Sarah Clement

Dr, BSc (Hons) Michigan State, PhD Murdoch

  • The University of Western Australia (M213), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


I am currently an ARC DECRA fellow and Chief Investigator for an ARC-funded project called 'Fire and Transformation: Managing capacity for managing Australian Bushfires". This project focuses on how governance reform can help Australia better confront three fundamental challenges relating to bushfires: risk to life and property, risks to biodiversity, and escalating risks of climate change. 

I am an environmental social scientist and environmental governance researcher, and prior to joining UWA I was a lecturer in environmental management and planning at University of Liverpool (UK). There I was a full time, tenured member of faculty (research and teaching). My research there continued my work on biodiversity conservation and climate change, and novel ecosystems, some of which is summarised in my book Governing the Anthropocene. I also worked on the topics of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions (NBS), including as principle investigator for the university on Urban GreenUP. This project is a demonstration project to systematically test the impact of NBS on environmental, social, and economic challenges and is funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme. I remain affiliated with the University of Liverpool as an Honorary Senior Research Fellow. 

I have an interdisciplinary background, which strongly informs my approach to research, impact, and engagement. Before academia, I worked on both the social and ecological aspects of environmental issues in government, NGOs, and private companies. I spent time working as an environmental planning consultant, researcher, and environmental policy adviser for 10 years in the USA and Australia, after completing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies at Michigan State University (USA). I undertook my doctoral research at Murdoch University (Australia), in the Department of Environmental and Conservation Sciences.

Research interests

My research interests focus on environmental governance in the Anthropocene, and understanding how we can make better decisions in an era of rapid environmental and social change. A strong theme throughout my work is how improving governance, as well as planning and policy, can enable better ecological, socio-economic, and democratic outcomes. My current DECRA research project focuses on these themes with respect to bushfires in Australia.

Much of my research for the past few years has focused on the role of governance in improving ecosystem management in 'natural', cultural, and peri-urban landscapes. I am particularly interested in the interface between governance and the Anthropocene, especially with respect to issues such as wildfire, biodiversity, and climate change. I examine how governance can help build capacity for dealing with these issues and other major drivers of environmental change. My work in this arena is detailed in my first book, Governing the Anthropocene: Novel ecosystems, transformation, and environmental policy (Palgrave, 2021).

In urban environments, my work focuses on how green infrastructure and nature-based solutions can help address multiple environmental, social, and economic challenges; and how we might mainstream the use of such approaches in policy and planning if they prove to be effective. As the concept of NBS becomes increasingly popular, I am particularly interested to see how it plays out in the governance realm, and whether the promise for more collaboration, participation, co-production, and stakeholder engagement will be realised. My interest in NBS started with my role as chief investigator for the University of Liverpool in the project Urban GreenUP. This 5-year project was funded by the European Commission's Horizon2020 programme, and implemented NBS in several cities across the world to test their impact on social, economic, and biophysical conditions as well as their feasibility in a variety of global urban settings. We also developed a transferable process for 're-naturing' cities. That project is still ongoing and more information and publications are available on the Urban GreenUP website.

All of this builds on my doctoral research experience, which evaluated current approaches to biodiversity conservation in two highly valued landscapes in Australia, developing and applying an original conceptual framework for diagnosing and designing adaptive biodiversity institutions. Focusing on the landscape scale, I developed governance reforms to address areas where institutions were not fit for purpose, and identified ways to build adaptive capacity to manage climate change and other major drivers of biodiversity decline. These reforms were tested using a social-ecological systems approach and collaborative scenario planning exercises, involving key stakeholders and interdisciplinary researchers. This novel approach to scenario planning integrated governance drivers into social-ecological systems models in a detailed way, in order to understand the effect of governance reform on biodiversity outcomes in the future. This doctoral and additional research alongside my PhD was conducted as part of the Landscapes and Policy Research hub: Life at Large Website. This interdisciplinary collaboration across seven research institutions, examining how biodiversity conservation can be integrated into landscape-scale and bioregional planning, was funded by the Australian Government's National Environmental Research Program, which is now called the National Environmental Science Program. This work sparked my interest in novel ecosystems and the Anthropocene as well as the intersection between biodiversity conservation, climate change, and regional planning.

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 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Research expertise keywords

  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Governance
  • Scenario Planning
  • Environmental Planning


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