Emma Ligtermoet

Dr, BSc (Hons1) Murd., PhD ANU

  • The University of Western Australia (M084), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


I am a human geographer and social-ecological scientist. I am drawn to understanding people's engagement with aquatic environments and and how history and geography shape contemporary relations with aquatic places, particular in this era of global environmental change. I recently completed my PhD in human geography, focusing on Indigenous natural and cultural resource management and climate change adaptation, remotely through the Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU, while living in Darwin, (Northern Territory).

Prior to my PhD, I worked as a freshwater scientist, in river health research with the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge program at Charles Darwin University (NT), and in environmental management of the Swan-Canning Estuary with the Western Australian Government. I have university teaching experience in geography and environmental science units, including remote field methods, and have taught students from first year to Masters level (Charles Darwin University, Curtin University, University of Western Australia) as well as tutoring Indigenous and international undergraduate and Masters students one on one (CDU). I've undertaken field research training in Sabah, Malaysia, with the Tropical Biology Association, and spent a year working in wildlife conservation and supervising honours students in Laos, as an Australian Volunteer for Development. My honours research examined land use change and water catchment management with remote sensing and field work in Malaysian Borneo.


My research interests span aquatic-environmental histories, Indigenous natural and cultural resource management, Indigenous ecological and biocultural knowledge systems, social-ecological systems, climate change adaptation and freshwater ecology. My PhD research arose out of the intersection of these interests. During the course of my PhD, I carried out extensive field work in the coastal floodplain region of Kakadu National Park and West Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia. This freshwater floodplain region holds significant cultural and ecological values, however, it is vulnerable to transformation and loss with climate change. I worked closely with Aboriginal land owners, residents and rangers to understand local perspectives on social-ecological change in living memory, and to identify adaption pathways supporting continued access and engagement with freshwater County, given future environmental change.

Roles and responsibilities

My current research role contributes to understanding the social, cultural and biodiversity benefits of urban greening, as part of the National Environmental Science Programme's Clean Air and Urban Landscape Hub. As urban density increases, attention is turning to the contribution that informal, ‘in between’ open spaces in our built environment might make, to our social and environmental health. Informal urban greenspaces includes, for example, street verges and streetscapes and the riparian areas associated with the urban hydrological networks. My research examines the perspectives of a diverse stakeholder set regarding the role of these informal urban greenspaces in providing ecosystem services, in the Perth metropolitan region. This research will contribute to policy development and recommendations for the management of these areas in Australian cities.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

PhD (Human Geography), Australian National University

BSc (Hons1) Environmental Science and Conservation Biology, Murdoch University

Research expertise keywords

  • Indigenous natural and cultural resource management
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Indigenous knowledge systems
  • Management of aquatic systems
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Indigenous research methodologies
  • Sustainable livelihoods
  • Seasonal calendars


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