Research organisations

There are two major research organisations in the Wet Tropics - James Cook University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Various other universities and research organisations are also actively involved in research into tropical forests and wildlife, as well as related environmental and social sciences. Much Wet Tropics research is undertaken through collaborative research projects and joint venture. Some of the contributors are mentioned below.


Research organisations

James Cook University

James Cook University (JCU) has campuses in Cairns, Townsville and Singapore. The JCU Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science has been developed to coordinate a wide range of environmental and social research into the Wet tropics forests, sustainable landscapes and livelihoods, and education and training.


CSIRO Land and Water

The CSIRO Land and Water section carries out research in the Wet Tropics rainforests and savannas. CSIRO's research in the Wet Tropics is aimed at increasing our understanding of the complex natural relationships within tropical rainforests and landscapes, to provide communities and land managers with the information they need to make sound decisions, and preserve the region’s outstanding natural diversity.


Australian Tropical Herbarium

The Australian Tropical Herbarium houses over 160,000 plant specimens from north Queensland, as well a range of experts, a laboratory and a public reference library.


Research collaborations

National Environmental Science Program

The National Environmental Science Program (NESP) began in 2015 for six years with funding of $142.5M over six years. The program is committed to environment and climate research which will assist decision-makers to understand, manage and conserve Australia’s environment. The program is based around six hubs:

  • the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub
  • the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub
  • the Marine Biodiversity Hub
  • the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub
  • the Threatened Species Recovery Hub
  • the Tropical Water Quality Hub.

Some funding is also available for emerging priorities. You can find out more on the NESP weitbse.


National Environmental Research Program

The Tropical Ecosystems Hub was one of five hubs funded through the National Environmental Research Program (NERP) from 2011 to 2015. The hub addressed issues of concern for the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics World Heritage Areas, as well as terrestrial and marine areas in the Torres Strait. The hub built on eighteen years of Australian Government funding for the Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility and the Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre (see below). The hub was administered by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) in Cairns.


Terrestrial Ecosystem Research network

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) focuses on collating, calibrating, validating and standardising existing data sets for ecosystem research. The TERN also funds new research infrastructure and collection systems and builds digital infrastructure for shared data storage. The TERN hopes to be the catalyst for a culture shift to more open and collaborative form of ecosystem science in Australia. The TERN supports research at the Cape Tribulation canopy crane and is currently establishing a rainforest canopy tower and a research site at Robson's Creek in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. These rainforest sites are part of a network of Australian supersites for ecosystem research.


Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility

The Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility (MTSRF) was established in 2005 to ensure the health of north Queensland’s public environmental assets through the generation and transfer of world-class research and sharing knowledge. The area for research covered the Great Barrier Reef and its catchments, tropical rainforests (including the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area) and the Torres Strait. The MTSRF received $40M funding for four years from the Australian Government and undertook a wide range of research, including public good research. You can see some MTSRF publications on the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre page.


Rainforest CRC

In 1993 the Commonwealth Government, the Wet Tropics Management Authority, James Cook University, Griffith University, University of Queensland and the CSIRO formed the Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) as a national centre for understanding rainforest ecology and management. The Centre had its headquarters in Cairns and brought together the capabilities and facilities of the nation's leading rainforest research organisations. The results of the Rainforest CRC research were incorporated into best practice land management for the World Heritage Area.

In 1999 the CRC received funding commitments for a further seven years, with a Commonwealth contribution of $16 million together with $3 million in cash and $40 million in-kind from the CRC's partners. A review of the Rainforest CRC found it was one of the top research institutions of its kind in the world. To provide stronger links with the users of research findings, the CRC fostered partnerships with the tourism industry, Aboriginal interests, and government land management agencies.

Some relevant Rainforest CRC research reports about the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area are available under research reports here in this research section. A wide range of information sheets about particular research projects are also available here.


Earthwatch Institute

Earthwatch Institute engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding necessary for a sustainable environment. Earthwatch provides volunteers and support for research into rainforest and reef issues.


School for Field Studies

The School for Field Studies runs a program for visiting students from its school in the rainforest on the Gillies Highway. As part of their learning, students conduct research in the local tablelands forests and assist with tree planting and rehabilitation programs.

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