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Libby Robin


Name: Dr Libby Robin

Title: Senior Research Fellow, Research Centre, National Museum of Australia

Qualifications: BA(Hons), BSc, PhD, Dip Ed (Melb).

Expertise: environmental history, history of science, history in museums

Current projects:

  • Expertise for the future - histories of global change science
  • A history of scientific endeavour in Australia's drylands
  • The culture of weeds - A history of attitudes to ferals and weeds in settler societies.
  • Conservation history and policy – community history with applications for environmental policy.

Contact details

Dr Libby Robin
Research Centre
National Museum of Australia
GPO Box 1901 

Phone: +61 2 6208 5373


Libby is located at NMA from Jan-June each year.

She can be contacted all year round at

Quick link

Libby Robin - staff presentations and papers

Libby Robin
Libby Robin

Dr Libby Robin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Research Centre

She is an environmental historian, jointly appointed to the National Museum of Australia and the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University.

In November 2013 she was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Current activities and research

Collecting the Future – Research Program around Museums, Communities and Climate Change (in partnership with American Museum of Natural History and the Mellon Pacific Observatory)

  • Conference at the American Museum of Natural History October 2013
  • Mellon Pacific Observatory Conference at the University of Sydney February 2014
  • Museums and Climate Change Network (based at AMNH)
  • Forthcoming book: Collecting the Future: Museums Communities and Climate Change (Jennifer Newell, Libby Robin and Kirsten Wehner, eds).
The Future of Nature book cover

Expertise for the Future – Research Program An international collaboration with Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Stockholm, Sweden and Paul Warde, University of East Anglia, Norwich UK.

  • Expertise for the Future Workshops (Norwich 2009, Harvard 2009, Canberra 2010 and Stockholm 2010) and conference presentations in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia (2011-2013).
  • The anthology, The Future of Nature: Documents of global change, Yale University Press, was launched in Munich as part of the European Society of Environmental History meeting at the Rachel Carson Center in August 2013, by Gregg Mitman, President of the American Society of Environmental History. Winner of the 2013 New England Book Festival Award for The Future of Nature.
  • The monograph, The Environment: A history is forthcoming in 2015.

A history of scientific endeavour in Australia's drylands
With MA Smith (archaeologist) and SR Morton (ecologist) and the Songlines/NMA team (led by H Morphy, ANU) ARC LP 110200742 (2011-2014).

Front cover of Boom and Bust book

The Culture of Weeds
An ARC-Funded joint project with the Australian National University, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne (Joslin Moore and team from the Australian Research Centre in Urban Ecology) and National Museum of Australia (including Australian Postdoctoral Industry Fellow Cameron Muir), and PhD scholar, Sharon Willoughby. (LP120200472). Book in preparation: Fear of Ferals.

See also Libby Robin, Robert Heinsohn and Leo Joseph (eds) Boom and Bust: Bird Stories for a Dry Country, Melbourne, CSIRO Publishing, 2009.

Front cover of Desert Channels book

Conservation history and policy
Libby Robin, Christopher R. Dickman and Mandy Martin (eds) Desert Channels: The Impulse to Conserve, Melbourne, CSIRO Publishing. 2010

Biological invasions and national identity
Comparative studies between Australia and South Africa (with Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa). See: Carruthers, Jane and Libby Robin, 'Taxonomic imperialism in the battles for Acacia: Identity and science in South Africa and Australia', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 65(1), 48-64.

Science and National Identity
Libby Robin, How a Continent Created a Nation, Sydney, UNSW Press. 2007

Interdisciplinary environmental studies
Grafton, R. Q. Libby Robin and R. J. Wasson (eds), Understanding the Environment: Bridging the Disciplinary Divides, Sydney: UNSW Press. 2005

The scientific aesthetic
Mandy Martin, Libby Robin and Mike Smith, Strata: Deserts Past, Present and Future, Mandurama: Mandy Martin with Land and Water Australia. 2005

Climate Change and the humanities
Robin, Libby and Will Steffen,'History for the Anthropocene', History Compass, 5(5)(2007): 1694–1719; doi:10.1111/j.1478-0542.2007.00459.x; Sherratt, Tim, Tom Griffiths and Libby Robin (eds) A change in the weather: Climate and culture in Australia, Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press. 2005

History of Ornithology in Australia
Libby Robin, The Flight of the Emu: A hundred years of Australian ornithology 1901-2001, Carlton: Melbourne University Press. 2001


Libby Robin has worked as a historian in museums, universities and the public sector for 20 years. Her doctoral training was in the history of ecological science and public applications of this in conservation, and she has developed research interests since in global environmental history, ornithology, the history of environmental political movements and museology. She has supervised over 20 doctoral projects in a wide range of subjects. She is convenor of the Australian and New Zealand Environmental History Network.

Best articles

Robin, Libby 2012. ‘Global ideas in local places: The humanities in environmental management’, Environmental Humanities 1 (2012): 69–84

Robin, Libby and Jane Carruthers 2012. ‘National identity and international science: the case of Acacia’, Historical Records of Australian Science 23(1): 34–54  

Robin, Libby 2012. ‘Australia in Global Environmental History ‘, Chapter 11 in J. R. McNeill and Erin Stewart Mauldin (Eds.) A Companion to Global Environmental History, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-1-4443-3534-7. pp. 182-195.

