Dr John Dargavel

BScFor (Edin), MScFor (Melb), PhD (ANU)
Honorary Associate Professor
ANU College of Science
T: 0490 121 068

Areas of expertise

  • Environmental Management 4104
  • Historical Studies 4303
  • Forestry Sciences 3007

Research interests

  • Environmental history
  • Forest history
  • History of forest science
  • History of Australian wood collections (xylaria)
  • History of forestry education
  • Biographies of foresters
  • Political economy of forest sector
  • Labour history of forest sector
  • Arboreal remembrance



John Dargavel is actively engaged in several aspects of environmental and forest history research.

He has forestry degrees from the Universities of Edinburgh and Melbourne. His doctorate from ANU presented a radical analysis of the development of the Tasmanian wood industries. He worked as a forester in government and industry for twenty years, and spent a year researching and teaching in the University of Georgia before moving to ANU in 1982. He has researched and taught in the areas of forest economics, planning, politics and history.

He is the author and editor of papers and books covering forest science, management, industrial and labour history, trade, environmental politics, biography, and cultural aspects of landscape and remembrance.

His book with Elisabeth Johann on the history of forest science over the last three centuries, Science and Hope: a Forest History was published in 2013, followed by a German edition Die Geschichte der Forstwissenschaft – eine Geschichte der Hoffnung in 2018.

He has a long-standing interest in John Evelyn (1620-1706) and in 2020 edited a collection of papers with Ben Wilkie to celebrate Evelyn's 400th birthday, Restoring Forests in Times of Contagion.

His most recent book, Anthropocene Days 2023 considers how we experience the environment in everyday life.

Researcher's projects

Environment in everyday life, Anthropocene Days

Anthropocene Days gathers 27 short essays about the environment and climate change in everyday life. While the world and governments are beset by the great woes of changing climate, deforestation, species extinction, fouling oceans and so on, we go about individually and locally as best we can from day to day. Anthropocene Days contends that these two domains, so apparantly separate, are essentially connected.

The book looks at the diverse and mundane activities of daily life to show how this experienced, and does this very personally by drawing its observations from the author's life. Motivated by pesent concerns, some essays reach back to the 1940s. They are set in Australia, Britain, India, Singapore and America.

John Evelyn, Restoring Forests in Times of Contagion

I worked with Ben Wilkie to collect papers that reflect on the history and policy of tree planting to restore Australian and New Zealand forests and landscapes. They will be published on-line in October 2020 to mark John Evelyn’s birth in 1620. The coincidences of Evelyn’s time and ours extend beyond the need for trees. Just as the Royal Society published John Evelyn’s Sylva or a Discourse on Forest Trees in 1664, England was hit by the Plague. Just as we were planning a conference forest restoration, we have been hit by COVID19. Just as Evelyn was appalled by waste and deforestation, so are we in many of our landscapes. Evelyn wrote Sylva as a textbook on restoring the English forests. We need to restore our Southern Hemisphere forests and landscapes in ways that consider our own history, environment, changing climate and ravaging bushfires.

The lives of Australian foresters

I investigated the lives of Australian foresters in a collaborative project in National Centre for Biography with the Australian Forest History Society and the Insitute of Foresters of Australia. An initial inventorywas prepared with 186 obituaries and 20 entries in the National Dictionary of Biography. It covers the period from 1900 to 2015. I wrote a biography of Australia's first Inspector-General of Forests, The Zealous Conservator: a Life of Charles Lane Poole in 2008.


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Updated:  24 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers