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Cape Tribulation Research Station

directed by AUSTROP is situated in the Daintree tropical lowlands, considered to be the ‘jewel’ of the Australian Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This is a very special area of rainforest sandwiched between the coastal fringing reef (and the Great Barrier Reef) and the coastal mountain range (which rises to over 1000 meters (3,000 feet)). The area has a wide variety of habitats from coastal reefs to tropical rainforest. The Research Station is a research and conservation organisation that specialises in lowland tropical ecosystems, in particular those of the Daintree lowlands, and has been in operation for over 16 years.

AUSTROP is non-affiliated, and funded by the not-for- profit, tax-exempt Australian Tropical Research Foundation.

Research

The Station provides research facilities, full accommodation and access to forest and coastal environments. We have a very wide range of research equipment, appropriate to supporting a wide variety of research activities. You may contact The Station Director for more information regarding available equipment and materials.

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The Bathouse

The Station is also home to a resident flying fox colony (unreleasable animals) whose inhabitants do ‘ambattadorial’ (ambassadorial) duties at the Bat House visitor centre. In addition to greeting visitors, our bats serve as subjects for endless amusement, speculation, and the occasional psychological or behavioural study. Proceeds from the Bat House fund the research activities of the Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station, feed the resident fox colony and help the yearly rescue of spectacled flying foxes, orphaned through tick paralysis, in areas of the Atherton Tableland to the west of Cairns. We also sell books, T-shirts, batty stuff and local memorabilia. All Bat House staff are volunteers.

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About Us

Who we are, what we do, and why we do it. Man, we’re so incredibly friendly you can even contact us!

The Station

is well equipped with 2 airconditioned laboratories, as well as extensive field equipment. Accommodation is in light and airy bunkhouse style buildings. Food is plentiful and we are proud to boast a wide variety of cooking styles and menus (The Station is not called “Cape Tribulation Cooking Camp” for nothing!). The Station does not have a formal intern program schedule (after all we primarily exist to facilitate research). It is impossible to be specific as to what projects will be in progress at the Station, but there will certainly be something new and different! We do research year-round; whether a specific project is available depends on the idiosyncrasies of the weather, plants, animals and funding authorities (usually us!). We can also accommodate student groups up to a maximum of 20.

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Austrop Research Station
Situated in the heart of Cape Tribulation the Research Station and Bat House sit off the main road, opposite P.K’s backpackers, on 8.5 hectares of reclaimed and rehabilitated Rainforest. Originally a cleared block of land, the numerous volunteers, interns and researchers have helped the AUSTROP team to return the area to its former glory.

Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation, on the Coral Sea off far-north Queensland, Australia, is about 120 km north of Cairns, at 16 S, 145E (about the same latitude as Costa Rica but in the S hemisphere). It is in the Daintree tropical lowlands, considered to be the “jewel” of the Australian Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This is a very special area of rainforest sandwiched between the coastal fringing reef (and the Great Barrier Reef) and the coastal mountain range (which rises to over 1000 meters (3,000 feet)). The area has a wide variety of habitats from coastal reefs to tropical rainforest.

Backing the area is the coastal range, which varies in altitude from 700-1,348 meters. This range has a major impact on local weather and is the cause of exceedingly high precipitation in the region (4 meters per annum on average). The climate is seasonally wet with a monsoon-influenced wet season from January to May and a dry season from June to January.

Flora and fauna in the Daintree Region
Unique flora and fauna exist in this part of the world including crocodiles, cassowaries, fruit bats and tree kangaroos. Many of these animals and some of the plants are threatened or endemic. Primary threats to this area are invasive species, particularly the introduction weeds, which have spread across wide areas. Unfortunately, in addition to the stunning scenery and unique wildlife, the area suffers from significant loss of habitat for fauna, especially due to land clearing for ‘development’.

The rainforest in the Daintree Region is estimated to be 135 million year old, making it arguably the oldest and most primitive rainforest in the world. This area is often described as a tropical paradise ‘where the rainforest meets the reef’. Many of the species still here originated 120 million years ago when Australia was still part of the ancient landmass of Gondwana. The Wet Tropics rainforests (From Cooktown to Townsville) contains:

  • Over 3,500 vascular plant species;
  • Australia’s largest range of ferns and the world’s largest concentration of ancient flowering plants;
  • The highest number of endemic mammals of any region in Australia;
  • Almost half of Australia’s bird species;
  • Nearly a quarter of Australia’s frog species, more than 20 of which are endemic;
  • A greater diversity of freshwater fish than any other region in Australia;
  • Outstanding invertebrate diversity, including well over 60% of Australia’s butterflies

(Source: Wet Tropics Region NRM Plan, Statement of Planning Intent – Rainforest CRC 2002)

Despite this amazing diversity, this rainforest only represents 0.1% of Australian land. It is thus vital that we conserve this extremely small and vulnerable – but infinitely unique – environment.