Robin, Libby 2012. ‘Seasons and Nomads: Reflections on Bioregionalism in Australia’ in Tom Lynch, Cheryll Glotfelty and Karla Armbruster (eds.) The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place, Georgia FL, University of Georgia Press, pp 278–294.

Robin, Libby 2011.‘History for Global Anxiety’, in The Future of Environmental History: Needs and Opportunities (RCC Perspectives 2011, Issue 3) [eds: Kimberly Coulter and Christof Mauch], Munich: Germany, pp. 41-44

Robin, Libby 2011, reprinted 2012, ‘Perceptions of place and deep time in the Australian desert: using art in environmental history’ in Timo Myllyntaus (ed) Thinking through the Environment, Cambridge: White Horse Press, 81-99

Robin, Libby 2010. ‘Battling the Land: Environment and Identity in Settler Australian Society’, in PAN (Philosophy, Activism, Nature) Issue 7: 3-9.

Carruthers, Jane and Libby Robin, 2010.‘Taxonomic imperialism in the battles for Acacia: Identity and science in South Africa and Australia’, Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 65(1), 48-64. 

Robin, Libby 2010, ‘Wattle’, in Melissa Harper and Richard White (eds.), Symbols of Australia: Uncovering the Stories behind the Myths, Sydney, UNSW Press/NMA Press, pp. 114-119.

Robin, Libby, 2009 ‘New science for sustainability in an ancient land’, in Sverker Sörlin and Paul Warde (eds) Nature’s End: History and the Environment, London and New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2009: 188-211.

Robin, Libby 2009. ‘Dead Museum Animals: Natural Order or Cultural Chaos?’, reCollections, 4(2), October 

Robin, Libby 2008. ‘The Eco-humanities as literature: a new genre?, Australian Literary Studies, 23(3): 290-304.

Robin, Libby and Mike Smith, 2008. ‘Australian Environmental History: Ten Years On’, Environment and History, 14(2): 135-43.

Robin, Libby and Will Steffen, 2007.‘History for the Anthropocene’, History Compass, 5(5) (2007): 1694–1719; doi:10.1111/j.1478-0542.2007.00459.x

Robin, Libby 2007. ‘Ecology and Identity: Australians Caring for Deserts’, in David Callahan (ed) Australia: Who Cares? Perth: API network/EASA, 85-105.

Robin, Libby and Mike Smith, 2007. ‘Science in place and time: archaeology, ecology and environmental history’, in Chris Dickman, Daniel Lunney and Shelley Burgin (eds.) Animals of Arid Australia: Out on their Own?, Mosman, RZSNSW, 188-196.

Sweet, P. R., J. W. Duckworth, T. J. Trombone and L. Robin, 2007. ‘The Hall collections of birds from Wonsan, central Korea, in spring 1903’, Forktail, 23, 129-134.

Robin, Libby 2006. ‘Weird and wonderful: The first objects of the National Historical Collection’reCollections 1(2) September, pp. 115-129.

Robin, Libby and Ian Donaldson, 2005. ‘Introduction to Desert Gardens’, Australian Humanities Review, July. 

National Museum of Australia Senior Research Fellow Dr Libby Robin launches her book, How a Continent Created a Nation.
Dr Libby Robin and How a Continent Created a Nation. Photo: Dragi Markovic.


Guest Professor, Division of History of Science and Technology, Faculty of Architecture and Building, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm. (2011-2014)

Winner, Whitley Medal 2009 for Landmark Zoological Publication (Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales) (2009) for Boom and Bust: Bird Stories for a Dry Country

Winner, New South Wales' Premier's History Awards, Australian History Prize (2007) for How a Continent Created a Nation

Winner, Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, inaugural biennial Science Writing Prize (2003) Flight of the Emu

Crosbie Morrison Memorial Lecturer 'Nature and Nation', Museum Victoria (2002)

Professional commitments

Series Editor (with Ian McCalman) Routledge Environmental Humanities

Convenor, Australian and New Zealand Environmental History Network (since 2000)

Editor and Board Member Historical Records of Australian Science, journal of the Australian Academy of Science, Canberra (Book Review editor from 1999-2009 and Board member since 1999)

National Committee for the History and Philosophy of Science, Australian Academy of Science (since 2004)

International Advisory Board, Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE). Stockholm Resilience Center (since 2011)

Board: International Consortium of Environmental History Organisations (ICEHO) (Vice-President) (since 2011)

International Advisory Board, World History of Science Online, University of Oklahoma (since 2010)

International Advisory Board, Center for Art+Environment, Nevada Museum of Art (since 2009)

Editorial Board, Environment and History, (White Horse Press, UK) (since 2005)

National Common Names Committee (Birds Australia) (since 2005)

Gippsland Heritage Journal, Advisory Board Member, annual peer-reviewed journal published by Kapana Press, Bairnsdale, Victoria. (since 1999)

Commonwealth Working Party, Australian Dictionary of Biography (since 1997)

Editorial Board, Australian Humanities Review (since 1997)