Professor Emma Johnston appointed to CSIRO board

Brandon How

Leading marine scientist and conservationist Professor Emma Johnston has been appointed to the board of national science agency CSIRO.

Professor Johnston, who is the  deputy vice-chancellor (research) at Sydney University, commenced in the role for a term of four years on Tuesday.

With the appointment, only one place on the CSIRO board remains vacant after Professor Alex Brown was appointed in March. Prior to the arrival of the Albanese government, the board had three vacancies.

Professor Johnston also sits on the board of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and was a chief author on the 2021 State of the Environment report.

University of Sydney deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Emma Johnston. Image: University of Sydney

Professor Johnston’s current research focuses on global challenges such as marine debris, biological invasions, extreme events, and the future of Antarctica’s environment.

“As I take on this new responsibility as a member of the CSIRO board, I am reminded of the institution’s legacy of pioneering research that has shaped industries and improved lives,” Professor Johnston said.

“It’s a tremendous honour to work alongside visionary minds who are driving Australia’s scientific progress, and I am excited to play a part.”

Professor Johnston is among a number of recent appointments of conservation leaders to government agencies across Australia, including conversation expert Professor Kerrie Wilson as Queensland’s chief scientist and WWF-Australia president Martijn Wilder as National Reconstruction Fund chair.

Prior to joining Sydney University last year, Professor Johnston was dean of science and pro vice-chancellor of research at the University of New South Wales.

In 2018, Professor Johnston was made an officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of her academic and research achievements.

The CSIRO board must have at least seven non-executive directors but no more than nine, with the board appointment process coordinated by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. Appointments are made by the governor-general at the recommendation of the government.

CSIRO has welcomed the appointment of Professor Johnston to the board. Industry and Science minister Ed Husic also welcomed her appointment and noted that her expertise would be a valuable addition.

“Professor Johnston’s impressive marine science credentials will bring environmental expertise to the CSIRO Board, complementing the board’s existing skills and experience,” Mr Husic said.

“It’s incredibly important that the CSIRO is at the forefront of applying scientific research to tackle the big challenges facing the Australian community. Having esteemed scientists like Professor Johnston as part of the leadership of our national science agency is invaluable.”

During Senate estimates in June, it was revealed that CSIRO had overpaid deputy chair David Knox by $200,000, although most of the overpayment had been returned as of July 4.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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