Questions? AskAuckland

Dr Emma Jean Ryan

BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD

Profile Image
Research Fellow
Professional Teaching Fellow
Professional Teaching Fellow


I am an interdisciplinary coastal geographer with broad research interests spanning coastal management, coastal/coral reef geomorphology and climate change adaptation. I completed my PhD in 2016 at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. My PhD research explored the influence of sedimentation, sea level change and cyclones on the Holocene development of coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef. I joined the School of Environment in 2016 and have since been contributing to research within and management of the Coastal programmes of the Resilience to Nature's Challenges National Science Challenge. This research is transdisciplinary and co-created in nature, crossing the science-policy interface. Research topics include exploring past, present and future coastal change, resilience of coastal communities to coastal hazards and sea-level rise, and coastal adpatation approaches such as managed retreat. 

My current research interests broadly span coastal management and geomorphology questions in New Zealand and tropical coral reef environments and research topics include:

  • management of coastal hazards
  • adaptation to climate change and sea-level rise
  • past coral reef development and implications for understanding present reef state
  • understanding past and present sea-level change 
  • co-created and transdisciplinary research approaches

Research | Current

Resilience to Nature's Challenges National Science Challenge 

- adapting to New Zealand's coastal hazards 

- co-created research in the context of coastal hazards and management 

- understanding New Zealand's past, present and future coastal change patterns and implications for changing coastal hazard risk


Current/ongoing coral reef projects

- reconstructing the palaeo-ecological context of fossil coral reefs in Kiribati 

- Holocene sea-level records using coral reef proxy sea-level indicators




Teaching | Current

GEOG 748 - Current Issues in Coastal Management (S2)

GEOG 399 - Geography Capstone (S2)

Postgraduate supervision

MSc students

K. Hanmer, 2017, “A calcium carbonate budget estimate for Maahutigalaa reef platform, Maldives”  - co-supervisor


Faculty Research Development Fund, Faculty of Science, University of Auckland (2017-2018)

National Environmental Research Program (NERP) Doctoral Scholarship, Australia (2012-2015)

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Science for Management Award, Australia (2014)

James Cook University Graduate Research Scheme (2013 and 2014)

Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering grant (2014, with Dr. Stephen Lewis)



Areas of expertise

coral reef geomorphology, coastal geomorphology, coastal management, coastal adaptation to sea-level rise; co-created research; sea-level change


Committees/Professional groups/Services

Member of the New Zealand Coastal Society

Member of the International Coral Reef Society

Member of the Women in Coastal Geoscience and Engineering network

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Schneider, P., Lawrence, J., Glavovic, B., Ryan, E., & Blackett, P. (2020). A rising tide of adaptation action: Comparing two coastal regions of Aotearoa-New Zealand. Climate Risk Management, 30.10.1016/j.crm.2020.100244
  • Kench, P. S., McLean, R. F., Owen, S. D., Ryan, E., Morgan, K. M., Ke, L., ... Roy, K. (2020). Climate-forced sea-level lowstands in the Indian Ocean during the last two millennia. NATURE GEOSCIENCE, 13 (1), 61-+. 10.1038/s41561-019-0503-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Krishanu Roy
  • Ryan, E. J., Hanmer, K., & Kench, P. S. (2019). Massive corals maintain a positive carbonate budget of a Maldivian upper reef platform despite major bleaching event. Scientific reports, 9 (1)10.1038/s41598-019-42985-2
  • Ryan, E. J., Smithers, S. G., Lewis, S. E., Clark, T. R., & Zhao, J.-X. (2018). The Variable Influences of Sea Level, Sedimentation and Exposure on Holocene Reef Development over a Cross-Shelf Transect, Central Great Barrier Reef. DIVERSITY-BASEL, 10 (4)10.3390/d10040110
  • Kench, P. S., Ryan, E. J., Owen, S., Bell, R., Lawrence, J., Glavovic, B., ... Allis, M. (2018). Co-creating Resilience Solutions to Coastal Hazards Through an Interdisciplinary Research Project in New Zealand. Paper presented at 15th International Coastal Symposium (ICS), Busan, SOUTH KOREA. 13 May - 18 May 2018. JOURNAL OF COASTAL RESEARCH. (pp. 5). 10.2112/SI85-300.1
  • Ryan, E. J., Smithers, S. G., Lewis, S. E., Clark, T. R., Zhao, J.-X., & Hua, Q. (2018). Fringing reef growth over a shallow last interglacial reef foundation at a mid-shelf high island: Holbourne Island, central Great Barrier Reef. Marine Geology, 398, 137-150. 10.1016/j.margeo.2017.12.007
  • Owen, S., Lawrence, J., Ryan, E. J., Kench, P., Bell, R., Rennie, H., ... Schneider, P. (2018). Anticipating staged managed retreat at the coastal margins: Key questions and considerations for community and local government evaluation of managed retreat approaches. Planning Quarterly (209), 8-11.
  • Kench, P., Ryan, E., Owen, S., Bell, R., Lawerence, J., Glavovic, B., ... Allis, M. (2018). Co-creating resilience solutions to coastal hazards through an interdisciplinary research project in New Zealand. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 85.10.2112/SI85-300.1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mark Dickson


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 4, Room 435
New Zealand

Web links