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The Station

The Station

The Australian Tropical Research Foundation (AUSTROP) is a research and conservation organization in Cape Tribulation, Australia, that specialises in lowland tropical ecosystems, in particular those of the Daintree lowlands. It has been in operation for over 27 years.

The Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station (CTTRS) was established in 1988 by Hugh Spencer and Brigitta Flick in the wake of the Daintree Blockade (1984) which drew world attention to the plight of the area and to its highly vulnerable conservation status.

The Research Station was set up to provide a platform for researchers interested in studying ecosystems in the lowland Wet Tropics and is dedicated to the conservation of this very fragmented ecosystem. There are research facilities (including two laboratories and a workshop), accommodation, and access to unique forest and marine environments.

The Research Station is operated by AUSTROP Foundation, an independent, not-for-profit organisation, founded in 1992. Prior to this it was run as the Cape Tribulation Field Study Centre. The Station is funded through the operation of the Bat House Interpretation Center, as well as through acconodation and bench fees for volunteers, interns, students, and researchers. Open all year round the Research Station hosts eager interns and volunteers from all walks of life. If you are interested head to Join Us.

In addition, AUSTROP receives grants from various sources, as well as charitable donations. Donate Here.

The Research Station is also home to a resident flying fox colony (unreleasable animals), whose inhabitants do “ambattadorial” (ambassadorial) duties at the Bat House Visitor Center . In addition to greeting visitors, our bats serve as subjects for endless amusement, speculation, and the occasional psychological or behavioural study.

A current primary focus of AUSTROP is the eradication of invasive plant species and weeds that have overrun areas of the rainforest and eliminated a considerable number of natives. Rehabilitation and revegetation are vital to the sustainability of this fragile ecosystem and constitute a large part of our conservation work.

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The Bat House

The Bat House

Many visitors to Cape Tribulation will leave shaking their heads in amazement after having met one of the more fascinating inhabitants of the rainforest – a flying fox. As rainforest ambassadors, they are unrivalled – friendly, intelligent and definitely with personality plus. They are great show-stoppers and crowd pleasers, and great for getting visitors to start asking questions about the rainforests (as well as losing their fear of bats).

The Bat House is so named because there is always a flying fox in attendance. These primates are mostly orphans, which for one reason or another have been in captivity too long to be allowed to enter the wild, which must usually occur no later than 6 months after birth.

Entrance to the Bat House is by a $5.00 (AU) entry fee (cheaper than a beer and a lot more interesting!). Proceeds from the Bat House fund the research activities of the Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station, feed the resident fox colony and help the yearly rescue of spectacled flying foxes, orphaned through tick paralysis, in areas of the Atherton Tableland to the west of Cairns. We also sell books, T-shirts, batty stuff and local memorabilia. All Bat House staff are volunteers.

Besides giving visitors the opportunity to meet a flying fox, the Bat House provides environmental and tourist information on the region, and the research activities of the Station are highlighted.

Prior to the Bat House being built in 1991, the land around it had been cleared for grazing and orchards by previous owners. An intensive re-vegetation and replanting effort was put in place and the land is vastly recovered.

The building is a passive solar design, and operating power is provided by a bank of solar collectors on the roof. The toilets are compost systems (Maxi-Rotaloo), which get fairly heavy use as public toilets (no breakdowns) are non-odiferous and use no water.

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Get Involved

Get Involved

Follow us on Facebook HERE to find out more on our daily activities.

How to apply:

We have a variety of roles to suit those interested in conservation volunteering, environmental internships, or researchers requiring access to the Daintree Rainforest and Reef ecosystems. School and University groups are also welcome to undertake research projects.

There is no application form needed, you can send us your CV (resume), the approximate time and duration of your stay, whether you wish to be a volunteer, intern, researcher or student and some basic information about yourself and your interests.

hugh@austrop.org.au

Australian Tropical Research Foundation Limited
PMB 5
Cape Tribulation QLD 4873
AUSTRALIA

Or you may leave a message using our contact form.

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Blog

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Metsulfuron-methyl impact on native vegetation in the Daintree lowlands

20/08/2015 by Dr Hugh Spencer As part of a control program for Singapore Daisy Sphagneticola (Wedelia) triblobata, using metsulfuron-methyl herbicide, in the lowland tropical environments of the Daintree, we needed to assess the impact of the herbicide on native vegetation, as the extensive nature of the weed invasion prevented selective application. We assessed the impact …

Renewable Energy RAPS Systems in the Daintree Lowlands

20/08/2015   by Dr Hugh Spencer Lead acid batteries are the storage mainstay of renewable energy systems. The technology has been in existence for over a century, and except in details, is essentially unchanged. Basically it consists of two plates of lead bathed in dilute sulphuric acid. Charging (passing an electric current between the plates) …