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Dr Fiona Johnson


Fields of Research (FoR)

Water resources engineering, Humanitarian engineering, Surface water hydrology, Climate change impacts and adaptation


Associate Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

A/Prof Fiona Johnson is the Director of the Water Research Centre  and is an academic in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She has over 20 years' experience in hydrology working as a consultant, for government and in academia. Associate Professor Johnson’s areas of research and teaching focus on statistical hydrology, particularly with respect to...view more

Associate Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

A/Prof Fiona Johnson is the Director of the Water Research Centre  and is an academic in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She has over 20 years' experience in hydrology working as a consultant, for government and in academia. Associate Professor Johnson’s areas of research and teaching focus on statistical hydrology, particularly with respect to flooding and extreme events and the use of global climate models for climate change assessments of water resources systems. She has a particular interest in solutions to climate and hydrological challenges faced by communities in the Global South.

A/Prof Johnson was a PhD candidate between 2006–10. Immediately after her PhD submission in March 2010, she took up a position at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology as a hydrologist on the Intensity Frequency Duration Revision Project. This project developed revised design rainfalls for Australia, using extended rainfall records and improved statistical methods. A/Prof Johnson played an integral role in the project by applying statistical methods to estimate design rainfalls and provided substantial input into the impact of anthropogenic climate change on extreme rainfalls, contributing to the chapter on this work in the industry guidelines ‘Australian Rainfall and Runoff’.

A/Prof Johnson took up a full-time, ongoing Lecturer appointment in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UNSW, in September 2012 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in July 2015 and Associate Professor in January 2020.

A/Prof Johnson was appointed as prestigious UNSW Scientia A/Prof for 2019 – 2025. The UNSW Scientia program is one of the cornerstones of UNSW’s 2025 Strategy. Its aim is to attract and retain the best and brightest people, with outstanding research track records. A primary goal of the program is to enhance UNSW research performance by attracting and retaining exceptional researchers at the highest level relative to career stage and supporting them with a unique development and collaboration package and career pathway commitment.

My Grants

  • CI Johnson, CI Liu, CI Tamburic, CI Marshall, CI Glamore - Satellite remote sensing for the calibration of the WaterNSW Integrated Water Quality Model, WaterRA, 2023-2024
  • CI Johnson, CI Marshall - Pilot study on modelling PET in water resources management catchment models under climate change, 2021-2022, NSW Department of Planning and Environment
  • CI Reeder, CI Arblaster, CI Brown, CI Evans, CI Hogg, CI Holbrook, CI Jakob, CI Johnson, CI Kay, CI Lane, CI Shakespeare, CI Sherwood, CI Vincent, CI Zika, CI Strutton – Fast Disk Storage to Enable Big Data Science in Weather, Oceans and Climate, ARC LIEF Project, 2020
  • CI Cripps, CI Marshall, CI Ramos, CI Wardle, CI Tao, CI Girolami, CI Kohn, CI Cripps, CI Lindsay, CI Oppermann, CI Webster, CI Korbel, CI Salles, CI Tanaka, CI Scalzo, CI Johnson, CI Gosling, CI Chandra, CI Greenville, CI Hirst, CI Vervoort, CI Bell, CI Black, CI Jessell, CI Czarnota, CI Azizi, CI Gibson, CI Symington, CI Dupen, CI Gallagher – ARC Training Centre in Data Analytics for Resources and Environments (DARE), 2019 – 2023
  • CI Johnson, CI Sharma, CI Mehrotra – Bias Correction and Spatial Disaggregation of Climate Models for AWRA Downscaling, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 2019
  • CI Munro, CI Dansie, CI Leslie, CI Johnson, CI Holley - Integrated Regional and Transnational Water Resource Management short course, 2019 – 2022, Australia Awards
  • CI Stuetz, CI Henderson, CI Neilan, CI Schofield, CI Glamore, CI Johnson, CI Zamyadi, Nuisance & Harmful Algae Science-Practice Partnership, Melbourne Water, 2017-2020
  • CI Glamore, CI Johnson – Developing an integrated water balance budget for Thirlmere Lakes, NSW Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, 2017-2020
  • CI Johnson, CI Sharma, PI Chowdhury, PI Beecham - Assessing future drought risk for water resources system management, ARC Linkage Project LP 150100548, 2015-2018
  • CI Thomas, CI Johnson – Conduct field trial to assess effectiveness of household and community level WASH interventions in reducing climate sensitivity of diarrhoeal diseases, World Health Organisation, 2015-2017
  • CI Westra, CI Johnson, PI Fowler, PI Lenderink, PI Zwiers - A spatial extremes framework for predicting subdaily rainfall intensity, ARC Discovery Project DP 150100411, 2015-2017
  • CI Sharma, CI Johnson, CI Liu, CI Marshall, PI Moradkhani, PI Muddu, PI. Wang, PI Robertson - Reducing flood loss A data assimilation framework for improving forecasting capability in sparsely gauged regions, ARC Discovery Project DP140102394, 2014-2016

