PhD (Tokyo), MEng (Tokyo), BSc (Peking), FASSA
Human geography

The world is urbanizing rapidly, with profound social, economic, and environmental implications. More than half world population is living in cities, and by 2050, an additional 2.5 billion people will be added to world cities. Up to 75% of world energy use and CO2 emissions can be traced back to cities. In Asia in particular, urbanization often accompanies a rapid industrialization and economic development, and urban residents form the core of a rapidly growing middle class in these countries. As one of the most urbanization countries in the world, Australia is still undergoing a rapid urban expansion, with many similar challenges as well as opportunities.

Understanding the drivers and environmental impacts of rapid urbanization is one of the cores of Professor Xuemei Bai’s research. Adopting a cross-disciplinary approach, her research shows that in addition to the traditional push and pull factors that affect urbanization, national government policy can play a strong role in shaping the trajectory of urbanization, and that the city level practices will be crucial in making or breaking the national policy. Her work on comparative studies of the urban environment in eight Asian cities established the concept of urban environmental evolution, encompassing horizontal diversity, longitudinal similarities in urban environmental profile, and the non-linearity in their evolutionary trajectories.

Cities are human dominant, complex, open systems. In order to better inform urban policy and practice, a deeper understanding of the urban system structure, functions, processes and their interlinkages is needed. Professor Bai’s work made theoretical and empirical contributions in several fronts, including building conceptual bridging between urban metabolism and urban ecosystem studies, understanding the flows of food-sourced urban bio-geochemical cycles, urban energy and their structural determinants such as the social economic conditions and the broader context of urbanization, industrialization and economic growth, and calling for a systems approach in urban research, policy and practice.

Cities are a hotbed for innovations- technological, social and cultural. Some of these innovations and new practices are proven to have the potential to deliver significant sustainability outcomes for the city and beyond, which can be grouped under the concept of urban sustainability experiments defined by Professor Bai and colleagues. With numerous case studies in Asian cities, Professor Bai’s research explores questions such as what triggers these experiments in cities, what are the inner mechanisms, how they transfer across context, and how to upscale them to achieve a larger scale change.

With the adoption of UN Sustainable Development Goals that includes an urban goal, and the New Urban Agenda at the Habitat III conference in 2016, research on urban sustainability becomes evermore important. Collaborating with an international network of urban researchers and practitioners, Professor Bai’s research is contributing to multiple intergovernmental assessments and informing urban policy at local, national and global level.

2011- Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University

2006-2011 Principal and Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, Australia

2001-2003 Associate Professor in the Practice of Urban Ecology, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

1998-2006 Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Japan

1993-1998 Researcher, Japanese Center for International Studies in Ecology


  • Member of international jury for the 5th Global LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction. (2018).
  • Council Member, International Society of Industrial Ecology (2015-2017)
  • Member, Science Committee, Future Earth (2013-2017 )
  • Vice Chair and Member of Science Committee, IHDP (International Human Dimensional Program on Global Change) (January 2011-2013)
  • Member, European Research Council Grant Assessment Panel (2014; 2016)
  • Foreign Expert Member, Taskforce for Western Region Development Strategy, China Council for International Cooperation fo Environment and Development (Sep 2011- );
  • Member of Science Steering Committee, IHDP-IT (June 2006- Dec. 2010)


  • Named as one of World's 100 Most Influential People in Climate Change Policy
  • Laureate of Volvo Environment Prize 2018
  • Featured as one of outstanding women from China and Australia at the Australian Pavilion, World Expo Shanghai 2010.
  • Zayed Prize for Scientific and Technological Achievement in Environment, as one of the 1360 scientists contributed to Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2005)
  1. Bai, X., R.J. Dawson, D. Ürge-Vorsatz, G. C. Delgado, A. S. Barau, S. Dhakal, D. Dodman, L. Leonardsen, V. Masson-Delmotte, D. Roberts, S. Schultz. 2018. Six research priorities for cities and climate change. Nature, 555(7694): 23-25.
  2. Bai, X, T. McPhearson, H. Cleugh, H. Nagendra, T. Xin, T. Zhu, Y. Zhu. 2017. Linking urbanization and the environment: Conceptual and empirical advances. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 42:12.1–12.26.
  3. Bai, X., S. van der Leeuw, K. O’Brien, F. Berkhout, F. Biermann, E. S. Brondizio, C. Cudennec, J. Dearing, A. Duraiappah, M. Glaser, A. Revkin, W. Steffen, J. Syvitski. 2016. Plausible and desirable futures in the Anthropocene: A new research agenda. Global Environmental Change, 39: 351-362.
  4. Bai, X., P. Shi, Y. Liu. 2014. Society: Realizing China’s urban dream. Nature, 509: 158-160.
  5. Bai, X.M., J. Chen, P.J. Shi. 2012. Landscape urbanization and economic growth: Positive feedbacks and sustainability dilemmas. Environmental Science & Technology 46(1): 132–139.
  6. Grimm NB, Faeth SH, Golubiewski NE, Redman CL, Wu JG, Bai XM & Briggs JM, 2008. Global change and the ecology of cities. Science 319: 756-760.