Dr Emma Ligtermoet

BEnvSc (Hons I, Murdoch), PhD
Honorary Lecturer

I am a human-environment geographer with broad interests in understanding how diverse knowledge systems can work together to improve sustainability outcomes. I’ve long standing interests in understanding how people experience and navigate social-ecological change, particularly in freshwater, coastal or marine contexts.

As a Postdoctoral Fellow at CSIRO my current work engages with the co-production of knowledge in sustainability science. This work is part of the Sustainability Science Scaffolding project, within the Valuing Sustainability Future Science Platform.


I am an honorary lecturer at the Fenner School of Environment and Society. My PhD research (through Fenner SES) drew on the disciplines of human geography, socio-ecological systems science, Indigenous studies and environmental history to explore adaptation to climate change in freshwater coastal regions. These are places on the margins ecologically, and often provide highly valued freshwater resources for marginalized communities. The coastal freshwater floodplain region of Kakadu National Park and West Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, supports livelihoods and holds significant cultural and ecological values, yet is at risk of transformation through saltwater intrusion with sea level rise. Applying a place-based approach, I identified past and ongoing examples of drivers of change-response, as potential analogues to explore future adaptation. I used semi-structured interviews, trips on country, cultural resource mapping and archival work to understand contemporary patterns of freshwater resource use and Aboriginal people’s perceptions of the major changes influencing freshwater harvesting practices. I provided recommendations for building adaptive capacity to support freshwater customary harvesting practices and the development of locally informed, sustainable adaptation pathways. I also facilitated the co-production of the Kunwinjku seasons calendar, led by knowledge collaborators Julie Narndal Gumurdul, Connie Nayinggul and Donna Nadjamerrek. This proved a highly valued research product for the Kunbarlanja community where it is used in education, language and natural and cultural land management activities.


My recent postdoctoral work at UWA, through the Australian Government’s Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, encompassed two projects: (1) Stakeholder views on transformational practices in urban greening (verge gardening) and ecosystem service delivery and (2) Whadjuk Noongar knowledge associated with the Djarlgarro Beelier (Canning River) for cultural heritage and water management in urban planning contexts. I remain an adjunct research fellow at UWA.

I’ve experience in co-lecturing and tutoring university students at all undergraduate year levels in Sustainability Science related units, as well as master’s students. Prior to my PhD I worked in aquatic science in WA, the NT, Malaysian Borneo and in conservation science in Laos.


  • The Institute of Australian Geographers
  • Australian & New Zealand Environmental History Network
  • Australian Freshwater Sciences Society

Research interests

My research interests traverse the disciplines of human-environment geography, environmental history, sustainability, conservation and aquatic sciences. I am interested in applied research that addresses issues of equity, justice and sustainability in our engagement with nature and culture, particularly in the management of aquatic places (rivers, wetlands, coastal regions). This includes engaging with knowledge co-production practices, where I have research experience working with Indigenous partners, with Indigenous knowledge systems, in multistakeholder contexts, and in developing tools to support the co-production of knowledge. I am particularly passionate about stories and practices that connect us to rivers and wetlands and that encourage us to care for these places. I’m interested in understanding local and Indigenous perspectives on social-ecological change and in working together to guide the management of natural and cultural heritage. I also have experience applying tools from a variety of disciplines, including methods such as oral history, archival work, GIS, place-based inquiry, and Indigenous methodologies to tackle contemporary natural and cultural heritage management problems.

Ligtermoet, E., Ramalho, C., Foellmer, J., & Pauli, N. (2022). Greening urban road verges highlights diverse views of multiple stakeholders on ecosystem service provision, challenges and preferred form. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 127625.

Bayliss P., Finlayson C. M., Innes J., Norman-López A., Bartolo R., Harford A., Pettit N. E., Humphrey C. L., van Dam R., Dutra L. X. C., Woodward E., Ligtermoet E., Steven A., Chariton A., Williams D. K. (2018) An integrated risk-assessment framework for multiple threats to floodplain values in the Kakadu Region, Australia, under a changing climate. Marine and Freshwater Research 69, 1159-1185.

Ligtermoet E.J. (2018) People, place and practice on the margins in a changing climate: Sustaining freshwater customary harvesting practices in coastal floodplain country of the Alligator Rivers Region, Northern Territory of Australia, PhD Thesis, ANU, Canberra.

Bayliss, P and Ligtermoet, E. (2017) Seasonal habitats, decadal trends in abundance and cultural values of magpie geese (Anseranus semipalmata) on coastal floodplains in the Kakadu Region, northern Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16118

Dutra L. X. C. Bayliss P. McGregor S., Christophersen P, Scheepers K, Woodward E, Ligtermoet E., Melo L.F.C., (2017) Understanding climate-change adaptation on Kakadu National Park, using a combined diagnostic and modelling framework: a case study at Yellow Water wetland. Marine and Freshwater Research, https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16166

Ligtermoet E. (2016) Maintaining customary harvesting of freshwater resources: sustainable Indigenous livelihoods in floodplains of northern Australia, Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, Special Issue: Indigenous participation and partnerships in research and management of fisheries and aquatic ecosystems; 26 (4) pp 649–678 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-016-9429-y

Narndal J., Nadjamerrek D., Nayinggul C., Nadjamerrek J., Nadjamerrek M et al… Ligtermoet E. (2015) Kunwinkju Seasonal Calendar for Kunbarlanja, West Arnhem Land, NT, Australia. CSIRO, ANU, NERP, Darwin. https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/Environment/Land-management/Indigenous/Indigenous-calendars/Kunwinjku

Dutra X.C., Bustamante R.H., Sporne I., van Putten I., Dichmont C.M., Ligtermoet E., Sheaves M., Deng R.A. (2015) Organizational drivers that strengthen adaptive capacity in the coastal zone of Australia, Ocean and Coastal Management 109 pp 64-76 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2015.02.008

Dixon I. Dobbs R., Townsend S.,Close P., Ligtermoet E., Dostine., Duncan R., Kennard M.,Turnbridge D. (2010) Field Trial of the Framework for the Assessment of River and Wetland Health (FARWH) in the Wet/Dry Tropics: Daly River and Fitzroy River Catchments. Report to the National Water Commission. Tropical River and Coastal Knowledge research hub, Darwin.

Ligtermoet E., Chambers J. M., Kobryn H. T., Davis J. (2009) Determining the extent and condition of riparian zones in drinking water supply catchments in Sarawak, Malaysia, Water Science and Technology: Water Supply. 9 (5) pp 517-531, http://dx.doi.org/10.2166/ws.2009.580