Sarah Milne's picture

Sarah Milne

Senior Lecturer - 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. She is also co-host of the international Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) secretariat with Sango Mahanty.

Sarah’s research examines natural resource struggles and environmental intervention; policy tools like Payments for Environmental Services (PES) and Reducing Emissions from forest Degradation and Deforestation (REDD+); and big infrastructure projects, like hydro-power dams. Much of her research has focused on Cambodia, where she has been active as a conservationist, ethnographer, and advocate since 2002. Specific themes include:

(i) Research into the politics and practice of global biodiversity conservation. This is the subject of Sarah’s forthcoming book, which looks at a high-profile international conservation project in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia (2022). This book explores what is problematic about global conservation in places like Cambodia. e.g. 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. It has wide relevance, but this project focuses empirically on hydro-power dams and other land-based investments in mainland Southeast Asia. This multi-country project is funded by the Australian Research Council.

See Google Scholar profile.

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

COVID-19 expertise

Sarah’s 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 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)

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 the role of 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:  20 May 2022/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team