Sarah Milne's picture

Sarah Milne

Associate Professor - Resources, Environment and Development group


BSc BE(Mech)(Hons I) (Melbourne); PhD (Cambridge)

Contact details

Sarah Milne is the Convenor of the Masters in Environmental Management and Development & Graduate Certificate in Environmental Management at the ANU.

Sarah’s research examines natural resource struggles and environmental intervention. She has conducted ethnographic studies of conservation, especially the use of tools like Payments for Environmental Services (PES) and Reducing Emissions from forest Degradation and Deforestation (REDD+). Recently Sarah has focused on the cocept of “rupture” as a way to explore processes of dramatic environemntal change and crisis. Sarah has worked as a conservationist, ethnographer, and advocate since 2000, in Southeast Asia and Australia.

Specific interests include:

(i) Politics and practice of nature conservation. This is the subject of Sarah’s recent book Corporate Nature: An insider’s ethnography of global conservation which looks at a high-profile international conservation project in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia (2022). This book explores how and why mainstream conservation projects can go wrong in places like Cambodia, where local conditions can upend so-called “best practice” and “good policy”.

(ii) Land-based carbon offsets and ecologies of “repair”. Sarah is leading a major research project on the social dimensions and co-benefits of Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative, drawing on her prior research about REDD+ schemes in Cambodia and Indonesia. See Sarah’s 2020 TEDx talk Beyond Carbon Credits

(ii) Research into the idea of ‘rupture’ (with Sango Mahanty and colleagues). The rupture concept captures social and political upheaval in the wake of major environmental change. This multi-country project is funded by the Australian Research Council. See this short article in The Conversation looking at how the rupture concept relates to COVID-19 and bushfires.

See Google Scholar profile.

Keywords: political ecology; conservation practice; land and resource rights; state formation; project ethnography; scholar-activism.

Research grants and projects

  • 2023-2025 Towards good practice emissions reductions and carbon removals in Australian landscapes. Project funded by the Institute of Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions (ICEDS), ANU. (CI Milne, $250,000)

  • 2022 Exploring political ecology approaches for the Australian context CIs: Sarah Milne, Rebecca Monson, Payl Wywroll. Funding College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU (APIP)

  • 2018 ARC Discovery Project. Rupture: Nature-society transformations in Mainland Southeast Asia. Chief Investigators: Sango Mahanty, Sarah Milne and Keith Barney.

  • Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, Wenner-Gren Foundation. (2015-2016) Saving nature? The politics and practice of international conservation in Cambodia

  • Collaborator on Australian Research Council Discovery grant: The political ecology of forest carbon – Mainland Southeast Asia’s new commodity frontier? led by Dr Sango Mahanty, The Australian National University (2012-2015)

  • Co-lead with C. Sandbrook (University of Cambridge), T. Sunderland and B. Powell (Centre for International Forestry Research) on DfID-funded grant entitled: The new agrarian change? Exploring the dynamic interplay between food security, commodity production, and land-use in tropical forest landscapes. I am conducting a critical analysis of land interventions that attempt to couple agricultural improvement and conservation in Cambodia and Indonesia, with an emphasis on food security issues for local communities, in collaboration with PhD students. (2013- 2014)

  • Improving governance, policy and institutional arrangements to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (Project leader Luca Tacconi, funded by ACIAR). I am investigating the opportunity costs and land tenure implications of avoided deforestation for small-holders and communities in Riau and Papua. (2010-2013)

Career highlights

  • 2017-2018: Consultant: United Nations Development Program, Cambodia
  • 2012-2014: Consultant: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cambodia; & Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • 2012-2013: Technical Adviser, Wildlife Conservation Society, Cambodia (four months)
  • 2010-2011: Social Development Director, Conservation International (part time)
  • 2005-2008: General Sir John Monash Scholar
  • 2002-2005: Community Program Manager, Conservation International, Cambodia
  • 2001-2002: Research engineer, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs


  • ANTH8107 - Global Governance and Multilateral Development Banks (semester 2, 2022)
  • EMDV8009 - Asia-Pacific Environmental Conflicts (semester 2, 2023)
  • EMDV8014 - Environmental Governance (semester 1, 2022)


I am currently available to take on PhD students who are interested in political ecology topics in the Asia-Pacific region.

Updated:  24 June 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team