Research and Publications

I am engaged in five areas of research, under the general goal of investigating and explaining the commodification of nature in modern capitalist societies.

Neoliberal Nature

dollar sign cleared from a group of trees

With the expansion of market relations into previously uncapitalized domains of social life such as education or health care through neoliberal political and economic policies, ecological relations have been transformed as well. My question: How do the different views of nature taken by the state, capital and scientists interact and conflict as neoliberal policy creates ecological realities on the ground?

Dempsey, J. and M. Robertson. In press. Ecosystem services: Tensions, impurities, and points of engagement within neoliberalism. Progress In Human Geography.

Robertson, M. 2012. Renaturing the Economy. In Peck, J., T. Barnes and E. Sheppard (eds.), A Companion to Economic Geography, 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Read »

Robertson, M. 2011. Measurement and Alienation: Bringing Ecosystems to Market. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Published online. Read »

Lave, R., M. Doyle and M. Robertson. 2010. Privatizing stream restoration in the US. Social Studies of Science 40(5): 677-703. Read »

Robertson, M. 2009. The Work of Wetland Credit Markets: Two Cases in Entrepreneurial Wetland Banking. Wetland Ecology and Management 17(1): 35-51. Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2007. Discovering price in all the wrong places: commodity definition and price under neoliberal environmental policy. Antipode 39(3): 500-526. Read »
also as: Discovering price in all the wrong places: commodity definition and price under neoliberal environmental policy, in ed. Mansfield, B. Privatization: Property and the remaking of nature-society relations. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 106-132 (2008). Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2006. The nature that capital can see: science, state and market in the commodification of ecosystem services. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24(3): 367-387. Read »
also as: The nature that capital can see: science, state and market in the commodification of ecosystem services, in eds. Gregory, D. and N. Castree, Human Geography, Vol.4. Washington, DC: Sage Publications (2012). Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2004. The Neoliberalization of Ecosystem Services: Wetland Mitigation Banking and Problems in Environmental Governance. Geoforum 35(3): 361-373. Read »
also as: The Neoliberalization of Ecosystem Services: Wetland Mitigation Banking and the Problem of Measurement, in eds. Heynen, N., J. McCarthy, S. Prudham and P. Robbins, Neoliberal Environments: False Promises and Unnatural Consequences. New York: Routledge, pp. 114-125 (2007). Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2000. "No Net Loss": Wetland Restoration and the Incomplete Capitalization of Nature. Antipode 32(4): 463-493. Read »

Markets in Ecosystem Services

Water Quality Trading logo

As a rubric, this term signifies that the world is composed as a set of commodities, or at least of items meant to fulfill human utility. It has grown in use since the late 1990s, and now motivates a huge array of global and national environmental policy. There is, however, a dearth of real, empirical information on these markets that does not come from models. My question: how are these markets built, by whom, and how do they operate?

Robertson, M., T. BenDor, J.B. Ruhl, A. Riggsbee, R. Lave and M. Doyle. Accepted for Publication. Stacking Ecosystem Services. Frontiers in Ecology and Environmental Science.

Robertson, M. 2011.Chapter: Ecosystems Services. In: Nriagu, J.O. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Health, Vol. 2. Burlington: Elsevier Publications, pp. 225-233. Read »

Robertson, M. 2009. Five hidden challenges to ecosystem markets. The Katoomba Group's Ecosystem Marketplace, 4 January 2009. Read »

Robertson, M. and N. Hayden. 2008. Evaluation of a Market in Wetland Credits: Entrepreneurial Wetland Banking in Chicago. Conservation Biology 22(3): 636-646. Read »

Robertson, M. 2008. The Entrepreneurial Wetland Banking Experience in Chicago and Minnesota. National Wetlands Newsletter 30(4): 14-17, 20. Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2006. Emerging Markets in Ecosystem Services: Trends in a Decade of Entrepreneurial Wetland Banking. Frontiers in Ecology and Environmental Science 6(4): 297-302. Read »

Environmental Governance

Rows of trees with ground covered with pine needles

The state has a special role to play in creating the conditions under which capital can transform the environment. My question: How do the people that constitute the state impose a framework on nature that creates a legible field of action for regulation and/or accumulation?

Thiem, C. & M. Robertson. 2010. Critical Review Forum: Behind enemy lines: reflections on the practice and production of oppositional research. Geoforum 41(1): 5-6. Read »

Robertson, M. 2010. Performing environmental governance. Geoforum 41(1): 7-10. Read »

Wainwright, J. D. and M. M. Robertson. 2003. Territorialization, Science, and the Postcolonial State: The Case of Highway 55 in Minnesota. Cultural Geographies 10(2): 196-217. Read »

Wetland Policy

pond in the shape of a duck as seen from high above

As a former environmental regulator implementing Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, I am always trying to keep up with, and contribute to, the latest developments in CWA policy and other regional, national, or global events in wetland policy.

Robertson, M. In press. Entry: "No Net Loss". In Gardner, R. and R. McInnes (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Wetlands, Vol 2. New York: Springer.

Robertson, M. and P. Hough. 2011. Wetland Mitigation under the US Clean Water Act. In LePage, B. (ed.) Wetlands: Integrating Multidisciplinary Concepts. New York: Springer. Read »

Hough, P. and M. Robertson. 2009. Mitigation under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act: Where it Comes From, What it Means. Wetland Ecology and Management 17(1): 15-33. Read »

Lave, R., M.M. Robertson and M.W. Doyle. 2008. Why you should pay attention to stream mitigation banking. Ecological Restoration 26(4): 287-289. Read »

Robertson, M. M. and M. Mikota. 2007. Water Quality Trading & Wetland Mitigation Banking: Different Problems, Different Paths? National Wetlands Newsletter 29(2): 1, 10-15. Read »
also as: Robertson, M. and M. Mikota. 2007. Different Problems, Different Paths. The Environmental Forum 24(4): 36-43. Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2007. Entries: "Clean Water Act," "Environmental Protection Agency," "Restoration Ecology," "Swamp Lands Acts," "Wetland Mitigation," "Wetlands." In ed. Robbins, P., Encyclopedia of Environment and Society. New York: Sage Publications. Read »

Raffini, E. and M. M. Robertson. 2005. Water Quality Trading: What Can We Learn From 10 Years of Wetland Mitigation Banking. National Wetlands Newsletter 27(4): 3-5. Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2001. Ten Years of Wetland Mitigation Banking in Illinois: Lessons for Wisconsin. Report prepared for the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, Madison, Wisconsin. Read »

Restoration Ecology

people watching a controlled burn

I began my research life as an undergraduate learning the art and science of tallgrass prairie restoration — in fact, after I finished my project they named the research site after me! I am returning to this topic, and I continue to be fascinated by the culture, philosophy, economics, and science of ecological restoration, which now play such a large role in the creation of ecosystem service credits and “natural capital”. My question: how is restoration ecology as a discipline and as a movement used to develop natural capital and ecosystem services?

Robertson, M. M. 2001. Adjacent Woodlot Accelerates the Dispersal Rate of Bur Oak into an Old Field (Iowa). Ecological Restoration 19(3): 181-182. Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2001. Borges and the Restorationists' Dilemma. Ecological Restoration 19(1): 37-39. Read »

Robertson, M. M. 2000. Savanna Restoration at CERA: Data and Resources for an Experimental Site in Ecological Restoration. Report prepared for the Department of Biology and Conard Environmental Research Area, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa. Read »


Robertson, M. M. 1994. Manual for Creating a Digital Elevation Model of Natural Areas on the Leica Digital Video Plotter. Report prepared for the Cooperative Research Center for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management, Atherton, Australia. Read »