Emma Johnston

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Emma Johnston

Emma Johnston.JPG
Emma Johnston at the 2016 NRM Science Conference, University of Adelaide
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Awards2012 NSW Science and Engineering Awards;
2014 Nancy Willis Medal for Women in Science;
2018 Clarke Medal
Scientific career
FieldsMarine ecologist
InstitutionsUniversity of New South Wales
Doctoral advisorMick Keough

Emma Letitia Johnston AO FTSE FRSN (born 1973) is the Dean of Science at the University of New South Wales and President of Science & Technology Australia. She is an authority in marine ecology and a former Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UNSW.

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 was the inaugural Director of the Sydney Harbour Research Program[1] at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science.[2]

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.

As of 2017, Johnston has published over 112 peer-reviewed works.[3]

Early life[edit]

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.

Johnston completed her PhD in marine ecology in 2002 at the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Mick Keough.

She joined UNSW as an associate lecturer in 2001 and is now Dean of Science.[4]



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.[5]

Other activities[edit]

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.[6] has helped take Australian marine science to an international audience. She also launched a Sydney Harbour cruise called Underwater Secrets' – Sydney Harbour Revealed,[7] 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.[4] This medal was presented to Johnston at Science at the Shine Dome on 28 May 2014.[8]

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.[9]

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).[10]

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."[11] In September 2018 she was named one of The Australian Financial Review's 100 Women of Influence in the Innovation category.[12] In December 2018 she was awarded the Clarke Medal by the Royal Society of New South Wales.[13]

Johnston was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE) in 2019.[14]


  1. ^ The Creative Company. "Sydney Institute of Marine Science » The Sydney Harbour Research Program". Harbourprogram.sims.org.au. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  2. ^ "The Sydney Institute of Marine Science". Sims. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. ^ https://research.unsw.edu.au/people/professor-emma-johnston/publications
  4. ^ a b Ross, John (7 March 2014). "Marine ecologist takes out new award". The Australian. Surry Hills, New South Wales, Australia: News Corp Australia. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  5. ^ "Emma L Johnston - Google Scholar Citations". Scholar.google.com.au. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  6. ^ Mercer, Cassie (2 December 2013). "A cup of tea with… Neil Oliver: Host of Foxtel's new Coast Australia". Inside History. Sydney, Australia. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  7. ^ The Creative Company (10 April 2013). "Sydney Institute of Marine Science » Underwater Secrets - Sydney Harbour Revealed. The Harbour cruise with a difference | Blog". Harbourprogram.sims.org.au. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-14.
  8. ^ Starts:  8:30am (29 May 2014). "Science at the Shine Dome 2014 - Australian Academy of Science". Science.org.au. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  9. ^ "UNSW takes hat-trick of Young Tall Poppies". UNSW. 23 October 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Fellows - The Royal Society of NSW". www.royalsoc.org.au. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Johnston, Emma Letitia". honours.pmc.gov.au. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  12. ^ Patten, Sally (17 October 2018). "Women of Influence 2018 winner fights for recognition of Indigenous Australians". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  13. ^ Carroll, Lucy (6 December 2018). "UNSW Dean of Science wins top Royal Society of NSW accolade". UNSW Newsroom. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Professor Emma Johnston – Marine scientist". Applied. Retrieved 24 October 2019.

External links[edit]