diverse field environments as Sydney Harbour, Antarctica, the Great Barrier Reef and temperate Australian estuaries.
Born in 1973, to parents who were both scientists at that time, Johnston studied physics and chemistry in high school, not biology. However, being a keen sailor from a very young age and interested in all things to do with the water, she decided to focus on biology in her undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Science) at the University of Melbourne, which she completed in 1998 with first class Honours.
Among Johnston's significant research findings is the discovery that toxic contaminants facilitate the invasion of coastal waterways by non-indigenous species. Some of her research topics include: determining the major drivers of marine bio-invasions, the vulnerability of Antarctic marine communities, and developing new biomonitoring techniques and informing the development of effective management of biodiversity in Australian estuarine systems.
Johnston is also a high profile science communicator, winning the 2015 Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research. She is a regular media commentator and, as co-presenter of the Foxtel/BBC television series Coast Australia. has helped take Australian marine science to an international audience. She also launched a Sydney Harbour cruise called Underwater Secrets' – Sydney Harbour Revealed, which focuses on scientific research into the waterway.
As President of Science & Technology Australia, Professor Johnston is also a public advocate for science and for increasing the participation of women in research.
Johnston's research has led to her being a category winner in the 2012 NSW Science and Engineering Awards and in 2014 she won the inaugural Australian Academy of Science Nancy Millis Medal for Women in Science. This medal was presented to Johnston at Science at the Shine Dome on 28 May 2014.
Johnston was a 2007 winner of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science's Tall Poppy Award for her research into the effects of introduced species and contaminants on existing Australian marine species.
In 2015 Johnston won The Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry AU Mid-Career Medal for excellence in scientific work in Australasia that has involved substantial environmental toxicology and chemistry. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales (FRSN).
Johnston was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (OA) in the 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours for "distinguished service to higher education, particularly to marine ecology and ecotoxicology, as an academic, researcher and administrator, and to scientific institutes." In September 2018 she was named one of The Australian Financial Review's 100 Women of Influence in the Innovation category. In December 2018 she was awarded the Clarke Medal by the Royal Society of New South Wales.
Johnston was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE) in 2019.
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