My Qualifications

  • PhD – School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales (September 2006 to March 2010, degree conferred December 2010)
    Thesis title: Evaluating and enhancing General Circulation Model simulations for water resources climate change impact assessments
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Civil)(Hons and University Medal) – School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales (1997-2001)

My Awards

  • Best presentation award at 2018 Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium
  • 2017 Modsim Early Career Research Excellence Prize
  • Best presentation award at 2012 Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium
  • 2011 Malcolm Chaikin prize for Research Excellence at UNSW for the best PhD in engineering in 2010

My Research Activities

Associate Professor Johnson’s research covers a wide range of disciplines from hydrologic modelling, climate change impact assessment methodologies, applications of remote sensing and statistical analysis of extreme rainfalls. In particular, her research focuses on improving our understanding of hydroclimatological extremes both now and in the future, with her research findings being of particular interest to water managers as they seek to manage risks from hydrological events.

Her research is focused in four main areas:

  • Extreme rainfall analysis and the analysis of extreme rainfalls that are primary driver of flooding. This includes statistical analysis approaches as well as more fundamental research into the atmospheric conditions that are responsible for flood producing rainfalls. 
  • Methods for improving climate change impact assessments: Johnsons' approach for developing and applying bias correction methods is to focus on the time scales and features of interest for a particular application. In particular she has developed methods for long timescale climate persistence which affect drought risk as well as short time scale rainfall extremes. More recently her research has focused on whether existing hydrological methods are appropriate given non stationarity due to climate change, considering both statistical methods for rainfall analysis as well as hydrological model structures.
  • The use of satellite remote sensing data to supplement in situ measurements of hydrological proceses
  • Flood forecasting in ungauged catchments: One of the themes of A/Prof Johnson's research is how flood predictions can be improved in ungauged catchments. This has included analysing the utility of different satellite remote sensing data products including soil moisture, rainfall and water level data. She is currently expanding this research theme to include the use of Numerical Weather Prediction rainfall forecasts.
  • Humanitarian Engineering: A/Prof Johnson is passionate about ensuring that engineering meets the needs of the most marginalised and remote communities. To date this has included community-centered research in Tanzania, Nepal and the Pacific as well as remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.


My Research Supervision

Supervision keywords

Areas of supervision

I am always looking for great students for projects related to:

  • Extreme rainfalls – spatial models, future changes, multi duration relationships
  • Climate model evaluation and applications for water resources projects
  • Improved flood forecasting methods
  • Humanitarian engineering


Please feel free to get in touch with me to discuss current opportunities in my group. Please send your CV, transcripts, coding experience (e.g. R/Matlab/Python) and a statement of your research interests and motivation to me via email.

Currently supervising

  • Eleanor Earl researching Flood resilience in the Pacific, with Prof Lucy Marshall and Prof David Sanderson
  • Salman Sharifazari researching Climate variability and its impacts on water resources in the Indian Ocean, with A/Prof Martin Andersen, Dr Jonathan Palmer and Prof Chris Turney
  • Joe Cairns researching Hydrology of upland peat swamps,with Prof Will Glamore
  • Jack Lodge researching Transboundary water management to achieve SDGs,with Dr Andrew Dansie
  • Maryam Zeinolabedini Rezaabad researching Data science applications for water quality management,with Prof Lucy Marshall
  • Liang Liu researching Representing evapotranspiration in conceptual rainfall runoff models, with Prof Lucy Marshall and Prof Willem Vervoot

My Teaching

A/Prof Johnson's teaching is in the areas of water resources engineering and Humanitarian Engineering. She has coordinated and taught the following courses during her time at UNSW.

  • ENGG1000 Introduction to Engineering Design and Innovation
  • ENGG3001 Fundamentals of Humanitarian Engineering
  • ENGG4102 Humanitarian Engineering Project
  • CVEN3501 Water Resources Engineering
  • CVEN4507 Advanced Water Engineering
  • CVEN9611 Urban Hydrology
  • CVEN9612 Catchment and Water Resources Modelling
  • CVEN9625 Fundamentals of Water Engineering
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Water Research Centre
Room 132, Vallentine Annexe (Building H22)
Kensington Campus

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(+61 2) 9385 9769