I study natural resource struggles and environmental intervention, particularly when it comes to community-based conservation; resource rights initiatives; and market mechanisms for conservation like Payments for Environmental Services (PES) and Reducing Emissions from forest Degradation and Deforestation (REDD+). Most of my research is focused on Cambodia, where I have been active as a conservationist, ethnographer, and advocate since 2002.
I am fascinated with the politics and practice of biodiversity conservation, as observed through project ethnography. This is the focus of a monograph that I am currently completing, about a high-profile international conservation project in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia. This work builds upon my extensive experience as a practitioner focusing on conservation and development issues in Cambodia, where I have worked for UNDP, IUCN, WCS and CI.
New research from 2018 will look at ‘Rupture’, which is a way of exploring the social and political upheavals that result from major environmental changes, especially in relation to hydro-power dams in mainland Southeast Asia.
See Google Scholar profile.
Keywords: political ecology; conservation practice; land and resource rights; state formation; project ethnography; scholar-activism.
Sarah is an environmental social scientist, whose work has focused on Southeast Asia to date. Her current conceptual work looks at ‘rupture’, which is another way of thinking about crisis and upheaval. Rupture helps to explain the societal and environmental effects of COVID-19.
Sarah and colleagues recently wrote a short article in The Conversation about how this concept relates to COVID-19, alongside Australia’s Black Summer.
Research grants and projects
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)
- 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)
- 2005-2009: PhD candidate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, U.K
- 2005-2008: General Sir John Monash Scholar
- 2002-2005: Community Program Manager, Conservation International, Cambodia
- 2002-2003: Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AusAID), Cambodia
- 2001-2002: Research engineer, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Alice Springs
- 1997 & 1998: Mechanical engineering work experience in Brazil and Cuba
- ANTH8107 - The World Bank and the Organisation of Development (semester 1)
- EMDV8009 - Asia-Pacific Environmental Conflicts (semester 2, with Dr K. Barney)
- EMDV8006 - Research Project (semester 2, 12 points)
I am currently available to take on PhD students who are interested in political ecology topics in the Asia-Pacific, especially the politics of conservation and forests.